Buttigieg calls for policies to protect truckers against predatory towing

June 21, 2024

Mark Schremmer

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Policies to protect truckers from predatory towing fees are crucial, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a public meeting on Friday, June 21.

Buttigieg provided opening remarks at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “Transparency in Fees Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators are Charged for Towing and Recovery Services” meeting.

“This department has been clear in our support of protections against predatory towing junk fees. Truckers often have to travel far from home to deliver the goods that everyone depends on,” Buttigieg said. “In the event that their truck gets towed, they may not have any relationship or familiarity with the towing company that moves their vehicle. Until they get that vehicle back, their job and really their livelihood is put on hold. Tow truck drivers also play an essential role in keeping our roads safe by removing disabled vehicles. But in some cases, some players in the towing space recognize and exploit the vulnerability of these situations. Of course, there are necessary and fair costs associated with the towing of a commercial vehicle. But some companies have seen an opportunity to charge exorbitant fees.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has spoken out about the problem of predatory towing fees for years. Referred to as third-party or nonconsensual tows, truckers aren’t able to select the towing company or negotiate prices. The motor carrier is often at the mercy of whichever towing company is next on the local law enforcement’s rotation. OOIDA has cited cases where towing and recovery fees have totaled more than $100,000.

Doug Morris, OOIDA director of state government affairs, urged FMCSA to take significant action to protect truck drivers from predatory towing fees.

“Let’s not just check a box and say we had another meeting,” Morris said. “Let’s do something about it.”

Morris also stressed that there are many good towing companies out there. The goal is to create protections that will remove the bad actors from the industry.

“There are legitimate towers out there,” Morris said. “We’ve worked with a lot of legitimate towers … All drivers want is to be treated respectfully and fairly.”

Bill Johnson, president of the Towing and Recovery Association of America, also spoke up about how difficult the job can be. He mentioned that tow workers are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In November, the Federal Trade Commission published a notice of proposed rulemaking, which would prohibit unfair or deceptive practices relating to fees for goods and services.

FMCSA believes FTC’s proposed regulation may significantly benefit the agency’s regulated community, specifically as it relates to the predatory towing practices that have a substantial financial impact on CMV owners and operators,” the agency wrote in a recent notice.

Individuals who were unable to participate in the Friday, June 21 public meeting may submit written comments by going to Regulations.gov and entering Docket No. FMCSA-2024-0124. LL