South Carolina Legislature


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H 4650
Session 111 (1995-1996)

H 4650 General Bill, By L.L. Elliott, Allison, Davenport, Littlejohn and Walker
 A Bill to amend Chapter 5, Title 56, Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, by
 adding Article 49 so as to provide provisions regulating towing and wrecker
 service providers; and to repeal Section 56-5-2525, relating to towing company
 that tows a vehicle without the owner's knowledge.

   02/21/96  House  Introduced and read first time HJ-11
   02/21/96  House  Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and
                     Industry HJ-11



Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Chapter 5, Title 56 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Article 49

Towing and Wrecker Service

Section 56-5-7000. As used in this article:

(1) `Board' means the South Carolina Board of Towing and Recovery.

(2) `Department' means the law enforcement division that requests the service of a tow truck operator.

(3) `Tow truck' means a self-propelled motor vehicle truck or truck tractor designed to be used for the transportation of another motor vehicle for hire.

(4) `Private tow truck' means a tow truck or truck tractor that is not for hire.

(5) `Tow truck operator or operator' means a person who operates a tow truck for hire.

(6) `Local government' means a county, municipality, or other local board or body that has authority to enact traffic laws.

(7) `Emergency service vehicles' means emergency service vehicles of state, county, or municipal governments, or public service vehicles, tow trucks, or road service trucks, which by the nature of their operation cause a vehicular traffic hazard.

(8) `Wrecker service' means a business that operates a tow truck for hire.

Section 56-5-7005. (A) There is created the South Carolina Board of Towing and Recovery. The board consists of the following persons:

(1) a captain or higher ranking member of the South Carolina State Transportation Police appointed by the Director of Public Safety;

(2) a field major of the South Carolina Highway Patrol appointed by the Director of the Department of Public Safety;

(3) a member of the South Carolina Trucking Association appointed by the Governor;

(4) two members of the Board of the South Carolina Towing and Recovery Association appointed by the association; and

(5) two civilian representatives appointed by the Governor;

(B) The members of the board shall serve for terms of six years and until successors are appointed. Vacancies must be filled in the manner of the original appointment for the unexpired portion of the term.

(C) The board shall meet in the State at least three times a year. The board may meet additionally at the call of the chairman or of two-thirds of its members.

(D) A simple majority of the members of the board constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business. The board shall elect a chairman and a vice-chairman, and shall adopt rules and promulgate regulations:

(1) governing the towing and vehicle storage industry in South Carolina;

(2) ensuring that a wrecker service shall not respond to the scene of a motor vehicle accident or incident without being called by a law enforcement officer. On occasions when the owner-operator of a motor vehicle requests the use of a wrecker service, it is the obligation of the wrecker service to notify the local law enforcement authorities before responding or removing the vehicle; and

(3) establishing a schedule of maximum fees that may be charged for towing and storage of vehicles.

(E) The board shall establish the procedure for reviewing the suspension and termination of a wrecker service from rotation lists established by the various departments and allow suspensions, and terminations from a department's rotation list to be at the discretion of the department for which the service is rendered.

(F) The board shall establish a grievance committee consisting of three members of the board for the purpose of hearing disputes which must be heard within thirty days from the filing of the grievance. The chairman shall appoint the three members from the board to hear disputes.

Section 56-5-7010. (A) A wrecker service which tows away a motor vehicle without the owner's knowledge and stores it shall notify immediately the police department of the municipality where the vehicle was parked or the sheriff's department if the vehicle was parked outside the limits of a municipal corporation of the location from which the vehicle was towed, the name of the company which towed it and the place where it is stored.

(B) A wrecker service failing to give the notice contained in subsection (A) within one hour of the time the vehicle was towed away is not entitled to any compensation for the towing and storing operations. The provisions of this section must be posted in a conspicuous place in all public areas on the premises of the wrecker service.

Section 56-5-7015. The following classification standards shall apply to this article:

(1) Standard tow truck--a tow truck or rollback capable of towing any two-axle vehicle which does not exceed 15,000 pounds. It must have a minimum towing equipment manufacturer's rating of 8,000 pounds.

(2) Medium duty tow truck--a tow truck capable of towing any two-axle vehicle which does not exceed 32,000 pounds. It must have a minimum towing equipment manufacturers rating of 20,000 pounds.

(3) Haz-mat tow truck--a haz-mat tow truck may tow any two-axle vehicle transporting a hazardous material or waste in a nonemergency situation, which does not exceed 32,000 pounds. The haz-mat tow truck operator must possess the proper haz-mat endorsement on his driver's license, according to the provisions governing commercial drivers license. The wrecker service is required also to have proper insurance as covered in Section 56-5-7025.

