After visiting the City of Bellaire’s website (You can find the site HERE) I have found the towing information to be TOTALLY INCORRECT. This clearly proves the need for the Bellaire Tow Association. The association can make sure that all current TDLR laws, as well as current city ordinances are being followed.
TDLR has been in effect since 2008 and the City of Bellaire has been in violation of these laws since 2008. Recently they tried to update police towing policies to follow these rules. I understand that anything new does take time for everyone to get used to but, for the most part these are very simple and basic rules that should take days to learn and follow. It seems the website was updated after Sgt. Kerr was contacted and alerted that the city was in violation of current TDLR towing laws.
These laws were passed to aid the City of Houston in preventing cars from being towed to body shops that charged fees the city felt they shouldn’t charge. There are currently no laws on the books to regulate body shops, so Houston went after the only thing they could regulate, the wreckers. TDLR was aided in the creation of legislation from Sgt. Provost of the Houston Police Auto Dealers Division with the main goal of the laws to prevent the wrecker driver from suggesting a place to tow the car. All tows became non-consent, meaning the citizen had no part in the tow and that the citizen couldn’t talk to the wrecker driver. Non-consent also means that the accident scene stays an active investigation until the officer says so. Depending on what officer you talk, the definition of investigation differs and they like to say it never ends and the wrecker driver could never talk to you.
The City of Bellaire ordinance states:
Sec. 7-14. – Soliciting business at scene of accident.
All wrecker drivers, owners, permit holders and agents are hereby prohibited from soliciting the business of towing, removing or repairing any wrecked or disabled vehicle at the place where an accident has occurred to such vehicle, by words, cards, circulars or gestures, until such time as a police officer of the city has arrived at the place of the accident and completed his investigation.
Yet, the city website states:
Wrecker drivers are not allowed to solicit your business for which repair facility or location you want to have your vehicle taken to.
Soliciting at the scene means: A wrecker driver makes contact with the consumer before the police arrived attempting to get the tow before the police requested wreckers. Pretty simple concept, trying to get the tow before the other wrecker drivers arrive. Having a conversation with the consumer in regards to their needs regarding the vehicle would be necessary and should be expected. The wrecker driver would NEED to ask where do you want your car to go, yet TDLR interpretation is that is soliciting and ILLEGAL. The customer is supposed to know to tell you where to take the car. Sadly, for the most part some officers, mainly in Houston, will tell the customer where to take their car, yet somehow that is ok. The wrecker driver provides many options for the consumer and would be better informed then the officer telling them to go to the dealer. If we are going to follow the rules, we all need to follow them. Consumers tend to listen to police officers and when an officer gives inccorect information or forces his views on a consumer as to where to take the car that is ILLEGAL as well. Because the officer has a badge and a gun doesnt give them the right give false information and make it seem that as an authority figure they are more trustworthy then the wrecker driver.
I would think the investigation would be over when the officer tells the all parties that he has all the information needed and has allowed the parties to leave the scene. The wrecker driver can be spoken to, but can not speak to the consumer. How absurd is that? Because of this interpretation of the law the wrecker driver MUST rely on the agreement of location and when they do not agree the car is towed to the vehicle storage facility. No one is going to tow a car across town at rush hour for 140.00.
The City website is also WRONG when stating what happens if your car gets towed. The City website states: If your vehicle needs to be towed from the crash scene, you have the right to have your vehicle towed to a location of your choice. You will need to inform the wrecker driver of the location you want your vehicle towed to. The cost for this is set by City of Bellaire Ordinance and is currently $140.00.
In REALITY, the State law that they were picking and choosing the information from clearly states:
WHERE CAR IS TO BE TOWED
Sec. 2308.205. Storage of Towed Vehicles.
(a) A towing company that makes a nonconsent tow shall tow the vehicle to a vehicle storage facility that is operated by a person who holds a license to operate the facility under Chapter 2303, unless the towing company agrees to take the vehicle to a location designated by the vehicle’s owner.
What that means is that if the wrecker driver doesn’t agree to tow the car for 140.00 then it will be towed to the vehicle storage facility. It DOES NOT say that the car will be towed where you want it to go. You can thank TDLR and the City of Houston Auto Dealers Division for this rule. Currently the 140.00 fee is too low and I have been trying hard to get this raised as well and to put in place a method to review the rate for cost increases yearly.
We should hold the City of Bellaire to a higher standard and assume they will convey the truth and provide correct information for the consumers. Its a pretty basic concept in America that when a person provides a service, they want to get paid when work is finished. The tow fee will need to be paid before the car is dropped. The wrecker driver will demand payment every time a car is towed unless the car is towed to a location that the driver has an account with, knowing that he will be paid for the tow. To think that the wrecker driver will just take the car somewhere and wait hours to get a check is absurd. You do not walk into Burger King and tell the clerk to take a PO for your food and you will mail them a check at the end of the month.
I am still amazed months after TDLR’s first contact with the City that there is still issues with the towing rules and regulations. I would think it would be fairly easy to talk to all the officers within days to alert them to the correct rules and new procedures, yet they dont seem to know the rules.
I have met with the Chief of Police Randy Mack and we spoke for nearly 2 hours. After the conversation I emailed the City Manager Satterwhite in regards to the City’s plan to “just pick” a tow rate, as well as not to provide a rate study, both in violation of:
Sec. 2308.203. Towing Fee Studies.
(a) The governing body of a political subdivision that regulates nonconsent tow fees shall establish procedures by which a towing company may request that a towing fee study be performed.
(b) The governing body of the political subdivision shall establish or amend the allowable fees for nonconsent tows at amounts that represent the fair value of the services of a towing company and are reasonably related to any financial or accounting information provided to the governing body.
I am still waiting for his reply and will post all correspondence online.