TOW COMPANIES GET RAISE

By: Brittany Wallman | Sun Sentinel
February 10, 2015

Tow Company Get Raise

A vehicle in downtown Fort Lauderdale is hitched up to a tow truck after parking in a lot marked No Parking. After a vote Tuesday afternoon, tow truck driver will be subject to a new set of rules, including requiring a towing license to operate in this county (Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel).

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:

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