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Mississippi bill cracks down on predatory towing

April 29, 2024
Legislators have passed a bill that better regulates nonconsensual towing of commercial vehicles in the state.

Predatory towing can lead to significant costs and disruptions for fleet operations, but some states are starting to regulate the practice, as seen in Mississippi.

Mississippi legislators passed a bill to crack down on predatory towing in the state. Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill, SB2635, which will take effect on July 1 this year.

The legislation restricts what towing services can legally do to commercial motor vehicles and provides significant reforms to towing against heavy-duty trucks.

The bill is the first big step toward dealing with predatory nonconsensual towing,” Hal Miller, president of the Mississippi Trucking Association, told FleetOwner, Fleet Maintenance's sister publication.

See also: Seven ways to protect your trucks from predatory towing 

How the bill prevents predatory towing

The bill introduces several new rules to better regulate nonconsensual towing services in Mississippi, mainly for commercial motor vehicles. The bill:

  • Creates a “Commercial Vehicle Towing Advisory Committee” to help develop regulations for towing services.
  • Allows commercial vehicle owners or operators access to their nonconsensually towed vehicles reasonably.
  • Permits law enforcement officers to utilize the services of a tow list, as long as they are not obligated to retain a particular provider's services and try to honor an owner-operator’s request for a specific provider.
  • Bars officials from using or recommending particular towing providers for personal gain
  • Prevents a towing and recovery service from paying for the privilege of nonconsensual towing of commercial vehicles.
  • Prohibits using “spotters,” people employed to identify improperly parked commercial vehicles for towing.
  • Limits nonconsensual towing on private property to only Mississippi-based towers.
  • Requires towers to document the vehicle’s condition before a nonconsensual tow.
  • Requires towers to have direct permission from a private property owner or law enforcement officer for a nonconsensual tow.
  • Allows immobilization devices, such as boots, only under the direction of law enforcement

The Commercial Vehicle Towing Advisory Committee

The bill's advisory committee will introduce several additional measures to regulate predatory towing better.

It will consist of seven officials and officially be part of the Department of Public Safety’s Public Commercial Transportation Enforcement Division. The committee's membership includes a local law enforcement representative, two department officials, two members chosen by the Mississippi Towing Association, and two members chosen by the Mississippi Trucking Association.

“That committee will in turn establish certain regulations and standards for being included in the tow list to be used by law enforcement for those nonconsensual situations,” Miller told FleetOwner. “It will also establish some basic maximum rates for certain categories of the towing process. It will also define what has to be on invoices when those invoices are submitted for that nonconsensual tow."

Probably most important is it’s going to establish a process for appeals that come form nonconsensual towing events," he continued. "That way, the motor carrier will have some voice in whether or not that invoicing was fair. That same committee will be essentially operated as an appeals board to hear those appeals and then address them accordingly.” 

See also: How to identify predatory towing to avoid paying ransom

A rise in predatory towing

Aggressive towing practices and excessive towing fees have become a growing problem for U.S. fleets. Attention to the issue has grown in the South, including states like Florida, Tennessee, and now Mississippi.

“We’ve seen instances with some of our members where they have had to pay almost $10,000 just to get their truck released,” Miller said. The bill was passed quickly because of the perceived growth in predatory towing practices in the area, he said.

According to a 2023 study by the American Transportation Research Institute, Mississippi had the third most reported predatory towing incidents relative to mileage.

It’s not a perfect fix; it’s a start,” Miller told FleetOwner. “We had to jump on it pretty quick. We’re hopefully going to work through this committee to find other ways to prevent this kind of abuse from happening.”

This article was originally published on FleetOwner.com

About the Author

Jeremy Wolfe | Editor

Editor Jeremy Wolfe joined the FleetOwner team in February 2024. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with majors in English and Philosophy. He previously served as Editor for Endeavor Business Media's Water Group publications.

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