A new law designed to protect consumers from under-qualified tow truck operators goes into effect Oct. 1 and one local man says the legislation may force his towing company and other businesses like it to fold.
Jon Velez, who has operates Norwalk Towing, LLC -- a small company with two tow trucks and a total of three employees, said the stringent requirements brought on by the law will cost family-owned businesses tens of thousands of dollars.
"I've got 12-to-15 garages that I tow for," said Velez. "I depend on them and they depend on me. Not only do they depend on me, their families depend on me."
The law, which was unanimously passed in the state legislature and was signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell on June 5, strengthens the equipment and license plate requirement for businesses that tow vehicles.
Tow truck companies will now be required to have their tow trucks registered with wrecker plates, whereas they were only required to have commercial plates prior to the law's enactment. The plates cost $125 and do not need to be renewed but the applicant must be a licensed automobile dealer or repairer.
"These lobbyists keep saying: 'It's only $125,'" Velez said. "It's not like going to the store and getting a quart of milk."
Velez does not own a repair shop, as required by the law, but he is contracted to tow vehicles to repair shops in Norwalk and Westport. He is also contracted by various auto clubs who have roadside-assistance programs -- such as Geico -- and companies such as AT&T.
Phil Terentino, who works for Norwalk Towing, pointed out that many local garages do not own tow trucks and the law will also affect those businesses.
"If you own a garage but don't own your own truck, who are you going to call?" said Terentino.
Joe Miano, president of the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Connecticut -- an association of towing companies -- lobbied for the law and he said it gives consumers peace of mine. He said the law is a way to weed out "backyard" or "gypsy" operations who undercut their competitors by using unlicensed drivers and underinsured vehicles.
Allen Fedor, owner of the Norwalk-based repair shop and towing company Fedor's Autobody, said he pays a high insurance premium and makes sure his workers are qualified but businesses cut prices by up to two-thirds by not doing so.
He said his company trucks are covered should one of the trucks damage the car it is towing but "gypsy" towers do not have such insurance coverage.
Velez is also highly insured and he and Terentino have all the licensing requirements needed to operate a tow truck. He has approached repair shop owners to see if he could tow for the shop but the owners are afraid of the liability that comes with operating a tow truck company.
With his options running out, Velez -- who is admittedly behind in his taxes -- fears his house will be foreclosed upon and he will not be able to pay for his son to go to college.
Velez questions why so many politicians who claim to be interested in creating and securing jobs in the state would unanimously pass a bill that will kill family-owned businesses.
"I don't think they put me out on purpose," he said. "They just didn't read the bill."
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
New CT Tow Truck Law Will Affect Businesses, Tow Boss Says
Here's the story from www.thehour.com: