STL Post-Dispatch: Senate endorses tougher rules on towing companies

By Kurt Erickson St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • Towing companies in Missouri’s urban areas could face tougher rules under a plan moving through the Legislature.

On a 29-3 vote, the Senate approved a proposal requiring tow companies to stay open or be available to customers for 10 hours a day, five days a week, except on federal holidays.

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, who chaired a 2015 committee that investigated predatory towing practices, said the law attempts to rein in unscrupulous companies.

The Senate Task Force on Predatory Towing met periodically last year to hear testimony about price disparity among operators, as well as rate hikes and bullying of customers.

An earlier version of the plan would have required towing companies to stay open for 12 hours in order to ensure people have time to pick up their vehicles.

But, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, attempted to change that to eight hours a day.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, argued the shorter time period would make it difficult to pick up vehicles.

“I see this as putting a real burden on typical people who work,” Schupp said.

“You’re going to have to take a day off of work and now you’ve added to your woes,” added Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

In the end, a compromise was reached that requires operators to be open or available 10 hours.

The time requirement was opposed by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar.

“I don’t think you have any business setting the hours of private business,” Parson said.

The initial version also applied to the entire state. But, Sen. Parson said the changes should only apply to the state’s urban areas.

“I don’t think this is a problem in rural Missouri,” Parson said.

A total of 21 counties will be covered by the law if it is approved by both the House and Senate, including St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Francois.

“I think it’s good that we’re going to tighten up on these towing operators,” Schaaf said. “

The legislation is House Bill 1976.

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