Monday, January 11, 2016

Virginia bill would infringe upon truckers’ rights

Ridiculous. Absurd. Infuriating.

Those are some of the more polite words that come to mind when studying Virginia State Senator John Edwards’ proposed bill to prohibit truck drivers from filing a consumer complaint against a tow company.

Sen. Edwards’ bill, which awaits consideration in committees once the regular session begins Jan. 13, would remove motor carriers from the definition of consumers with regard to complaints against towing companies. It effectively would make motor carriers unable to file complaints against tow truck drivers or towing and recovery operators with the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Counsel.

Instead of working to prevent towing companies from preying on truck drivers, Sen. Edwards proposes to make it even easier to get away with charging outlandish rates for nonconsensual tows.

Ludicrous. Nonsensical. Enraging.

Mike Matousek, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association director of state legislative affairs, said that nationwide he comes across at least one bad towing bill every week.

And Matousek isn’t talking about bills that are overcharging truck drivers a few hundred dollars. Matousek says it’s not uncommon to see bills inflated by tens of thousands.

The upcoming February issue of Land Line Magazine highlights a case in New York that charged a truck driver $154,124.50 for tow and recovery. The bill included a $92,650 charge for 926.5 hours use of a reefer trailer. Keep in mind that a typical cost for the rental of reefer trailer fee for the same amount of time would be $5,550 and that a new high-end reefer trailer can be purchased for about $30,000.

It’s not like truck drivers are able to shop around for the best price in these instances. Once an accident occurs on the highway, local law enforcement works to clear the scene as quickly as possible. The towing company is determined by a rotation list that is usually administered by a law enforcement agency. So the cost of service is out of the truck driver’s hands.

That fact gives even more credence to why truck drivers must be able to file complaints against tow truck operators who try to take advantage of the situation.

The problem is that even with insurance, inflated bills will affect the truck driver. Some bills can be outrageous enough to bankrupt small trucking businesses.

OOIDA is fighting Edwards’ bill.

Matousek told Senate lawmakers the bill would “effectively prohibit what is arguably the largest victim of fraudulent and inflated towing invoices – that is the trucking industry – from filing a consumer complaint.

“Under no circumstance should an owner-operator or a motor carrier be denied the same rights as motorists, especially as it relates to nonconsensual towing.”

Knowing a lawmaker thinks otherwise is:

Unbelievable. Outrageous. Exasperating.

Editor’s note: Readers who want to voice concerns about the bill can email Sen. Edwards at district21@senate.virginia.gov, or mail him at P.O. Box 1179 Roanoke, VA 24006-1179