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More regulations for towers in Florida

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05-29-05: Trucker Jeff Wrote,

 

Found this today thought it might be an interesting topic.

TALLAHASSEE - When an industry in Florida wants to clean up its tawdry image, it asks the Legislature for something most businesses oppose: stricter government regulation.

Dance studios did it. So did moving and storage firms. Now it's the towing industry's turn.

Amid the clamor of consumer complaints about tow truck ripoffs, some operators see closer state supervision as a way to improve their reputations. At the same time, they hope the new burdens will drive out their fly-by-night, uninsured competitors.

"They either need to compete legally and have the insurance that they're supposed to, or yes, they need to be out of business," said Mike Seamon, executive vice president of the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida, the group pushing for new regulations.

The organization wants annual registration fees of $515, mandatory 16 hours of driver training, a $23 fingerprinting of all owners, and third-degree felonies for violations. The group claims 345 operators statewide.

A driver convicted of a felony or motor vehicle crime could not tow vehicles for seven years, and drivers would be required to take at least two forms of payment from motorists. Cash-only transactions would be illegal.

Enforcement would be assigned to 10 new employees in the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Opposition to the regulations is being led by AAA Auto Club South, which claims to represent more than 3-million motorists in Florida. AAA says the regulations are unnecessary and warns that the public will end up paying "for this needless regulation. The result? A tax on a motorist's misfortune," says AAA, which contracts with nearly 500 towing firms statewide to answer AAA members' calls for help.

Also opposed: a new group of tow truck operators called the Florida Independent Towers and Recovery Association. Its lobbyist, Ed DuPuy, said that having 10 people regulate the Florida towing industry would be "a joke" to give people "a false sense of security."

Within the next week, Gov. Jeb Bush must decide whether to sign the towing bill, which went through more than a dozen legislative committees and passed by overwhelming margins.

Bush, a conservative who has advocated freeing private enterprise from the shackles of big government, says he hasn't made up his mind.

"My instincts are that we don't have to create a regulatory system around industries, unless there's a need," Bush said. "On the other hand, if there's enough consumer complaints about tow truck companies, if there's enough bad actors, then regulation's appropriate. So I'll be looking at the bill from that perspective."

The legislation was motivated in part by the changing nature of the tow truck industry.

Operators who want more regulation say "gypsy" operators cruise highways like vultures, looking for accidents or breakdowns. A motorist who flags down a passing tow truck agrees to a "consent tow," and a competitor who's on the local police department's rotation list loses a customer.

Pamela Leverock, who runs Leverock's Towing and Transport in St. Petersburg, wrote to Bush and urged him to sign the bill. Leverock told Bush she loses business to rivals who undercut her prices because they have little overhead: They work from home, drive old equipment and don't pay insurance or workers' compensation, she claimed.

"In what way could fingerprinting, training and continuing to educate the individual entrusted with a motorist's vehicle and safety not be in the motorist's best interest?" Leverock asked Bush.

If plumbers must be licensed and take continuing education courses, Leverock asked Bush, why shouldn't tow truck operators, who handle $40,000 SUVs on a daily basis at a time when their owners are stranded or vulnerable?

Pinellas County Commission Chairman John Morroni also urged Bush to sign the bill. Morroni said in an e-mail to Bush that "the business owners themselves are okay with it, and that it is very important to them that their industry weed out the bad apples by being regulated."

In urging a Bush veto, Thomas O'Brien of Tampa-based AAA Auto Club South told Bush the regulations would be a burden to hundreds of "mom-and-pop" companies struggling with rising gas and insurance costs, especially in rural areas.

O'Brien told Bush that towing company abuses can be enforced by existing laws and that the bill was a way for the organization to profit by offering to run training courses for its members.

Seamon denied that, but said his group already offers training classes to members at reduced prices, as most trade groups would.

"We're not making money off the training," Seamon said.

The bill in question (Senate Bill 276) was pushed by the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida, guided through both houses by its lobbyist, Bob Levy, and sponsored by one of Levy's closest political allies, Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

"We're going after the Joe Bob, who throws a harness on the back of his pickup truck and calls himself a tower," Crist said. "We're saying, "Look, buddy. You better have the right equipment. You better have insurance. And you better not be a convicted felon.' "

www.sptimes.com/2005/05/29/State/Tow_tr ... eks_.shtml

 

Unknown Member said:

Maybe instead of the PWOF worrying about cleaning up images, they should try getting the state to start enforcing "the move over law" if they really want to help.
It's just another example of an organization trying to line their own pockets, and more laws that won't be enforced but will cost legitimate towers more money......
The truth is the laws are already on the books(and the PWOF does't make any money on them) but just are'nt enforced.

