FMCSA voices opposition to predatory towing

February 8, 2024

SJ Munoz


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has weighed in with its concerns about current predatory towing practices and their negative impact on the trucking industry.

The agency’s comments were in response to a recent Federal Trade Commission proposal prohibiting unfair or deceptive practices relating to fees for goods or services.

“When a truck driver’s vehicle is towed, they can’t earn a living until they get it back – leaving them vulnerable to predatory junk fees from towing companies,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “We support FTC’s efforts to stand up for truckers by acting to ban junk fees and prevent predatory towing fees that can cause significant financial harm.”

The FTC proposal to ban junk fees in October would include predatory towing practices, according to FMCSA.

“Predatory towing negatively impacts consumers, including commercial motor vehicle drivers and trucking companies. It is detrimental to the overall health of the trucking industry, and it’s time to end excessive rates, surcharges and other unfair fees associated with predatory towing,” FMCSA acting Deputy Administrator Sue Lawless said.

Within its opposition, FMCSA provided suggestions for additional restrictions regarding predatory towing:

  • Ban junk fees for unnecessary goods or services
  • Prohibit or restrict excessive fees
  • Treat each illegal junk fee as a violation

“We agree with FMCSA’s statements and are willing to work with them to draft legislation and regulations that could address these junk fees and exorbitant tow bills,” said Doug Morris, OOIDA director of state government affairs. “Until such time, we constantly point out these issues with Congress and are working daily with state legislators to address these issues in their transportation bills or standalone legislation.”

FMCSA’s full comments are available here.

Combating predatory towing

OOIDA was among those contributing data for a predatory towing study conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The purpose of the study was to improve the relationship between the towing and trucking industries, ATRI said.

“If there’s no regulation, like in most states, to address unscrupulous towing companies, it’s an open checkbook,” Lewie Pugh, OOIDA executive vice president, said in November 2023. “It’s a huge problem for the industry that kind of flies under the radar.”

Some Missouri lawmakers are renewing the pursuit of legislation intended to help truck operations of all sizes address the issue of predatory towing. Proponents point to similar protections in other states. On two occasions, in 2019 and 2021, Gov. Mike Parson vetoed similar proposals.

“In most states, small-business truckers are subjected to unreasonable charges from towing companies engaged in nonconsensual towing and recovery operations, including those dispatched by law enforcement,” Morris said. “These situations create the potential for bad actors within the towing industry to significantly overcharge consumers by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, in particular truckers and commercial truck insurance companies.”

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More Land Line coverage of predatory towing.