August 19, 2002
TOW TRUCK OPERATORS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You asked for information on the State Police policy as it pertains to hiring wrecker (tow truck) operators. Specifically, you want to know (1) if the department uses a rotation system, (2) who is responsible for the towing bill and salvage of an abandoned vehicle, and (3) whether the towing company gets to keep the salvage value of the abandoned vehicle in lieu of the towing fee. We will address the last two questions in a later report.
By law, the State Police may establish, within its patrol jurisdiction, a rotational system for summoning licensed wrecker operators to tow or transport disabled, inoperative, or wrecked motor vehicles of owners or operators who are incapacitated or unavailable or ask the officer at the scene to procure the service.
A wrecker operator seeking placement on any State Police rotational list must apply to the troop commander in whose jurisdiction his business is located. He must (1) be certified by the Towing and Recovery Association of America or another certification program the Department of Public Safety (DPS) commissioner approves or have at least 10 years experience operating wreckers, (2) be licensed as a motor vehicle dealer or repairer, and (3) register biennially with DMV for a $92 fee each vehicle used for towing for compensation. The wrecker business must be located so as to provide prompt and efficient service, and the wrecker equipment must meet DPS and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) safety, mechanical, and other standards.
The State Police troop supervisor requiring wrecker service must contact wrecker operators on his rotation list in the order that they appear. Operators must be available 24 hours per day, every day. They must respond to service calls within specified timeframes. If they are unable, unwilling, or fail to do so or cannot be contacted, they are placed at the bottom of the list.
Wrecker operators may be removed from the list if they fail to meet DPS wrecker requirements or violate any law or regulation concerning motor vehicle operation or the operation of a motor vehicle repair, towing, or storage facility. Removal proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act, which involves a hearing, and DPS regulations.
DPS ROTATIONAL SYSTEM FOR SELECTING WRECKER OPERATORS
Pursuant to its statutory authority to establish a rotational system within its patrol jurisdiction (CGS § 29-23a), each troop commander prepares separate rotational lists for light-duty and heavy-duty service wrecker operators for each town within the troop's jurisdiction. If there is no wrecker service within town borders, he must establish the list of operators from adjoining towns. An operator may hold as many places on a list as he has DMV-licensed locations.
Qualifications for Participating in DPS Rotation System
A wrecker operator wanting to participate in the DPS rotational system must apply to the troop commander in whose jurisdiction his business is located. Eligible operators must either (1) be certified by the Towing and Recovery Association of America or another certification program the DPS commissioner approves or (2) may demonstrate that they have at least 10 years experience operating wreckers. They must prove their requisite experience by providing the commissioner with an employment history. Before listing an operator the State Police must confirm that he can provide prompt and efficient service and meets all legal requirements for vehicle safety, mechanical standards, dealer and repairer licensing, and wrecker licensing.
DMV AND DPS STANDARDS FOR WRECKER EQUIPMENT
Wrecker operators and equipment must meet DMV and DPS standards. But the DPS commissioner may grant variances or exemptions from, or approve equivalent or alternate compliance with DPS requirements if strict compliance would entail practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship or is otherwise considered unwarranted. Any such action must secure the public safety.
Among other things, DMV requires a wrecker operator to be licensed as a motor vehicle dealer or repairer and register biennially each vehicle used for towing for compensation. The registration fee is $92. The DMV commissioner or a designee must inspect the wrecker equipment with respect to its number, equipment, and identification and to determine its mechanical condition and whether it is properly equipped to do the intended work. Additionally,
1. a wrecker must have two flashing yellow lights mounted at least eight feet above the road surface and as far to the back of the cab as practicable, indicate the full vehicle width, be visible in all directions at all times, and be operated whenever the wrecker is at an accident scene or location of a disabled vehicle and when towing the disabled vehicle;
2. a wrecker must also have an aimable spotlight, a working fire extinguisher mounted in a permanent bracket, securely mounted hoisting equipment of sufficient capacity to perform the intended work, and three flares to be used while performing its services during twilight or nighttime hours;
3. a wrecker operator cannot tow a vehicle to a storage facility unless the storage facility's rates and charges have been filed with the DMV;
4. the registrant or operator of a wrecker is prohibited from offering or giving any gratuity or inducement to a police officer or anyone else to obtain towing business or recommendations for towing, storing, or estimating repairs to disabled vehicles;
5. a wrecker operator may not require a vehicle owner to sign a contract for damage repairs as part of the towing consideration or to sign a repair order or estimate authorization until the towing job is done; and
6. wrecker owners must keep records subject to DMV inspection
that contain (1) each towed vehicle's registration number, (2)
the date and time the tow occurred, (3) the location from which the vehicle was towed and its destination, (4) total mileage involved in the tow, (5) the towing charge and any other charges for tow-related services, (6) the name and address of the person who requests the tow, and (7) any other information DMV requires (CGS § 14-66).