P.S. I could show you many pictures of their so called "trained members" running down the roads in extremely unsafe ways!

 

Jerrys Garage said:

Could be good for the industry the way I see it.

Also I have seen, Lucanio, Sargoa, Wilburn, and WreckMaster trained operators doing unsafe things also.

One guy here in town has a C-10 Chev pickup, no bed, and angle iron bolted to the rear of it towing cars everyday, he tows to the junk yard, but the junk car still has no respect for life or linb if it was to come loose, using a come-a-long and chain for a winch line, and one chain to secure the vehicle to his truck, he does the slingshot and bump thing when he takes off and stops

I am all for the Trained and Certified operator laws.

 

Unknown Member said:

Sorry Jerry nothing good can come from an owner having to shell out more money to operate....The PWOF is full of crap!
also it is impossible to get insured in this state for towing without being in business for 3 yrs. The only Gypsy's are the Illegal aliens down south who don't even have green cards, licenses or anything so do you really think that they will shell out the money and become legit I DON'T THINK SO!.
It will only hurt the legit company owner more and line the pockets of the PWOF and raise their membership. This is their way of a membership drive. As long as people will pay a cheaper price there will always be scabs, it's in every form of business and it will always be there. The answer is not to TAX the legitimate business owner more, but enforcement of laws already on the books. I've personally seen organization's like this literally ruin industry's with their self promoting interest's. In the long run this will drive the cost's up the prices down and the only ones to gain(for a little while) will be the PWOF.

 

Jerrys Garage said:

PWOF Officer's that lurk but do not say anything COME FORTH, tell us more about this.
 

Twin Bulls said:

Here's my thoughts on this.
It has passed and on the desk of Gov.Bush..
So how are we going to deal with this???

I joined the PWOF before I owned a truck (recommended to do from this board) To see what was going on.
I took the training course and got certified, I went to a few meetings, went to the tow show. I looked and listened from a view of a outsider.
As I see it there is alot of abuse in this industry,No real rules and just don't give a dam attitude.
If there are rules I would like to see them, Beside the rules on IP or PPI...That are a county rule..

I worked for a towing company for over a year before I started my own company.
Randy its not impossible to get insurance if your new I got mine in 2 days and didn't lie...I am sure I paid a premium.But I am fully covered...

Lets look at the PWOF and training its a 2 day course and I think it cost $140 if your a member...
I don't think thats a lot of money....
If I recall membership is only $250 and that covers all in your company..

OH yeah I am not a huge supporter of the PWOF if thats what your thinking I have not renewed this years membership yet and I am still thinking about it.

Let see who was fighting this aaa And some new group that I never herd of till I read this post,I would like to hear there story, So if anybody has info about how to contact them please get it to me..

Now aaa from all I know and read are NOT a towers best friend are they??
Why would they NOT want there drivers to be trained?? may have to pay them more than$8 hr Why would they want felons driving for them??
If your a rotation tower you already have that rule.

I went to a call that was doubled dispatched from a MC that I work with and aaa I got there first after I finished aaa showed up we talked he asked how much I was getting paid I told him and he was WOW I am only getting $18 He had a new and nicer truck than mine I asked how can you do that he said I don't know boss handles it...
So I am thinking the aaa only wants to pay less than $20 to respond to a call on the highway in rush hour with untrained drivers..
Sorry for the rant

I do agree that 10 people to do the checks is NOT enough 100 would be a slim staff to do the entire state.

Lets look at Plumbers,Builders,Electricians,Other pros, they all are state licensed and deal with it.
I was a contractor for over 20 years and had to jump through more hoops that you can imagine..
I had to get 20 to 40 hrs of continuing education every year, I had to pull a permit on every job and get it inspected and passed before I could move on...
Now that was a pain but I passed the cost on and the customers understood for the most part.
And I made money...

I really don't see how the PWOF will ruining the towing industry Please show me...

In other states that are Regulated by the state is it that bad?? are there only large companies??I lived in NY for most of my life I can tell you stories about regulation and tax in all industries..

