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Subject 515-16-15 NON-CONSENSUAL TOWING

Rule 515-16-15-.01 Definitions

In addition to the Definitions contained in Chapter 515-16-3 of these Rules, the following terms used in this Chapter 515-16-15 have the following meaning:

(a) Attendant means any person who is authorized by the impoundment facility to release a vehicle from the facility when presented with proper documentation of ownership and payment of appropriate fees. [See Para. (e) below for this definition]
(b) Corporate entity means any corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership, small business corporation or any other entity or organization registered with the Georgia Secretary of State's Corporations Division.
(c) Maximum Rate Tariff means the publication containing the maximum rates as prescribed by the Commission that a wrecker company can assess for the towing and storage of vehicles removed pursuant to the authority granted in the "Nonconsensual Towing Permit".
(d) Nonconsensual Towing shall mean towing without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle being towed.
(e) Nonconsensual Towing Carrier or NCT Carrier means a wrecker service operator who or which engages in the towing or other removal of improperly parked vehicles and trespassing personal property (including, but not limited to, trespassing vehicles) from private property.
(f) Nonconsensual Towing Permit or NCT Permit means a permit issued by the Commission to a wrecker or towing service operator, authorizing removal of improperly parked vehicles and trespassing personal property from private property.
(g) Normal Business Hours means operating hours of a nonconsensual towing carrier as approved by the Commission.
(h) Receipt means a document issued by the attendant to the owner of the vehicle stating all charges have been paid for the towing and storage of vehicle.
(i) Secure Impoundment Facility means a facility owned or leased by a towing company for the purposes of providing secure storage of towed vehicles.
(j) Tow or towing means to utilize any automotive vehicle to pull, to load and carry or otherwise to transport another automotive vehicle or automotive vehicle trailer over a public highway or road, except that transportation by an automobile transport vehicle with a capacity of three (3) or more vehicles shall not be included in the definition of tow or towing, no matter how many vehicles such automobile transport vehicle is transporting at any given time.
(k) Wrecker means an automotive vehicle with hoisting apparatus and equipment for towing vehicles. The term "wrecker" also includes any vehicle otherwise equipped and used for the purposes of towing vehicles.
(l) Wrecker or towing service operator means the person or entity operating or in control of the provision of wrecker or towing services to the public or to property owners and shall include all officers or managers of any such services.

Rule 515-16-15-.02 Procedures

(1) Before any wrecker service shall transport vehicles in nonconsensual towing on or over any public highway of the State of Georgia, it shall first secure a nonconsensual towing permit from the Commission by making application on forms supplied by the Commission and paying an annual filing fee of $300.00. Such filing fee shall accompany the application, which shall not be complete and ready for favorable Commission action until such fee is paid; and such fee is nonrefundable upon Commission denial of the application, applicant's withdrawal of the application or for any other reason. The permit shall be issued on an annual basis.
(2) The Commission shall issue a nonconsensual towing permit if the application is complete and the applicant demonstrates the willingness and ability to comply with the laws of Georgia and the rules and regulations of the Commission related to NCT Carriers, including, but not limited to, secure impoundment facility, the maximum rate tariff, and with Commission insurance and safety requirements.
(3) The Commission may refuse to issue a permit where the applicant has failed to show compliance with the applicable laws of Georgia and the rules and regulations of the Commission. In such instance, the applicant, shall upon written request made within 30 days of the date of denial, be entitled to a hearing to contest said denial.
(4) Permits issued pursuant to this authority shall be valid except as otherwise provided herein, from the date of issuance through mid-night of the expiration date shown on the permit, unless revoked, suspended or amended. There is no grace period. Failure to renew a permit within the permit's twelve (12) month life shall result not only in the expiration of such permit, but also in the holder of such expired permit having to re-apply for a new permit in order to resume conducting nonconsensual towing operations after such expiration date.
(5) Any nonconsensual towing permit obtained from this Commission shall be posted and kept in a conspicuous place at the main office of the wrecker service to whom such permit is granted; and copies of such permits shall be carried in the cab of any wrecker or tow truck operated under such permit.
(6) Applications to renew a permit must be submitted on a form designated by the Commission. Renewal applications should be submitted no sooner than 30 days and no later than 10 days prior to the expiration date of the permit.
(7) The Commission may, at any time after notice and an opportunity to be heard, suspend, revoke, alter, or amend any permit issued under these rules if it shall appear that the holder of the permit has violated or refused to observe any of the lawful and reasonable orders, rules or regulations prescribed by the Commission, any of the applicable provisions of Title 46 or Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia, or any other law of this state regulating or taxing motor vehicles.
(8) In the event of a change of name or ownership by the holder of a nonconsensual towing permit (including acquisition of controlling interest in a corporate entity), application for a new permit shall be made to the Commission and the old permit surrendered to the Commission before another permit can be issued to the new owner(s). The application for a permit by a new owner shall be made in the same manner as for an original nonconsensual towing permit and the fee shall be the same as for an original permit.
(9) Any nonconsensual permit issued by the Commission shall not be assignable or transferable to any other person, firm, corporation or other entity.

