[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Mine Hill 6-16-2016 by Ord. No. 14-16. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Vehicles and traffic — See Ch. 520.
The purpose of this chapter is to establish rules and regulations, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.49 et seq., and the Predatory Towing Prevention Act, P.L. 2007, c. 193, and P.L. 2009, c. 39 (A3812/S5007), for the towing and storage of motor vehicles from public roadways by towing companies engaged in such business.
The provisions of this chapter shall apply to those businesses that engage in towing and storage of motor vehicles within the Township of Mine Hill.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED VEHICLE
- A motor vehicle which the owner or operator leaves on a public roadway, or other public property, or on private property without consent of the owner or person in charge of the property, for more than 48 hours, without notifying the Township Police Department or attempting to repair and remove the same. A vehicle which has remained on or along a highway or other public property for any period without current license plates shall be presumed to be an abandoned vehicle. It is further unlawful for any person to abandon a motor vehicle on or along any limited access highway without the consent of the State Department of Transportation or other entity having jurisdiction over the limited access highway. A vehicle which remains on or along such a limited access highway for a period of more than four hours or for any period without current license plates shall be presumed to be an abandoned motor vehicle. Vehicles used or to be used in the construction, operation or maintenance of public utility facilities and which are left in a manner which does not interfere with the normal movement of traffic shall not be considered abandoned vehicles for the purposes of this section. Vehicles lawfully left in a rest area for not more than 12 hours shall not be considered abandoned vehicles.
- CRASH VEHICLE
- A motor vehicle which has been involved in a motor vehicle crash.
- DISABLED VEHICLE
- Any motor vehicle which is unable to operate under its own power.
- HEAVY-DUTY RECOVERY
- The recovery of any motor vehicle 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or over which requires the vehicle and/or its contents to be up righted and/or recovered from either on or off the traveled portion of a public roadway.
- HEAVY-DUTY TOWING
- The towing of any motor vehicle 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or over.
- IMPOUNDED VEHICLE
- A vehicle which, at the direction of the Township Police Department, is taken into police custody because the operator was engaged in violation of the law.
- JUNK VEHICLE
- A motor vehicle incapable of being operated safely or of being put in a safe operational condition except at a cost in excess of the value thereof, for which a junk title may be required.
- LIGHT-DUTY RECOVERY
- The recovery of any motor vehicle less than 7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating which requires the vehicle and/or its contents to be up righted and/or recovered from either on or off the traveled portion of a public roadway.
- LIGHT-DUTY TOWING
- The towing of any motor vehicle less than 7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating.
- MEDIUM-DUTY RECOVERY
- The recovery of any motor vehicle between 7,000 and 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating which requires the vehicle and/or its contents to be up righted and/or recovered from either on or off the traveled portion of a public roadway.
- MEDIUM-DUTY TOWING
- The towing of any motor vehicle between 7,000 and 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating.
- MOTOR VEHICLE
- All vehicles propelled otherwise than by muscular power, including trailers and recreational campers, excepting such vehicles as run only upon rails or tracks and motorized bicycles.
- SMALL CLEAN-UP
- Minor motor vehicle debris or material within the area surrounding the vehicle or within public road or highway and shall not include hazardous materials or debris.
- STORAGE RATES
- The fees charged for the storage of motor vehicles and shall accumulate by the calendar day.
- TOWING COMPANY
- A person(s) offering or performing towing services.
- TOWING LIST
- A rotating list of all towing companies for removal and transportation of a motor vehicle.
- TOWING TRUCK
- A motor vehicle employed by a towing company for the purpose of towing, transporting, conveying or removing motor vehicles from public roadways.
- TRACTOR TRAILER
- The tractor and trailer portion of a motorized vehicle, and both the tractor and trailer combined shall equate to one vehicle for purposes of recovery, removal and release.
Whenever a police officer orders the removal of a motor vehicle from private or public property, the police officer shall utilize the towing list established in § 500-5 of this chapter.
At every annual reorganization meeting, the Township Council shall establish by resolution a list of automobile towing contractors and heavy duty truck towing contractors to be utilized by the Police Department on a rotating basis. A towing contractor may, if qualified, be on both lists. Such lists shall be utilized by members of the Police Department on a nonexclusionary and nondiscriminatory basis. Only those towing contractors who meet the minimum standards of operator performance set forth in this chapter shall be included on such lists. There shall be no limit on the number of towing contractors on either list. Towing contractors may be added to the list at the annual reorganization meeting.
Towing contractors who are not on the towing list but have requested to tow for the Township of Mine Hill shall have the towing company's name placed on a towing contractor waiting list. The waiting list shall be prepared and maintained by the office of the Chief of Police. Towing contractors must file a written request to be added to the waiting list on or before October 1 preceding the next annual reorganization meeting.
