The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that patrol towing endangers the safety of the general public, apartment owners and managers and the tow drivers themselves, and upheld California’s ban on patrol towing.
When patrol towing, tow truck drivers are not called by the property owners and do not get authorization to take specific vehicles. Instead, usually in the middle of the night, tow truck operators cruise through parking lots and take any vehicle that they feel they can construe as “harvestable.”
Many states, including California, Florida, New York and Washington, have already enacted legislation to ban the practice.
In those states, tow truck operators must receive authorization to take a specific vehicle -- a signed form -- from the property owner or agent at the time and place of impound. Towing companies may not act as agents of the owner.
In 1994, in the course of deregulating the trucking industry, Congress passed laws preventing states and municipalities from enacting laws affecting the towing industry unless the legislation was safety-related.
While many states subsequently enacted legislation to curb predatory patrol towing as a safety issue, Oregon has lagged behind, and some of the towing operators in Oregon have exploited the opportunity at the expense of the general public.
The U.S. Court of Appeals held that: “…[The] regulation [that] prohibits the removal and towing of a vehicle from private property without the expressed instruction and written authorization from the property owner…[is]…safety-related because ‘the ordinance protects both the vehicle owner and the public from towing mistakes, which may lead to dangerous confrontations, to the owner and his or her family being stranded at a dangerous time and location, to false vehicle theft reports, which waste law enforcement’s limited resources, to unnecessary hazardous tows and to similarly unsafe circumstances. The ordinance also protects against theft of vehicles from private property.’ The California legislature agrees. We now agree as well.” --(United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, May, 2005, West Coast Towing vs City of San Diego)
The good news for Oregonians and for visitors to our state is that bills are being drafted for introduction in the 2007 Legislature that will end patrol towing in Oregon.
Be sure to let your elected officials know that you support this legislation. More on this later.