(4) Heavy duty wrecker--a tow truck capable of towing any two or more axle vehicle or combination of vehicles which weighs more than 32,001 pounds. It must have a minimum towing equipment manufacturers rating of 40,000 pounds.

(5) Haz-mat heavy duty tow truck--a haz-mat heavy duty tow truck may tow any two or more axle vehicle or combination of vehicles which weighs more than 32,001 pounds transporting hazardous material or waste in a nonemergency situation. The tow truck operator must possess the proper haz-mat endorsement on his driver's license according to provisions governing commercial drivers license. The wrecker service is required also to have proper insurance as covered in Section 56-5-7025.

Section 56-5-7020. A wrecker service may tow a vehicle or combination of vehicles from a roadway in an emergency situation to a suitable place without being required to have the haz-mat endorsement or meet federal insurance requirements when this action is to clear the roadway for normal operations.

Section 56-5-7025. (A) A wrecker service continuously shall carry and show proof of insurance against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury or death or damage to property caused by the maintenance or use of a tow truck, or occurring on the business premises of a wrecker service in an amount not less than:

(1) $300,000 for a standard wrecker;

(2) $750,000 for a heavy duty wrecker;

(3) $25,000 for on hook/cargo insurance light duty; and

(4) $50,000 for on hook/cargo insurance heavy duty.

(B) A wrecker service continuously shall carry insurance to cover the damage to cargo or other property entrusted to the care of the wrecker service.

(C) A wrecker service transporting a hazardous substance as defined in 49CFR 171.8 transported in cargo tanks, portable tanks, or hoppertype vehicles with capacities in excess of 3,500 water gallons, or in bulk class A or B explosives, poison gas (Poison A), liquefied compressed gas or compressed gas, or highway route controlled quantity radioactive material as defined in 49CFR 173.403 must have $5,000,000 insurance coverage.

(D) A wrecker service transporting oil listed in 49CFR 172.101 as hazardous waste, hazardous materials, and hazardous substances defined in 49 CFR 171.8 and listed in 49CFR 172.101 must carry $1,000,000 insurance coverage.

Section 56-5-7030. A business requesting to be placed on a department's rotation list, must be inspected by a representative of the department. At the completion of the inspection, the inspector must report his findings to the department's director or his designee for approval. The director or his designee must issue a letter of approval to the respective wrecker service or disapproval, stating any deficiencies. An approval is valid for one year from date of issue, unless the department has reason to believe reinspection of the wrecker service is necessary. The inspection ensures that a business:

(1) maintains a safe storage consisting of a fenced in area or locked building where stored vehicles and other property are not accessible to the public;

(2) is available to the department and the general public on a twenty-four hour basis;

(3) has someone physically at the business during normal business hours within the zone or zones established by the department;

(4) have tow trucks equipped with legally authorized lighting in good working order to protect the motoring public and be equipped with:

(a) brooms;

(b) shovels;

(c) a container to haul glass and other debris from the highway;

(d) a fire extinguisher with five pound capacity or equivalent and approved by the United States Department of Transportation and be ABC rated;

(e) a lamp emitting a flashing or steady red or amber light, or both red and amber light, mounted on top of the cab of the tow truck or on the top of the crane or hoist if the light cannot be seen from the front of the tow truck. The light from the lamp must be visible for a distance of one thousand feet under normal atmospheric conditions. A red light may be only used at the scene of an accident;

(f) safety chains that must be used when towing a vehicle;

(g) tie-down chains that must be used on the front and rear of a vehicle hauled on a rollback; and

(h) tow lights displaying stop, turn, and tail lights on the rear of a disabled vehicle that must be used during the hours of darkness;

(5) operates trucks that have signs on doors indicating the company's name, address, and telephone number. The signs must be painted or affixed permanently to the door and not less than two inches high in a color which contrasts to that of the wrecker.

Section 56-5-7035. (A) All wrecker services on the rotation list must have an annual inspection by a member of the department for which the service is performed. The inspection must be consistent with the department's rotation wrecker standard.

(B) All towing equipment must have a manufacturer's rating.

(C) All tow trucks must have a valid federal annual inspection.

Section 56-5-7040. (A) Unless the owner or driver of a vehicle is incapacitated or unavailable, a department officer shall determine from the owner or driver his preference of wrecker service to be called. The owner or driver of a vehicle needing tow service shall have the right to the wrecker service of his choice, if available.

