WEST virginia Legislature
2016 regular session
Senate Bill 498
By Senators Gaunch, Ashley and trump
[Introduced February 3, 2016;
Referred to the Committee on Government Organization.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §24A-2-2b, relating to additional duties of the Public Service Commission; requiring commission to review complaint process; setting forth burden of proof on carrier; developing process for aggrieved parties to recover charges; establishing factor for commissioner to consider whether charges are fair, just and reasonable; providing commission authority to establish civil penalties for violations; prohibiting indemnification in certain instances; requiring commercial driver’s license for towing services; requiring carriers to list rates on invoices; authorizing commission to suspend or revoke operating authority; and requiring commission to update Legislature.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §24A-2-2b, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2. COMMON CARRIERS BY MOTOR VEHICLES.
§24A-2-2b. Rates for recovering, towing, hauling, carrying, or storing wrecked or disabled vehicles.
(a) The commission shall by general order, at minimum, with public notice and opportunity for comment, within one year of the effective date of this section, applicable to all carriers registered under section two-a of this article:
(1) Review its formal complaint process and, as necessary, develop and implement changes to ensure it is fair, effective, and timely: Provided, That in any formal complaint against a carrier relating to a third-party tow, the burden of proof to show that the carrier’s charges are just, fair and reasonable shall be upon the carrier.
(2) Upon the adjudication of a complaint of any aggrieved party, including the owner, operator, or insurer of a motor vehicle, where the commission determines that a charge of charges levied by a carrier for recovering, towing, hauling, carrying, or storing a wrecked or disabled vehicle is not approved by the commission or is not otherwise just, fair or reasonable, develop and implement a timely process for the aggrieved party to recover the cost of the charge or charges. In determining whether a charge levied by a carrier for recovering, towing, hauling, carrying, or storing a wrecked or disabled vehicle is just fair, or reasonable, the commission shall consider, but shall not be limited to, the following factors:
(A) Tow vehicle(s) and special equipment required to complete recovery/tow;
(B) Total time to complete recovery/tow;
(C) Number of regular and extra employees required to complete recovery/tow;
(D) Location of vehicle recovered/towed;
(E) Materials or cargo involved in recovery/tow;
(F) Comparison with reasonable prices in the region;
(G) Weather conditions; and
(H) Any other relevant information having a direct effect on the pricing of the recovery, towing and storage of a recovered or towed vehicle.
(3) Fix, alter and determine just, fair and reasonable civil penalties that shall be imposed upon carriers who violate provisions of section two-a of this article. Any civil penalties imposed by the commission shall be used by the commission to implement and enforce provisions of section two-a of this article.
(4) Review its emergency fuel surcharge policy and, as necessary, develop and implement changes to ensure that any fuel surcharge approved by the commission shall reflect only the amount of fuel actually used by the carrier.
(5) To the extent practical, review existing maximum statewide wrecker rates and special rates for the use of special equipment in towing and recovery work to ensure that rates are just, fair, and reasonable: Provided, That the commission shall generally disapprove hourly and flat rates for ancillary equipment.
(6) Develop and implement any policy that, as determined by the commission, is necessary to protect consumers.
(b) No carrier regulated under section two-a of this article or this section shall be indemnified for any or all damages arising from the recovery, towing, hauling, carrying, or storing of any wrecked or disabled motor vehicle if the damages are a result of the negligence or intentional acts of the carrier.
(c) Except as authorized by law-enforcement officers, no towing service shall engage in the removal of a commercial motor vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license to operate the vehicle under its own power on a highway.
(d) All carriers regulated under section two-a of this article or this section shall list their approved rates, fares, and charges on every invoice provided to an owner, operator, or insurer of a wrecker or disabled motor vehicle.
(e) For any carrier that violates any provision of section two-a of this article or this section, including for refusal or failure to comply with any penalty imposed by the commission pursuant to subdivision three of subsection a of this section, the commission is authorized to suspend or revoke the operating authority of such carrier and, in coordination with appropriate entities, remove such carrier from any wrecker rotation list for a period of time as determined by the commission.
(f) As soon as practical following one year after the effective date of this section, the commission shall meet with the appropriate committees of the West Virginia Legislature, or their designees, to provide an update regarding the implementation of this section.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to establish additional duties for the Public Service Commission related to developing a process to review towing operator charges for fairness.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from a heading or the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.