In addition to DMV-required equipment, DPS requires a light duty service wrecker operator responding to a scene to be equipped with communications equipment, such as a two-way radio or wireless telephone; a second rear spot light; three triangle reflectors and shovels; brooms; and any other equipment necessary to clear the roadway of debris. A heavy-duty service wrecker must be equipped with communications equipment, such as a two-way radio or wireless telephone, a second rear spot light, 10 flares, 10 triangle reflectors, two shovels, one heavy-duty push broom, two pry bars, one bolt cutter, 10 large T-bolts and shut off fittings for buses. Heavy-duty service wreckers must be able to provide air to the towed vehicle to facilitate brake system operation (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 29-23a-9). Wreckers at the scene of a service call may be asked to provide on-site repair, including starting the vehicle's ignition or changing a tire.
PROCEDURES FOR SUMMONING WRECKER OPERATORS IN THE ROTATION SYSTEM
When the vehicle owner or operator is present and able to respond, the trooper must ask whether he wishes to choose a wrecker service. The trooper must notify the operator selected, unless he cannot be contacted or is unable or unwilling to respond within the appropriate response times. In that case, the next available wrecker operator on the rotational list for the type of towing operation required must be summoned. If the owner is not present or does not wish to choose an operator, the troop commander must select the operator who is at the top of the list for the type of towing operation.
The trooper must contact operators by telephone, following guidelines outlined in DPS regulations. Operators must be available 24 hours per day, every day and may not delegate calls for service to other operators. They must respond to calls for service on limited-access highways within 20 minutes after the State Police notifies them and within 30 minutes in all other locations. Where traffic conditions warrant required response times may be reduced at State Police discretion.
If the operator does not respond, or fails to confirm within 10 minutes, receipt of any message left with an answering service, answering machine, or pager system, or within a shorter time when traffic conditions make it impracticable to wait 10 minutes, the trooper may contact the next operator on the list. An operator is placed at the bottom of the list if he cannot be reached when contacted, is unable or unwilling to respond to the service request, or cannot be reached in a timely manner because of the use of an answering service, answering machine or pager system.
Emergencies. In an emergency, the troop supervisor must determine the most expeditious method of obtaining wrecker service, taking into consideration such factors as weather conditions, traffic density and speed, the number of other calls for police services, and the availability of police personnel. If a wrecker operator is summoned out of rotational sequence because of an emergency, he is considered to have received its next rotational call.
WRECKER OPERATOR RESPONSIBILITIES
DPS regulations outline several responsibilities of wrecker operators. Among other things, operators must promptly and efficiently remove from the roadway designated vehicles, associated debris, and spills of fluids used in vehicle operations, such as gasoline, oil, or antifreeze. Vehicles must be removed to the operator's business place, an alternate DMV-approved storage location, a location the vehicle owner or operator requests, or a facility under State Police control. Debris must be removed to the operator's business place, unless the State Police, Department of Transportation or Department of Environmental Protection directs otherwise.
Wrecker operators are also responsible for safely removing vehicle contents and occupants, except where the occupants cannot be legally transported, an arrest has been made, or where other arrangements have been made to transport the occupants. The trooper at the scene may help transport occupants if the wrecker cannot transport everyone.
Each listed wrecker operator must provide the appropriate troop with a telephone number allowing contact at all times. The operator must notify the troop before responding to a request for service not transmitted by State Police if the call requires performing the service on a road under State Police jurisdiction. The operator must also notify the troop whenever a vehicle is removed from the highway pursuant to a rotational call for service if there is no trooper at the scene when the vehicle is removed.
REMOVAL OF WRECKER OPERATORS FROM ROTATION LIST
A wrecker operator may be removed from a rotation list for failing to meet any of the pertinent laws or regulation concerning the operation of a motor vehicle repair, towing or storage facility or any statute or regulation concerning the operation of a motor vehicle. Before the operator can be removed the State Police troop commander responsible for the list must forward to a hearing officer designated by the DPS commissioner to conduct removal proceedings a written complaint specifying the reasons that removal is sought. Removal proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act and DPS regulations.