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TOWING FIRMS SALUTE UTAH REGULATIONS

Only rarely does an industry ask to be regulated, but the tow-truck industry has been the prime mover behind a new law that requires tow-truck operators to be registered with the state by the end of October.

The new Utah law went into effect this month.It calls for tow truck operators to register with the Public Service Commission and sets maximum limits on the rates operators can charge on police-initiated calls, impounded vehicles and non-consent tows.

Richard Bogue, president of Independent Towing Service of Salt Lake, said he spent about 60 hours at the State Capitol lobbying for the measure.

He is on the board of directors of the Utah Professional Towers Association (UPTA), which asked that the bill be introduced.

Bogue said the law is necessary "because there are too many people out there running illegal, unsafe tow trucks, charging outrageous prices to the consumer and giving the whole industry a bad name."

Bogue, who has been in the business for 22 years, said he and other UPTA members decided something had to be done to clean up their industry and protect consumers.

He said there are some tow-truck operators who carry no insurance or try to insure their trucks as regular vehicles. There also have been problems with pricing, with some operators either charging too much or undercutting rates. He also said some tow truck operators charge motorists a tiny sum, then submit a huge bill to insurance companies.

"That's not fair to me, it's not fair to the consumer and it's not fair to the insurance company," Bogue said. "When things get out of control and you see the whole industry going down the tubes, when an honest person can't make a fair living, something has to be done."

Bogue admits some UPTA members were a little leery of asking for government regulation, but the organization's formal stand was to go for it.

"We're for some more regulation to possibly get tow truck drivers licensed to operate," he said.

Jan Western, public information officer for the Utah Department of Commerce, said the Division of Public Utilities had received complaints from consumers who felt they got hit with too-high towing fees.

Tow truck operators now will be issued a registration number by the Public Service Commission, which will have to be displayed on the truck.

Western said there currently are at least 323 tow truck operators in the state, not counting gas stations and body shops.