What makes a business legitimate ??
If i have a truck, a phone, a couple j hooks does that make me legitimate ??

I know there is a huge gray area but how do we make it black and white??
I have had run inns with the Gypsy's stealing my calls just driving around and stopping and hooking up. I have had words with a few but they just F*** me and drive off..

So whats one to do???

Tim

Joe Driscoll said:

Jerry theres not much here to say. Tim answered better than I could and not being directly involved they will probably listen more to him than me. The only thing i will say is that all my drivers go to training. I know they take short cuts every chance they get BUT when something does happen and I have to answer to lawyers or judges I know I can say i did everything I could to teach them to do things right. Ill still pay but not as much. As far as PWOF not doing anything but lining their pockets what can i say. I can tell you that because of PWOF im able to stop people from renewing thier tags on any vehicle they own until they pay the tow fees and 7 days storage. Im sure PWOF members arent the only towers in the state to benefit from OUR membership dues. We also stop other bills that would effect all towers in the state by having a paid lobbyist. Im not trying to change anyones mind im only writing cause Jerry asked. And Tim we are trying to get Broward going again but it seems to be taking more time than i figured.

Joe

 

TowZone said:

Having a background in civic organizations I can tell you that YOU can make a difference. As against towing associations as I was a few years back those who don't belong can't complain. Oh you can but it'll do no good, the only way to invoke change is to find like minded individuals and organize. If you can't find but a handful of those who share your opinion then you need to take a step back and reevaluate before Stepping to the Plate. But then the majority that complain never Step to the Plate. They are content BITCHIN' BOUT IT!

If this is what makes you happy I don't want to hear it.....

I say that those that do not belong to their yes their state towing association are lucky that they benefit from that association. You say, well they did this to me. I ask where were you when this happened, checkin' under Da Sand?

If the association was a union you would be out in the cold. Right or Wrong there is strength in numbers and while the towing industry has numbers it is not united. There are many who BANK on the industry being in a flux.......

If your not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Join Your State Association, can't afford to join your state association get out of the biz your part of the problem!

Oh. like civic organizations I can tell you a secret about towing associations. But you have to call me between the hours of 9pm and 6am EST. I can't tell ya in the daylight.

That includes Association Board Members I'd like to hear from you as well.
 

Unknown Member said:

Tim while I whole heartily agree with you about "the evil empire" Here is my problem with all of this

1) What are the registration fee's for and who will they go to?
2) 16 hrs of training OK I'm for that....
3) $ 23.00 fingerprint of owners(that doesn't bother me cause I'm already a ccw license holder) but why just the owners their not the one's riding in the truck with the public 9 times out of 10
4) third degree felonies? who will enforce this? members of the PWOF? what the Gustavo? sheriff's deputy's? hell they don't even have the manpower to enforce the move over law!
In my opinion this is the most dangerous thing facing towers today.(hell I don't think a gypsy will ever keep me from coming home @ night and hugging my daughter?)
5) Isn't it already a felony to operate in FLA. without an occupational license? why are gypsy's stealing your work,how come no-one is enforcing this?

You want to make a law to change things? how about a 3rd degree felony for anyone caught without proper securement on a towed vehicle,or even a reckless endangerment ticket.. the gypsy's couldn't survive too much of that and if every AAA tower had to take the time to do things right surely things would change.... My point is if the PWOF really cared about me or my industry they would push enforcement of local laws that are already on the books God Knows we have enough of them. One more point I have nothing against the PWOF, I personally considered joining them many times and I would be the first guy in line to support a national towers union (God that would be a dream come true) but in my own opinion until all of the towers associations(drop their personal agenda's) join hands and become one unified group under one name they will never be anything more to the professional tower than sticker on your truck and a patch on your sleeve to the large company's like the "evil empire" that are controlling this industry's prices.

P.S. If anyone out there in dream world actually thinks that this bill will pass with the "evil empire" against it.....well put it this way I will eat my words and send a check to the PWOF.

 

Jerrys Garage said:

Now do not take this wrong PWOF or non PWOF. But as I understand the state is divided into districts or regeions what ever you want to call it.

So why not ask how to start a LOCAL association which could also show support for the other two associations that is now in Fla. (not takeing sides here as I know men in both associations). I am pretty sure that Joe or Sam Brewer would be more than glad to help you get started with a local effort.

