County Board Looks to Towing Refinements

Published on November 04, 2016

towThe Arlington County Board is considering upgrading and refining County code dealing with the frequently contentious issue of vehicles towed from private property.

At Saturday's November Regular Meeting, the Board will discuss advertising a public hearing on "trespass towing" during its Dec. 10 meeting.

"These recommendations seek to provide protection to vehicle owners while balancing the needs of property owners and their customers," said Brian Stout, a legislative liaison for the County.

In the case of the maximum allowable fees for trespass towing, the Board is expected to match the State Code in allowing for up to two instances of an additional fee of $25 for a tow that occurs between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays or on weekends and holidays.

The County had authorized one flat rate throughout the week. Due to action by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year, Arlington County and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions must allow for these charges.

The Board also will consider requiring that towing companies share information that would help the County in exercising oversight authority. Under the proposal, towing operators would have to provide the County annually with information on their storage facilities, state-issued driver authorization documents and proof of insurance coverage.

The County Manager also has recommended that the County clarify existing state and County restrictions by prohibiting the towing from private property of any federal, state or local emergency vehicle. Towers would be required to contact the Arlington County Police Department in such situations.

The Board also will consider code adjustments recommended by the County Manager and the Trespass Towing Advisory Board (TTAB) including:

  • Requiring more signs inside parking facilities to "identify additional parking restrictions should they exist"

  • Increasing from 3 miles to 3.25 miles the distance of towing storage facilities from the County boundary, to "allow for additional competition" among towing companies without adding an "unreasonable distance" for drivers having to retrieve their cars

  • Requiring that towing and recovery operators "properly secure all loads to meet all safety standards"

  • Noting in the code that "Nothing in this section shall release tow truck drivers from liability for failure to use reasonable care"

  • Removing a provision requiring towing drivers to document the condition of vehicles via photographs or video before they're towed, a change designed to reflect the County's lack of authority in damage claims

The County would maintain the important existing requirement that towers document the reason a vehicle is being towed.  The Manager and the TTAB also favor extending the period of time within which the towing companies are required to notify the County that a vehicle is being towed from private property. The proposal would require notification within 10 minutes of the removal, as opposed to the current requirement of notification prior to leaving the property.

Notifying the County of a tow is a critical requirement designed to assist law enforcement in handling calls from drivers who fear their car has been stolen.