(B) A department employee may not recommend a wrecker service during the performance of his duties.

(C) Each department shall establish zones for wrecker rotation lists within their jurisdiction.

(D) To ensure a fairly administered wrecker rotation list, an entry must be placed beside the next wrecker service on the department's list, noting either driver or registered owner of vehicle towed or the reason service is determined unavailable or unacceptable. Wrecker rotations must be called from the rotation lists in the order in which they appear on the department's lists.

(E) Separate rotation lists must be maintained for regular, regular haz-mat, heavy duty, and heavy duty haz-mat vehicles. When no preference for a wrecker service is desired by the vehicle owner or driver, the law enforcement officer on the scene shall determine which class of towing is needed and request the next company on the rotation list in the class needed to perform the service.

(F) A department employee, with duties that require him to utilize the rotation system, shall not hold a financial interest or a form of ownership interest in a wrecker service on his department's rotation list.

(G) Wrecker operators must be qualified and licensed properly when operating a wrecker, including a commercial driver's license, if one is required. Service must be conducted in a proper manner at all accident scenes and in a proper manner when dealing with the public.

(H) Operators shall respond in a wrecker of sufficient size to handle the job requested.

(I) A wrecker service may secure assistance from another wrecker service when necessary to perform a job, but only one bill may be submitted to the owner or operator of a vehicle for the work performed.

(J) When service is requested and a wrecker service is unable to respond, the requesting department must be notified immediately of the reason for the unavailability. If a wrecker service is unavailable, the reason must be listed on the department rotation log, the call is considered as a rotation, and the next wrecker service must be called.

(K) The wrecker rotation logs must be available for inspection during normal working hours of the department, excluding holidays. Copies of the logs must be available at the expense of the requestor.

(L) Wrecker services and operators must be familiar with and shall comply with the laws regarding solicitation from a highway.

(M) Each wrecker service on a rotation list shall maintain a towing log. The towing log shall reflect accurately all towing done by the wrecker service at the request of the department. The wrecker log format must be designed by the Department of Public Safety. It is the responsibility of the wrecker service to duplicate the log. A wrecker log must be available for inspection by the department during normal working hours.

(N) A wrecker service shall respond only upon the request of the proper law enforcement authority. A wrecker service that fails to comply with this provision may be fined:

(1) five hundred dollars and suspended for one year from a rotation list for a first offense;

(2) one thousand dollars and suspended from a rotation list for two years for a second offense; or

(3) ten thousand dollars and permanently suspended from a rotation list.

Section 56-5-7045. (A) Any complaints from wrecker services regarding any incident involving the department's rotation list or its operation must be received by the department within thirty days of the alleged incident. If the complaint is not resolved within ten working days, the wrecker service or the department may appeal to the board.

(B) Removal or suspension from the department's rotation list for violation of rules or regulations is the decision of the department head or his designee.

Section 56-5-7050. Each department shall establish an equitable rotation system among qualified wrecker services that apply to the department's needs. The rotation system must be administered by each department in a manner that gives priority to public safety and based on the classification of equipment, qualification, and location. The law enforcement officer at the scene of the wreck shall call and determine the class of qualified tow truck next on the rotation list if:

(1) a request for a tow truck is not made by the owner or driver of the vehicle;

(2) the requested tow truck cannot respond in a timely manner; or

(3) the requested tow truck is unable to handle the wrecked or disabled vehicle.

Section 56-5-7055. A person who renders assistance in an emergency that is life-threatening to the occupant of a wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicle, or that is creating an immediate hazard on a public roadway or who renders emergency assistance as directed by a law enforcement officer or other emergency responder at the scene of a motor vehicle accident is immune from damages arising from acts or omissions related to the rendering of assistance unless the damages are occasioned by the gross negligence or by the wilful or wanton acts or omissions of the person rendering the assistance.

Section 56-5-7060. A wrecker service that violates a provision of this article is subject to suspension or termination from the rotation system.

Section 56-5-7065. The department shall adopt reasonable regulations to administer the provisions contained in this article.

Section 56-5-7070. (A) A vehicle may not be parked or left standing upon the right-of-way of a public highway for a period longer than forty-eight hours, or upon a city street, or upon state, county, or city property for a period longer than five days.

(B) The abandonment of a motor vehicle on a public highway, a city street, public property, or private property creates a prima facie presumption that the last registered owner of the motor vehicle is responsible for the abandonment and is liable for the costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of the abandoned vehicle, less the amount realized if the motor vehicle is sold.

