New law blocks agressive towing

River Road Improvement Corp.
By River Road Improvement Corp. May 15, 2012 17:39

FROM THE RECORD (North Jersey Media Group) 
Thursday, October 25, 2007 


Governor Corzine, right, and sponsor Assemblyman Robert M. Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, after the bill was signed into law Wednesday.

A bill to protect motorists from “rogue tow-truck drivers” was signed into law Wednesday by Governor Corzine near a Fair Lawn parking lot infamous for aggressive towing practices.
The Predatory Towing Prevention Act, in the works since last spring, is meant to prevent towing companies from charging exorbitant fees to remove cars from private property with no notice to drivers.

“We’ve all been there at some point in time,” Corzine said at a press conference before he signed the bill. “You’re out shopping, you’re at a business meeting, and you come back to find that your car isn’t there.”
The bill requires property owners who tow vehicles to meet certain criteria, including:
• Posting warning signs indicating the purposes and times parking is allowed in the lot.
• The name, address and telephone number of the company towing unauthorized vehicles.
• The charges for towing and storage.
It also requires towing companies to use secured storage facilities that are open from at least 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and prevents them from offering “kickbacks” to people who provide information about illegally parked vehicles.
Tow-truck drivers — about 25 of whom protested the bill signing Wednesday — said they had no problem with those particular regulations.
What concerned them was language that applied to all tows, not just those on private property — which drivers said constitute only about 3 percent of their business.
The law requires all tow companies to register their trucks with the state and pay an as yet undecided per-vehicle fee. They must also report their rates to the state Division of Consumer Affairs, which will determine average fees for towing services. Companies will be prohibited from charging more than 150 percent ofthe average cost for any service.
The state will use registration and violation fees to cover the costs of enforcing the new rules. 
Tow-truck drivers said such regulations restrict their right to set competitive rates and agree on fees with customers who request a tow.
Many municipalities already require tariffs and set fee structures for towing companies.
“You’ve always got bad apples in a bunch,” said Larry Carnavale, a driver from Tumino’s Towing in Ridgefield Park.
“Just because you’ve got one company that does the wrong thing, all of a sudden every other company is just as bad.”
The towing companies said they would try to pressure legislators to amend the bill so it applies only to private property tows. If that isn’t successful, Garden State Towman’s Association President John Glass said, his organization would sue on the grounds that the law violates Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
Bill sponsor Assemblyman Robert M. Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, said he thought the required registration fee will be modest, and that it would be offset by the public benefit of having fees regulated and posted.
“Before this, it was anything goes,” he said. 
Corzine signed the bill in the Fair Lawn International House of Pancakes parking lot where a parking war between the IHOP and the neighboring McDonald’s, chronicled in The Record, first attracted lawmakers’ attention to the issue.
At least 80 people were towed from the McDonald’s lot in the year before Gordon sponsored the bill, with the scenes getting so heated that police had to be called 34 times.
During the legislators’ remarks, the McDonald’s lot was clogged with trucks of all sizes, including some loaded with towed cars. Owner Sebastian Lentini stood at the border of the IHOP lot talking with the drivers. He referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return a phone message. 
Fair Lawn resident Carolyn Soojian, who lives on neighboring 37th Street, said she had seen enough cars towed in the McDonald’s and International House of Pancakes dispute to prompt her to come over and take a seat in the damp parking lot as Corzine signed the bill.
“We’ve watched all this nonsense going back and forth,” she said. “We would sit in IHOP and watch people getting towed.”
The towing practices that she had witnessed, she said, were mostly inspired by “greed.” As for the tow drivers demonstrating, she said she wasn’t sure why they should be worried. 
“If they’re honest, legitimate companies,” she said, “they’ve got nothing to be concerned about.”

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River Road Improvement Corp.
By River Road Improvement Corp. May 15, 2012 17:39

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