Tuesday night Anchor Towing operator Dan Hunt make a presentation to the McHenry County Board on what he called the “unintended consequences” of the county ordinance on towing that was passed 24-0 in February. (There are 24 board members.)
I asked first Assistant State’s Tom Carroll how his staff analyzed the law. Here’s what he told me:
The Truth in Towing law became effective July of 2008.
I think it was spurred on by some towing companies that arrived on an accident scene and would subsequently charge up to $4,000 for a tow.
Attorney General Madigan’s office filed litigation against some of those offending companies, primarily on roads in Chicago.
The Truth in Towing law gave the Illinois Commerce Commission the authority to regulate the towing industry by requiring towing agencies to accept credit cards, provide an itemized list of charges at the time of the tow and other consumer information.
There’s two distinct portions of the law that have different requirements. The first part applies to relocation towing, which would be the towing of trespassing vehicles left in parking lots of apartment buildings or businesses like Walgreens without permission.
Towing companies under that section have to apply for a reallocators’ license at the cost of $900 and each employee who drives a vehicle for a relocation company must be licensed at a cost of $90 per employee.
Finally, the companies have to use an ICC towing ticket that costs $7.50 a piece. It’s a tax essentially.
The second part of the TIT applies to safety towing which is towing damaged or disabled vehicles, rather than trespassing vehicles.
This section requires some disclosures on the part of the towing company and requires registration with the ICC of $450 per company and $150 per truck. Now, the difference is that you just have register, you don’t need a license. Here, as long as you pay the $450, I think you’re in. You don’t have to pay the fee per employee.
Under the relocation towing the ICC regulates how much you can charge to relocate a vehicle so consumers don’t get, for example, a $4,000 tow charge for a two mile tow.
But in safety towing, the ICC doesn’t regulate the rates. However, the customer has to authorize the tow before it happens. The tower has to, prior to towing, tell the owner or operator of the vehicle where the vehicle will be towed, all costs for towing, storage or any other fee that could be incurred.
In other words, they can’t tell you they will tow it for $50, without telling you a $500 a day storage fee will be charged(if that is the case).
There’s an itemized invoice. You have the right to pay by cash or credit card, the right to get a vehicle returned during normal business hours.
These rights have to be published at their place of business. The towing trucks have to have the business name, address and phone number displayed on the truck. They have to keep all records of records of all their tow invoices and consumer disclosures for five years.
The contracts the consumer are signing are not allowed to contain waivers of liability for the tower.
This law specifically applied to counties with populations of counties with more than one million, but any county can elect to be covered via resolution, which is what McHenry County did, along with Will, Kane, Winnebago are the ones that we know of.
The issue potentially with the law is presently it is an all or nothing proposition.
You opt into all of the law covering the first and second sections or nothing.
You can’t adopt an ordinance that adopts only the relocation towing and not the safety towing or vice versa.
The good news is Senator (Pam) Althoff is in the process of proposing, I believe, an amendment to the law which would enable a county to opt out of ICC regulation of safety towing, while adopting relocation towing.
She’s going to try to do it in the veto session.
We aren’t recommending anything specifically.
It’s our job to interpret the law.
If the county board wishes to remove the county from the ICC jurisdiction, then they have to pass another resolution to that effect.