Background check. Each owner of a towing company that applies to be a towing operator on the rotational towing list must execute the "Authorization by Subject of Request and Privacy Act Notification" area of Form SBI-213A (Request for Criminal History Record Information for a Noncriminal Justice Purpose) and submit to a criminal background investigation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 53:1-20.5 et seq. This investigation shall include disclosure of any crime, misdemeanor or violation of any municipal ordinance, the nature of the offense and the punishment or penalty assessed. Additionally, the Chief of Police shall also cause the applicant to be fingerprinted for the purpose of a criminal history check. All applicants must submit to fingerprinting by the New Jersey state-contracted vendor and pay the applicable fees for the criminal history search. If the applicant is a corporation then this requirement shall apply to the officers of the corporation. As a result of such investigation, the Chief of Police shall note, in writing, his recommendation and reasons therefor to the Township Clerk. The Township Clerk shall present the completed application, along with the recommendation of the Chief of Police as to whether the towing company shall remain or be placed on the rotational towing list, at the next regularly scheduled public meeting. If the Township so directs, the Township Clerk shall approve the application to be placed on the rotational list.
Each towing contractor on the approved list shall furnish the Township Clerk with a certificate of insurance from an insurance company satisfactory to the Township, but at a minimum, rated A- (A minus) by the latest available edition of A.M. Best's Insurance Rating Guide. Each certificate of insurance shall identify the coverage provided and provide that such insurance shall not be changed or canceled without giving 30 days' prior written notice to the Township Clerk by certified mail, return receipt requested. Specific reference to the rotating lists of towing companies shall be made on all policies of insurance.
Each towing contractor must have bodily injury liability, property damage liability, employer's liability and motor vehicle liability coverage with combined policy limits of $2,000,000. Each approved towing contractor must also have statutorily required worker's compensation coverage.
Each towing contractor shall indemnify and save the Township of Mine Hill harmless from all damages and claims for damages which may be made by any person for bodily injury or property damages as a result of the towing contractor's performing pursuant to this chapter.
Availability and response time. Each towing company must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
All towing companies placed on the towing list shall be available to respond to a call in accordance with the towing rotation schedule of on-call status established by the Chief of Police.
All towing companies shall respond promptly to all requests for towing service by the Township. All towing companies shall respond to a call in any part of Mine Hill within 20 minutes during normal business hours between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and 30 minutes during nighttime and weekend hours, of the original telephone call request by the Township Police Department. If a towing company does not respond within the time designated above, the towing company next on the list shall be called and entitled to provide services as needed, and the first towing company shall lose any claim to compensation.
Licensing and registration. All drivers and operators of towing vehicles shall be properly licensed to operate a motor vehicle within the State of New Jersey and are subject to driver's license checks by the Township Police Department. All towing vehicles shall be properly registered and inspected in accordance with any applicable law.
Safety. All vehicles must be towed in a safe manner. All towing vehicles must have an amber light permit and amber emergency warning lights mounted on the vehicle as to warn approaching traffic of their presence. The size and location of these lights must conform to New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicle standards.
Roadside services. All towing companies shall be capable of providing reasonable roadside services to disabled vehicles. Such services will only be performed if they can be done so safely, as determined by the police officer in consultation with the towing company on the scene.
Rates/fees. All towing companies shall make available a copy of their basic rates and business practices including business terms, as established by the Township of Mine Hill, as well as a copy of their business card. If the towing company accepts credit card payments in accordance with the Predatory Towing Prevention Act, N.J.S.A. 56:13-1 et seq., it shall prominently post credit card payment regulations and information in public view in the lobby of its principal place of business.
Records. All towing companies shall keep accurate records of all motor vehicles towed and stored at the direction of the Police Department on billing forms as soon as possible after each vehicle is towed. A copy of such records shall be provided to the Township Clerk upon request. All personal property shall remain in the vehicle.
Notification of abandoned or crash vehicles. Towing companies shall not remove any motor vehicle which has been abandoned or involved in an accident in any public roadway without first notifying the Township Police Department.
Private property; parked and abandoned vehicles. Vehicles parked or abandoned on private property are the responsibility of the owner or owner representative. Where a vehicle is abandoned on private property, the property owner may make a complaint to the Police Department and a responding officer may issue a summons. The owner representative is responsible for having the vehicle removed.
Abandoned and junk vehicles; processing. Abandoned and junk vehicles shall be processed by the towing company pursuant to § 500-13 below.
Complaints of any kind, relative to service, overcharging, theft of parts, damage to towed or stored vehicles, discourteous treatment, and the like, shall be forwarded by the towing company to the Chief of Police.
Predatory towing practices are prohibited pursuant to N.J.S.A. 56:13-12 and N.J.S.A. 56:13-9.
While the majority of towing companies in New Jersey are reputable service providers, some unscrupulous towing companies are engaged in predatory practices victimizing consumers whose vehicles are parked on public streets and on private property. Such practices are strictly prohibited.
Predatory towing practices include charging unwarranted or excessive fees, particularly in connection with towing vehicles from private parking lots which do not display any warnings to vehicle owners, or overcharging consumers for towing services provided under circumstances where the consumer has no meaningful opportunity to withhold consent.
The legitimate business interests of towing companies and the needs of private property owners for relief from unauthorized parking must be balanced with the interest in providing appropriate protection to consumers.