I will say you have safe operators that are certified and you have lazy sorry towers that are certified. (By all training companies)

What 90 percent of towers do not know or think about, here in Tennessee we have about 120 people working to set laws for 800 or so in the state, now my question is where is the other 600 or so that bitch every day.

We have this problem in every state, Tenn, Fla, Ga does not matter 10% does the work, 90% reap the beniefits.

 

CarStoreTowing said:

PWOF works hard to help towers in Florida. I collect those wrecker liens all the time. If the Pwof had not worked for the legislation we would still be scraping those burnt cares with no chance of collecting. As for bill 276 and the AAA motor club opposition. AAA is just cheap!!!!!!!!! All they worry about is the bottom line. I did the AAA thing for one year and then told my field rep how much it was going to cost him to keep good service. He laughed and said he would give me a $1.00 raise per call.WOW talk about making the big bucks. when I quit taking their calls (while my field rep was still in my office) life became so much easier. AAA brought in a tower into my area that works from the drivers house with little or no insurance. Now guess who is calling on all my commercial accounts quoting AAA rates. I say let Gov. Bush sign the law and get everyone on the same playing field. As a note we opperate 18 trucks and paying a per truck fee is OK and I think it will work if the towers in the state of Florida that are above board complain about the gypsy towers!!!!

garrett paquette
www.carstoretowing.com

 

Mark Trueblood said:

Actually Randy, the information concerning the $23.00 is a misprint accoirding to the draft and copy of the bill that we looked at approx 2 weeks ago at our local PWOF meeting.

The $23.00 is what will be charged per driver for a background check through your local sheriff's agency via FDLE.

The $515 registration fee goes to the State of Florida agency assigned to enforcement and administration of the industry, (Dept of Agriculture).

Also, I believe that in most cases, an individual gets out of an association top which they put-in. It's easy for someone to sit back and judge and remain nuetral. But very little credit goes to those who do whatever they can, most of which is on their own time (if not all), for their organization or association.

So many times you hear someone say, "they should've done it this way" . . . "or that way". Yet, when ideas for a plan are solicited from membership, very few come forward, then wonder why some projects fail, or don't quite "hit-the-mark".

The PWOF is trying to do its level best to place our industry in a position of recognition as professionals. At least, that is how I see it. Problem is, there are alot of people in this industry who have no idea what that word actually means and the responsibility that comes with such.

It's one thing to say you're a professional, it's another to show it . . . everyday.

like it, or not, the general public, like this industry, needs something like this to move to the next level of respectibility.
And anyone who doesn't realize this is NOT in-touch with the overall perception of the towing industry.

As indicated previously, who is AAA kidding??? They're definitely no friends of the towing industry. Just ask some tow companies in various regions around the country that have had their contracts with AAA suddenly ended as they (AAA) decided to start their own tow truck fleet. Loyalty? Best interest of the tower??? Best interest of the public???

Same question applies to the "fly-by-night" Florida Independent Towing & Recovery Association.

What's their agenda??? What's their association history???
Who's interest do they really have in mind here???

Truth is, no bill or program is "perfect"...but this is a start. Then again, if the Governor decides not to sign it, then it's back to the drawing board.

However, it won't be a victory by the AAA or FITRA, rather a loss for the industry in Florida and the general public we serve.

Nothing good remains from a "status quo" scenario. Sometimes change is needed. And in most cases, change is good.

There's still room for those that would like to jump on the band wagon now. No sense in being left behind!

ALLLLLLLLL AHHBOOOOARD!!!!!

 

Joe Driscoll said:

Just to try and answer the training issue PWOF will NOT be the only training. The law tells who can be approved and how to get approval.

 

Trucker Jeff said:

I think I opened up a can of worms with this sorry.Just thought it was something to be addressed.I would hope that my state would follow with something similar here as well.I would be lead to believe that with this type of requirements it would make it a more safer environment for all involved.I only tow for the city police here at the current time and it is just like the old west.No training no standards guys running around with unsafe hook ups, equipment that would fail the easiest of road side inspections and the old my-ob attitude when approached about there unsafeness.Then you have that ever present good old boy network making it imposable for a new company with the equipment needed to put on the list.In a sad way I am starting to see why the Sen. Moran is pushing for more regulations.Always on my tows, Jeff

 

Unknown Member said:

All that is really needed is a couple of troopers a wrecker and a news channel....the sad part is most people don't even know there is a law on the books......

