March 7, 2024

Ron DeSantis expected to sign truck-towing reforms

Legislation aimed at reducing predatory billing against truckers who need towing services in Florida is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to a source familiar with the reforms.

“We haven’t heard anything to the contrary, so we’re pretty confident the towing bill will be signed into law,” a Florida Senate staff member familiar with the legislation told FreightWaves. If approved by DeSantis, the law will go into effect July 1.

House Bill 179, sponsored by Republicans in the Florida House and Senate, was approved unanimously by the two chambers last week. The reforms have been a multiyear effort and a priority for the Florida Trucking Association, the group stated in a press release.

“This is a huge victory for trucking in Florida, the trucking industry nationally, who have seen invoices as high as $200,000, and the motoring public, who fall victim to predatory towing companies,” commented FTA President and CEO Alix Miller.

The new law, if signed, will revise provisions relating to:

  • Towing and storing of trucks, including requiring counties to establish maximum rates for certain cleanup and disposal.
  • Excluding or failing to designate certain wrecker operators.
  • Authorizing fees.
  • Requirements regarding removal of vehicles.
  • Requirements for liens, notices of lien, sale, notices of sale and types of payment.
  • Requiring towing operators to accept and maintain certain documents, rate sheets and invoices.
  • Criminal penalties for noncompliance.

According to FTA, towing and storage operators would be required to maintain and publicize a rate sheet listing all fees related to vehicle recovery, and provide it upon request to vehicle owners, lienholders and insurance companies.

The wrecker operator would have to furnish the rate sheet to the owner or operator, if present, before attaching a vehicle to a wrecker. Fees charged that are higher than those listed on the rate sheet would be considered unreasonable. The bill also requires operators to provide detailed, itemized invoices.

“The towing and recovery industry is vital to the Florida trucking industry, and we’re grateful to have many as members of FTA and for their input in the legislation,” Miller said. “HB 179 will weed out the predatory towing tactics of bad actors and make the entire industry better and safer.”

Data compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute in a report released in November underscored the severity of predatory towing fees charged in the aftermath of large truck crashes and offered recommendations to address the problem.

The study found that excessive rates and unwarranted additional service charges were the two most common forms of predatory towing, experienced by 82.7% and 81.8% of surveyed motor carriers, respectively.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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