Rule 515-16-15-.03 Fees Charged for Nonconsensual Towing

(1) Any wrecker service engaged in the business of providing nonconsensual towing service shall not charge the owner or operator of any towed motor vehicle more than the maximum rates published in the "Nonconsensual Towing Maximum Rate Tariff" prescribed by the Commission. No storage fees shall be charged for the first 24-hour period from the time the motor vehicle is removed from the property. The fees stated in the maximum rate tariff shall be all inclusive; no additional fees may be charged for the use of dollies, trailers, lifts, slim jims or any other equipment or service. Only charges or rates for storage and removal that are approved by the Commission and contained in the Commission's Maximum Rate Tariff for Nonconsensual Towing shall be billed or collected by the wrecker service for towing or storage services; and it is a violation of this Rule for any wrecker service to bill or collect fees or charges which are not expressly permitted by such Maximum Rate Tariff.
(2) The fees stated in paragraph (1) above of this rule shall be payable, at the choice of the vehicle owner or payee, by cash, commonly-recognized travelers checks, money orders, certified checks or cashier's checks at no additional charge.
(3) No additional charges shall be assessed for storage of the vehicle once the vehicle has been claimed and payment is tendered to the towing company in the amount specified on the receipt and the vehicle has been removed from the impoundment facility. The receipt issued by the wrecker or towing service to the customer, and such service's office copy of such receipt, must reflect all fees collected for the redemption of the vehicle.
(4) The Maximum Rate Tariff will be reviewed annually by the Commission after receiving notification from towing firms as to their current cost for removal and storage of vehicles and personal property, and other pertinent information. Wrecker services shall submit the information described in this subparagraph by October 1 of each year, or at such other date as may be designated from time to time by the Commission, to the Commission's Transportation Unit.
(5) No storage fees may be charged or collected by any wrecker service or tow truck operator for days on which the impound lot where a towed vehicle is stored is closed or otherwise unavailable to the vehicle owner for redemption.

Rule 515-16-15-.04 Vehicle Not Towed Upon Operator Returning

(1) The operator or driver employed by a wrecker service summoned to tow away any vehicle from private property, shall not tow the vehicle away and shall not charge any fee if the operator or owner of the vehicle returns, and produces the ignition key to the vehicle, and immediately removes the vehicle from the private property.
(2) If the vehicle has been hooked with hoisting apparatus, including wheel dollies, or loaded by the wrecker service and the vehicle has not left the premises, the vehicle shall be released and the operator's fee as prescribed in the Maximum Rate Tariff may apply. A receipt, containing the date and time of the release of the vehicle, total amount charged, location of the private property, wrecker service's name, address, and telephone number shall be issued to the owner/operator of the vehicle.
(3) Once the wrecker service has left the location to which it was summoned charges may be assessed in accordance with the Maximum Rate Tariff. The operator's fee, as described in paragraph (b), shall not apply in this instance.

Rule 515-16-15-.05 Signs Specifications

(1) Owners of private property shall be required to place signs at each designated entrance to a parking lot or parking area where parking prohibitions apply. Where there is no designated entrance, such signs shall be posted so as to be clearly visible from each and every parking space. Such signs shall be a minimum of twelve (12) inches by eighteen (18) inches with a minimum of ¾ inch lettering. The wording Private Parking shall be printed in Bold with a minimum of 1½ inch lettering.
(2) Such signs located at a designated entrance to a parking lot shall be at least four (4) feet above the site grade. Where there is no designated entrance, such signs shall be six (6) feet above site grade. Posted signs must be free of any natural or man-made interference and be clearly visible.
(3) Such signs shall also include the following language:
(a) A warning that unauthorized vehicles will be towed;
(b) Towing company name, address, and telephone number and impound lot location where towed vehicle may be retrieved;
(c) Towing fees and daily storage fees;
(d) Hours of Operation; and
(e) Method or form of payment shall be as per vehicle owner choice as specified in Transportation Rule 515-16-15-.03(2).
(4) No vehicle shall be relocated from private property which does not, at the time of the tow and for at least 24 hours prior thereto, have signs posted which are in substantial compliance with the provisions of paragraphs (1) through (3) above. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the provisions of this section shall not apply to owner(s) of private residential property containing not more than four (4) residential units.
(5) All signs must be removed from private property within (15) days after the termination of the contract; or authorization from the property owner, or agent is withdrawn.

