I have always been impressed by tow companies’ tolerance for financial risk. The expenses in the tow business are enormous and growing every day. At the end of the line, there is one company owner who has likely financially guaranteed all of these risks and the liability for the same. It is understandable that an owner might want to mitigate these risks in any way that they can.
When a tow company takes possession of a vehicle, a variety of legal obligations are impacted. One of these is the creation of a bailment. A bailment describes a legal relationship where physical possession of property is transferred from one person to another person. In the tow business, a bailment is established once a motor vehicle belonging to someone else comes into the possession of the tow company. The owner of the vehicle is “bailor” and the tow company is the “bailee.” But what do these fancy legal words mean?
In my neck of the woods, it is commonplace for tow companies to monitor the police radio waves with an electronic scanner. This has become even more frequent with the advent of the cell phone and download of a police scanner app. But is the use of a police scanner itself an illegal act?
In Demma v. Chicago 24 Hour Towing, Inc., the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois provided further clarification on the Motor Carrier Exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act. In this case, a group of tow truck drivers contended that they were not paid overtime wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which generally requires that tow truck companies compensate any employee who works in excess of 40 hours per week at a rate 1.5 times the normal hourly wage.
If you’re out and about on December 4, 2017, you may notice truckers out in force protesting the controversial ELD Mandate. One report says protests have been planned in at least 40 states in advance of December 18, 2017, which is when Phase 2, the Compliance Phase, of the ELD Mandate takes place.
Thanksgiving is a day of thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us. As this year comes to a close, once again I find myself thankful to be a part of the towing community. The towing community has provided the privilege of meeting and working with people from all walks of life. Many of these people have become my closest friends.
The sale or auction of abandoned vehicles left with tow companies can provide a nice revenue boost for tow companies. Most states, including my home “states” of Kansas and Missouri (Kansas City is a border town), have a statutory lien procedure designed for this. If tow companies follow this procedure, they can obtain a “title” to the motor vehicle and sell it for a profit.
At the 2016 Tennessee Tow Show, Mike McGovern and I were asked to lead a discussion on the dangers of the use of social media in the tow world. We published a brief blog about this concept shortly thereafter. However, as the use of social media becomes more prevalent, it is wise to revisit this quickly developing legal issue.
In January, 2017, a 67 year old Kansas City man was killed when a wheel broke loose from a vehicle that was being towed and struck the windshield of the vehicle he was driving. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a part from a towed vehicle to break loose and cause damage to another vehicle or person on the roadway.
A popular, dense population with too many cars and not enough parking is the perfect recipe for private property towing. Sometimes there’s another individual lurking in the shadows, the spotter. A spotter is loosely defined as an individual monitoring the parking lot who immediately calls the tow company to report an illegally parked vehicle.