Last updated: December 24. 2013 10:45PM - 794 Views
By - cwarner@civitasmedia.com

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UNION — Wrecker services that tow vehicles for the Union Public Safety Department will now have to respond to a call within 30 minutes under a new policy adopted earlier this month.

In its December meeting, Union City Council voted to approve a new “Policy for Regulation of Wrecker Services” presented by Union Public Safety Director Sam White.

White described the policy as “comprehensive” and covering “many areas” including “qualifications, responsibilities, a rotation list, and complaints/disciplinary procedures.”

The new policy is designed to address concerns about the towing of vehicles by wrecker services on behalf of the public safety department.

“We really didn’t have an in-depth policy for wreckers that are on our rotation list,” White said Monday. “We were getting complaints from people when they’d have their cars towed that they couldn’t find the wrecker lot or there wasn’t anybody available to let them get their car. There were also some allegations of unprofessional conduct by wrecker operators.”

To rectify the situation, White said the department, in consultation with the owners of the wrecker services on its rotation list, recommended to council that the city adopt the S.C. Highway Patrol’s wrecker service policy with one change.

“We looked at the issue and had input from the wrecker operators,” White said. “They recommended a uniform policy countywide and the highway patrol already had one in place statewide. It has the insurance requirements for wrecker services, how to protect vehicles from the elements, and how to protect property in vehicles.”

White said the only difference between the SCHP’s policy and the city’s policy is that the city policy requires a 30-minute response time while the SCHP’s requires a response time of 45 minutes.

In making his presentation to council, White said that each of the wrecker services on his department’s rotation list had been sent a copy of the new policy. The policy states that the concerns it covers were presented during a Nov. 19 public hearing on the issue. Those concerns and how they are to be addressed include:

• The need for a uniform policy that covers all of Union County.

“With every law enforcement agency having a separate policy it would be confusing for wrecker service providers to comply with each agency’s unique policy. The Union Public Safety Department policy is tailored after the S.C. Highway Patrol policy and will have the same major requirements.” This includes SCHP “rate structure and all insurance requirements for towing services performed on or after Jan. 1, 2014.”

• The 30-minute response requirement.

“There were concerns about the Union Public Safety Department requiring a 30-minute response time and the S.C. Highway Patrol requiring a 45-minue response time. The Union Public Safety Department feels that the 30-minute response time is needed to reduce the amount of time that a highway may be closed or obstructed due to a towing situation. The City of Union is located in somewhat of a central location of Union County and any operator should be able to respond in 30 minutes or less. Any response longer than 30 minutes would present an unnecessary inconvenience to the public and tie up Public Safety Officers unnecessarily.”

• USDOT inspections of wreckers.

“Concerns about this requirement were expressed as it was reported that not all wrecker service providers had these inspections. The Union Public Safety Department contacted the S.C. Highway Patrol about this concern. The S.C. Highway Patrol does not require these inspections for the wrecker service providers that are on their rotation lists. This concern was also addressed to the S.C. State Transport Police. The S.C. Transport Police states that last year the law was changed to only require wreckers with a GVW of 26,000 lbs. or greater to have the USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) inspection. Only Class C wreckers would require USDOT inspection. Prior to the law change the weight was GVW of 10,000 lbs. or greater. Any violations of this requirement would be enforced by the S.C. Transport Police.

• Business License Fees

“In the event that a wrecker service provider that is currently on the rotation list is not able to meet the new policy requirements the Public Safety Department will ask City Council to consider refunding the unused portion of the business license fee as determined on a monthly basis.”

The policy also lists the maximum fees that wrecker services on the list may charge when they tow a vehicle for the city:

• Class A — $185 for a standard tow (collision/stranded motorist/violation); $90 for special operations (hourly charge); and

a storage fee (per unit) of $30 an hour.

• Class B — $275 for a standard tow; $150 for special operations; and a storage fee of $40 an hour.

• Class C — $450 (per hour) for a standard tow; and a storage fee of $50 an hour.

The policy defines a standard tow as “responding the scene, hooking up the vehicle, performing a general clean up if the call involves responding to a collision scene and providing responsible assistance to the owner to get to a safe location.”

It defines special operations as “operations involving the process of up-righting an overturned vehicle or returning a vehicle to a normal position on the roadway which requires the use of auxiliary equipment due to the size or location of the vehicle and/or the recovery of a load which has spilled, or the off-loading and reloading of a load from an overturned vehicle performed to right the vehicle.”

The City of Union is the second governing body in Union County to update its wrecker policy.

Union County Council voted earlier this morning to bring the county’s wrecker policy into line with that of the SCHP.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.

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