Rule 515-16-15-.06 Authorized Attendant

(1) An attendant must be available at the impoundment facility to provide reasonable access to any towed vehicle (6) days of each week. The attendant must be available by phone 24 hours per day. The attendant shall have the authority to release any impounded vehicle upon the owner meeting the legal requirements for release. Any person claiming a vehicle impounded under the nonconsensual towing permit shall produce evidence of such person's identity and ownership or right of possession and shall pay all towing charges and storage fees which shall have accrued with respect to the vehicle. No storage fees will be charged for any days the secure impoundment facility is closed and the owner is unable to claim the vehicle.
(2) The vehicle owner, or owner's agent, shall produce a valid driver's license plus an ignition key which operates the vehicle, and indicia of ownership such as a certificate of title, a valid and current registration card, bill of sale, or a lease or rental contract.
(3) A receipt listing the specific charges for towing and storage of the vehicle shall be issued to the owner or agent claiming the vehicle and the attendant shall retain a copy of the receipt. The receipt must be signed by the owner or agent claiming the vehicle and by the attendant. Such receipt shall identify the vehicle and shall become part of the wrecker service's record.

Rule 515-16-15-.07 Records and Reports

(1) Upon impoundment of any vehicle, the wrecker service shall maintain records, which shall include the following information:
(a) Date and time of initial towing;
(b) Place of initial towing;
(c) Date and time of arrival at the impound lot;
(d) Date and time of release to the owner;
(e) Name of the towing company driver and helper;
(f) Cost for towing of the vehicle;
(g) Cost of storage of the vehicle; and
(h) Any other authorized applicable charges with reference to Commission's Nonconsensual Towing Maximum Rate Tariff provisions authorizing such fees or charges.
(2) The records shall be maintained at a location where any Commission representative may review in person during normal business hours. Further, all wrecker companies shall provide a current telephone number of the person responsible for releasing the vehicles to the Commission.
(3) All records required by these rules shall be preserved for a period of three (3) years, unless otherwise specified by the Commission.

Rule 515-16-15-.08 Secure Impoundment Facility

(1) A wrecker service authorized to conduct nonconsensual towing by the Commission must maintain a secure storage area for towed vehicles in the county where the tow operator's office (as listed with the Commission) is located, unless otherwise authorized by the Commission.
(2) The wrecker service must provide for effective and efficient security for the lot at all times. The storage lot must be fenced with a minimum of six (6) feet fencing, lighted, and equipped with a lock or enclosed building.
(3) Impounded vehicles shall be delivered to the wrecker service's secure impoundment facility in a timely manner. No wrecker service shall utilize "drop zones" or leave impounded vehicles at any impound lot or other location that has not been approved by the Commission for use by the wrecker service making such tow or removal.

Rule 515-16-15-.09 Public Liability and Property Damage Insurance

(1) A wrecker service issued a permit to conduct nonconsensual towing must maintain a commercial insurance policy or policies with the minimum liability insurance coverages prescribed by the Commission and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on all vehicles used in its business in intrastate commerce as follows:
(a) Intrastate (origin and destination wholly within the state)
(b) Public Liability and Property Damage Insurance limits as set forth below:
1. $100,000 limit for bodily injury to or death of one person
2. $300,000 limit for bodily injuries to or death of total persons in one accident
3. $50,000 loss or damage in any one accident to property of others
(2) Garage Keeper's Legal Liability:
(a) Liability insurance, which covers stored vehicles and contents, must be maintained on the impound or storage lot(s) sufficient to cover the actual value of all stored vehicles towed or removed to such lot or storage facility under O.C.G.A. § 44-1-13. The minimum amount of garage keeper's or storage liability insurance for coverage of the stored vehicles and contents must be at least $50,000.00.
(3) A copy of the Certificates of Insurance must be furnished to the Commission on an annual basis. A 30-day advance cancellation notice must be provided to the Commission prior to any such insurance cancellation becoming effective. Insurance filings with the Commission must be on current forms prescribed by the Commission. No lapse in insurance coverage will be allowed.
(4) A permit issued by the Commission is in effect only while the wrecker service is in the vehicle or vehicles to be towed compliance with all requirements for filing proof of insurance.

