Tow Companies Get Raise

Tow Companies Get Raise
By: Brittany Wallman | Sen Sentinel
Febuary 10, 2015

Having a car towed in Broward County just got a little more painful.

Broward County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow tow truck operators to charge more when they tow vehicles.

Tows of cars parked on private property go up 20 percent, from $100 to $120. Tows ordered by police, after an accident, for example, go up 24 percent from $105 to $130.

That’s just the beginning of the rate increases.

At the request of the towing industry, commissioners included automatic increases for all towing fees every year, based on the rate of inflation.

At the maximum 3 percent increase, the basic tow for an illegally parked car would be $135 by 2019. Tows ordered by police would grow to a maximum $146 by 2019. The hourly labor rate for police-ordered tows goes up from $110 to a maximum $124.

Tuesday’s measure also allows tow companies to charge a new $5 fee if a customer doesn’t have the car registration and wants to expedite release of the vehicle.

Broward Commissioner Lois Wexler successfully added a five-year expiration to the inflationary increases, so they can be reviewed at that time.

“The continuous increases with no end in sight, I thought was not fair to the residents of Broward County,” said Wexler. “It’s a towing fee, it’s also a labor fee, it’s a storage fee, it’s administrative fee. And everything goes up.”

The rate hikes are a victory for a business that’s been a misbehaver in Broward. The county over the past three years has clamped down on towing, aiming to stop consumer abuses, including mass tow traps.

The latest round of reform goes into effect April 1, when all tow truck operators must register with the county and obtain a permit. That will allow the county to put bad actors out of business.

Tow company owner Sean Loscalzo, vice president of the Sunshine State Towing Assocation, said tow operators “worked hand in hand” on consumer reforms while waiting for approval of rate increases. The last increase was in 2006. Meanwhile, he said, transportation costs, including diesel fuel and auto insurance, have escalated.

He said operators need to “keep up with the skyrocketing costs of doing business in Broward County” and of complying with the new laws.

Broward’s new basic rate exceeds that of Miami-Dade County, where it’s $101, but is in line with other large counties in Florida. Broward’s rates for larger vehicles, where hourly labor charges apply, are on par with or exceed those in many other counties.

In other action, Broward County commissioners Tuesday:

  • Unanimously approved a revision of taxi laws to make clear they apply to “transportation network companies” such as Uber and Lyft. County Administrator Bertha Henry said a new law tailored for such companies will be ready for a vote in March. She said Broward is working with Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, because ideally all three South Florida counties would approve the same rules. The city of Fort Lauderdale is waiting to see what Broward passes so it can pass something similar, the city manager said recently. It’s illegal for drivers-for-hire to pick up passengers in Fort Lauderdale city limits without a city taxi permit. The county’s taxi regulations govern Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the remaning Broward cities.
  • Voted to approve and send to the state a request from the city of Fort Lauderdale to allow 5,000 more residential units to be built downtown. The land use amendment paves the way for developers to submit project plans to the city of Fort Lauderdale. Currently, 11,060 units are allowed and fewer than 800 remain to be built. Build-out, expected in 20 to 30 years, is 23,400 units, city officials said.
  • Approved changes to allow a 180-unit residential development at 5820 Griffin Road in Davie, site of the controversial proposed Trotters Chase development that was never built.