 

Unknown Member said:

Here in Texas the police will sit on the side of the highway and turn their lights on. When they see people starting to move over they turn them back off. Last night I was returning home from Arkansas where I took my family camping and this happened three times. The only way to get the public to pull over for towers is for towers to also have red and blue lights. No one will ever pull over for amber lights because everyone has them and those that have them can’t enforce the law.

 

THTDon said:

I really like the idea of the "Move Over" law. But I don't see how it can ever be enforced. Unless there is a cop stopped and staring right at the violator, no one will ever be charged with violating that law. Law abiding citizens will obey that law. But it is the drunks that will ignore it and hit one of us. Here in MA, there is a lot of traffic all over the state, especially during commuting drive times. There is no place to move over to.

Also, don't be misled that AAA is advocating for the poor motorist. All of these new regulations will make it harder for them to get slave labor to do their work. They are looking out for their bottom line.

I personally love what the Florida Association is trying to do. We are talking about the same thing here. Legislate the gypsy right out of business. If all of the one-man show clowns running around my city had to have the proper insurance, they would all be GONE!

 

Yahzoom said:

Law or no law, does it really matter?? Right here in Tallahassee
we have had those background/inspection laws for three years. The only people who follow them are the honest companies. Three years later and an Officier on the wreck site will still ask me WHY we has an ID badge and WHY we took 2 seconds to show it to them!! The problem here is the laws that are already in place don't get inforced.. So add all they want, I'll bet my laptop the cops on the street will be the last to know!
EX: Pointed out to the officier that the driver of the 'other' unit was a child molester of a boy under 12.. Answer, well I don't have time to wait on another wrecker... It's a joke around here. Until the wrecker rules & regs, become a part of the law enforcment training, who is going to enforce the laws?

For the record: This is for our area only, my brother is the head of the traffic Div. in Orlando and speaks very highly of PWOF. Sadly, there is no organized wrecker group around here.

 

TowZone said:

Sadly enough a large number of officers do not care who is driving the tow truck. All they care about is getting a wrecker there, not that the wrecker driver was convicted of rape on a 17 year old 2 or 3 years prior and today he is allowing someones 17 year old daughter to ride alone with him 20 miles to her parents house. Now, I'm not going to say the person is going to re offend but would you want you daughter placed in that position?

Check out this post after responding here Are Regulations Really the Answer?

 

Tiggor said:

It seems to me that someone has a personal problem with either the less than $ from a law suite to the more than dollars of a LAWYER, Im very active in the PWOF for several years, Im also on the training committee and education board.
It seems that u may have a personal problem with the PWOF as well
OUR organization was founded by tow truck owners concerned with the way the industry was heading i cant quote the date but i know that i went to the meetings back in the seventy's. So if our pockets are so lined and rich with wealth from the POOR TOW OWNERS, WHY is it so successful, More members than ever, THE LARGEST TOW SHOW in the united states
A full time lobbyist who has passed several new laws benefiting the towing industry as a whole NOT its members,
AND by the way i think you should research your "move over law" and see who helped support it and push it threw legislation with out your help or KNOWLEDGE.
So lets stick to the new law .

No matter who helped push the law threw the book ,It seems from the tone of your post that you are very upset that you have to payout more of your HARD earned dollars to help support and enforce the law to BENEFIT yourself. Yes you the owner,

It also seems from your quote that ALL associations are for themselves, I don't know about TRAA but ANY tower can come to our meeting and Participate, you just cant vote on our local matters unless u r a member.

Our Training division will train ANYBODY regardless of where your from state or county. We've even trained drivers from other states as well as CANADA,Who don't need our certification in their state nor if so will there state recognize it.
They tell me at the classes that they are here to learn new procedures:unless your one of those tower who "KNOWS EVERYTHING" and from they way it sounds that might fit the tow
And further more Mike Seamon is a FULL time employee of the PWOF working everyday and some really long nights for the "TOWING INDUSTRY" not just us.
So in closing i think what i9m trying to say is that your MOM told you if you don't have anything nice to say KEEP IT TO YOURSELF" unless you are DIRECTLY connected.

 

Joe Driscoll said:

Well I wrote a big long thing about this but eraserd it. I decided it just wasnt worth getting into other than to say the govenor vetoed the bill this afternoon. I know what im going to do with all the money im saving!

 

 

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