Rule 515-16-15-.10 Office Requirements

(1) A wrecker service must maintain normal business hours and a listed public business telephone number. A wrecker service may maintain a maximum of two telephone numbers to be called for dispatching calls.
(2) All wrecker services will provide reasonable access to any towed vehicle six (6) days per week.
(3) A wrecker service must maintain proof of registration for each vehicle with the Commission and comply with the Commission's safety rules and regulations.
(4) A wrecker service must maintain and provide to the Commission upon request, a list of all personnel operating wrecker equipment, as well as a current Motor Vehicle Report on each driver.
(5) Drivers must maintain a valid driver's license of the appropriate class and with the appropriate endorsements required to operate the wrecker service's vehicles under Georgia law.
(6) It shall be unlawful for a wrecker service to engage in removal of vehicles without an authorized contract signed by the owner or other authorized agent for property owner and the towing company in the form prescribed by the Commission. A copy of the contract shall be made available to the Commission representatives, upon request. The contract must contain the name, address and phone number of the respective towing company, and the location of the impoundment facility, hours of operation, and the cost for removal of the vehicle and the charges for storage of the towed vehicle. The contract must also contain the names and contact number(s) of the person(s) authorized to request the removal of a vehicle from said property.
(7) For each and every requested nonconsensual towing movement, on the day the removal takes place, the real property owner or his contractually-designated agent (1) must place a telephone call, send a facsimile letter or send an e-mail message to the wrecker service identifying specifically, and requesting removal of, the vehicle or vehicles to be towed or removed and (2) must receive an original written tow authorization or tow bill dated and signed the date of the tow at the scene of the tow by the real property owner or such property owner's designated agent specifying the vehicle or vehicles to be towed or removed and having the name of the signing real property owner or such owner's designated agent typed or legibly printed below the signature. The wrecker service shall maintain for three (3) years copies of telephone records, faxes and e-mail messages requesting removal as proof of the time and date such removal was requested, as well as the signed authorization for removal from the property owner or such owner's agent.

Rule 515-16-15-.11 Equipment

(1) All wrecker services engaged in transporting vehicles in nonconsensual towing must maintain a Georgia Department of Revenue cab card with current year's identification stamp for intrastate carriers, or appropriate registration receipt for interstate carriers in the cab of each wrecker.
(2) Each vehicle operating under authority of a nonconsensual towing permit must carry a copy of the permit in the cab of the vehicle. The copy shall be presented to any investigator or enforcement officer of the Commission upon request.
(3) A Georgia DOT number must be affixed to the outside of the wrecker if the wrecker is operating within Georgia only.
(4) If carrier transports vehicles across state lines (interstate) a USDOT number or United State Motor Carrier (MC) number must be affixed to the outside of the wrecker.
(5) All vehicles utilized by the wrecker companies for nonconsensual towing must be equipped with the following:
(a) Valid registration tag;
(b) Fire extinguisher; and
(c) Tow away lamps (tail, stop and turn signal lights for vehicles being towed), and the name of the wrecker service, city, and telephone number permanently affixed to both sides. Letters must be readable at a distance of 50 feet while the vehicle is stationary.
(d) Augmentation of equipment by an NCT Carrier must comply with the Motor Carrier Leasing Rules contained in Chapter 515-16-13 of these Rules.

Rule 515-16-15-.12 Penalties

Except to the extent preclude by lower penalties specified in O.C.G.A. § 44-1-13 or other specific federal or state statutes applicable to a given carrier conduct, the criminal and civil penalties for violation of this Chapter include those set forth in O.C.G.A. §§ 46-2-90 through 46-2-93, 46-7-39 and 46-7-90 and in Chapters 515-16-3 and 515-16-10 of these Transportation Rules; and such penalties ranging as high as $15,000.00 per violation, plus $10,000.00 per day for each day such violation continues, can only be imposed by the Commission after notice and hearing, unless the violator consents in writing to such penalties. Such higher civil penalties are applicable to those carriers who violate a Commission Order or these Transportation Rules repeatedly or otherwise demonstrate willful or wanton refusal to comply with, or disregard for, this Commission's jurisdiction, Georgia law and these Transportation Rules.