(C) The filing of verified theft report with a law enforcement agency before the abandonment relieves the last registered owner of liability.

Section 56-5-7075. This article does not affect:

(1) motor vehicles used in carrying property consisting of agricultural commodities, excluding manufactured products of agricultural commodities, if the motor vehicles are not used in carrying other property or passengers for compensation;

(2) the operation of school buses that are used in conveying pupils or other students enrolled in classes to and from district or other schools or in transportation movements related to school activities that are sponsored or supervised by school authorities;

(3) the transportation by means of motor vehicles in the regular course of business of employees, supplies, and materials by a person or corporation engaged exclusively in the construction or maintenance of highways or engaged exclusively in logging or mining operations;

(4) the transportation of newspapers, newspaper supplements, periodicals, or magazines;

(5) motor vehicles used exclusively in carrying junk vehicles from a collection point to a motor vehicle wrecking facility or a motor vehicle graveyard;

(6) ambulances;

(7) the transportation of pit run or processed sand and gravel, concrete mix, aggregate, plant mix asphalt pavement, aggregate mix, dirt, rock, material from demolished buildings and structures, used paving materials, used concrete, broken concrete, riprap, and other forms and types of materials transported solely for the purpose of excavation or fill;

(8) the transportation by motor vehicle of not more than fifteen passengers between their places of residence or terminals near their residences and their places of employment in a single daily round trip if the driver is going also to or from the driver's place of employment;

(9) the transportation of property by motor carrier as part of a continuous movement if that property, prior or subsequent to part of a continuous movement, has been or is to be transported by air carrier;

(10) the operation of a transportation system by a municipality or transportation district, or municipal bus service;

(11) armored motor vehicles used exclusively for the transportation of coins, currency, silver bullion, gold bullion, and other precious metals, precious stones, valuable paintings, and other items of unusual value requiring special handling and security;

(12) the transportation of a commodity under an agreement between a motor carrier and an office or agency of the United States government; or

(13) the transportation of disabled or elderly persons provided by private, nonprofit organizations. As used in this item:

(a) `disabled' means an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

(b) `elderly' means a person sixty years of age or older; and

(c) `private, nonprofit organization' means an organization recognized as nonprofit under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Section 56-5-7080. (A) Within seventy-two hours after a vehicle is removed and held by or at the discretion of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the highway patrol shall notify the sheriff of the county in which the vehicle was located at the time it was taken into custody and the place where the vehicle is being held. In addition, the South Carolina Highway Patrol shall furnish the sheriff:

(1) a complete description of the vehicle, including year, make, model, serial number, and license number if available;

(2) any costs incurred to that date in the removal, storage, and custody of the vehicle; and

(3) any available information concerning its ownership.

(B) The sheriff or the city police shall make reasonable efforts to determine the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle taken into custody pursuant to subsection (A). If a name and address are determined, the sheriff or the city police shall notify the owner and lienholder or person of the location of the vehicle.

(C) If the vehicle is registered in the office of the department, notice is considered to have been given when a registered or certified letter addressed to the registered owner of the vehicle and lienholder, if either exists, at the last address shown by the records in the office of the department, return receipt requested, and postage prepaid, is mailed at least thirty days before the vehicle is sold.

(D) If the identity of the last registered owner cannot be determined, the registration does not contain an address for the owner, or it is impossible to determine with reasonable certainty the identify and addresses of all lienholders, notice by one publication in one newspaper of general circulation in the county where the motor vehicle was abandoned is sufficient to meet all requirements of notice pursuant to this section. The notice of publication may contain multiple listings of abandoned vehicles.

(E) If the abandoned vehicle is in the possession of a motor vehicle wrecking facility, the wrecking facility may search the vehicle to determine the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle. The wrecking facility shall deliver to the sheriff or the city police a certificate describing the efforts made to determine the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle and shall deliver to the sheriff or the city police proof of the notice given.

(F) A vehicle found by law enforcement officials to be a `junk vehicle', having an appraised value of not more than five hundred dollars determined by the Department of Revenue and Taxation, must be submitted directly for disposal upon a release given by the sheriff or the city police. In the release, the sheriff or the city police shall include a description of the vehicle, including year, make, model, serial number, and license number, if available. A release provided by the sheriff or the city police under this section must be transmitted to the Department of Public Safety. Vehicles described in this section may be submitted without notice and without the required holding period."

SECTION 2. Section 56-5-2525 of the 1976 Code is repealed.

SECTION 3. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.


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