Therefore, wherever authority exists in the law to regulate towing and towing companies it is in the public interest to create a coordinated, comprehensive framework to establish and enforce minimum standards for tow truck service providers.
It shall be an unlawful practice for any towing company to:
Fail to provide a schedule of rates/fees.
Fail to provide a schedule of rates/fees to any person who was not present at the time the towing services were provided.
Make, give or cause any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage or undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage to any person in any particular locality, with respect to providing towing services.
Give any benefit or advantage, including a pecuniary benefit, to any person for providing information about motor vehicles parked for unauthorized purposes on privately owned property or otherwise in connection with towing from privately owned property motor vehicles parked without authorization. Nothing in this section shall preclude a towing company, acting on behalf of a club or association, from charging members of the club or association a fee at a rate established by contract between the towing company and the club or association, which is lower than that rate specified in the towing company's schedule on file with the Township Clerk, provided that membership to such club or association is generally available to the public.
Fail, when so requested by the owner or operator of a vehicle subject to nonconsensual towing, to release a vehicle to the owner or operator that has been, or is about to be, hooked or lifted but has not actually been moved or removed from the property when the vehicle owner or operator returns to the vehicle, or to charge the owner or operator requesting release of the vehicle more than a decoupling fee.
Charge any rate/fee, other than those charges established by municipal ordinance, or the rate/fee specified in the towing company's schedule on file with the Township Clerk, or to charge a rate/fee in an amount or for a service not listed on the schedule on file with the Township Clerk at the time. Nothing in this section shall preclude a towing company, acting on behalf of a club or association, from charging members of the club or association a rate/fee established by contract between the towing company and the club or association, which is lower than the rate/fee specified in the towing company's schedule on file with the Township Clerk, provided that membership in such club or association is generally available to the public.
All storage facilities operated or used by the towing companies shall meet all local zoning and code requirements, and must be located within five miles of the Township of Mine Hill.
All storage facilities shall have a business office open to the public between normal business hours at least five days a week, excluding holidays.
Towed vehicles may not be stored upon a public street or alley, but must be stored by the operator within a secured storage facility (inside or outside) which shall be lighted.
A towing company shall not charge a release fee or other charge for releasing motor vehicles to their owners after normal business hours or on weekends.
All towing companies shall be responsible for ensuring the proper and safe storage of all motor vehicles towed pursuant to this chapter until final disposition and removal as ordered by the Township. All vehicles, regardless of condition, must be stored singly and so arranged to permit inspection and subsequent removal when the vehicle is retrieved, sold, or otherwise removed. Adequate walkway inspection space must be provided at all times. The towing company shall be liable for any damage incurred by such motor vehicles while in transit to or while stored in the storage facilities.
Towing companies are required, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-56.8, to remove debris surrounding a motor vehicle, or be subject to penalty. Any towing company under contract to the Township of Mine Hill, after being called to remove a disabled motor vehicle, who fails to remove from public roads or highways any minor motor vehicle debris or material within the area surrounding that vehicle, shall be subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $50 if the debris or material is likely to cause injury to a person operating a motor vehicle or substantial damage to another motor vehicle. A towing company is not required to remove any hazardous debris or material.
All towing services engaged in light-duty towing shall have at least one rollback truck. Each truck must have a manufacturer's capacity of at least 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and a wheel lift with a capacity of 4,000 pounds or two tons. Proof of capacity must be supplied to the Police Department at the time of registration.
All towing services engaged in medium-duty towing shall have one heavy-duty wrecker with a manufacturer's capacity of not less than 32,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and a boom capacity of not less than 25,000 pounds rating independently or 25 tons jointly; air brakes so constructed as to lock rear wheels; and heavy-duty under-reach.
All towing services engaged in heavy-duty recovery shall have two heavy-duty wreckers with manufacturer's capacity of not less than 32,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and boom capacity of not less than 25,000 pounds independently or 24 tons jointly; two power winches with pulling capacity of not less than 25,000 pounds each; at least 200 feet of cable at least nine-sixteenths-inch diameter on each drum; double boom to permit splitting, or single boom hydraulically elevated and extendible with a three-hundred-sixty-degree swivel on the end of the boom; air brakes so constructed as to lock rear wheels; heavy-duty under-reach with a twenty-five-thousand-pound rating; two snatch blocks and two scotch blocks.
All towing vehicles must have radio equipment with a twenty-four-hour dispatch service or a cellular telephone for the purpose of maintaining communications with the Police Department radio desk.
All towing vehicles must be equipped with at least one five-pound ABC-type fire extinguisher, safety chains, substances for application to minor liquid spills, and stiff push brooms to clean up debris at the scene.
Proof of towing vehicle and equipment specifications shall be provided to the Township Clerk with the registration application.
All towing vehicles are to conform to all applicable state and federal laws and shall be subject to inspection by the Police Department during normal business hours at the time of registration and on an annual basis thereafter.
Section 500-12 does not apply to impound.
If a motor vehicle operator or owner wishes to have his vehicle towed by a particular towing company, their request shall be honored, provided that they are not blocking the roadway, and provided that the police officer in charge at the scene has not already dispatched a towing company, or the police officer has determined that the motor vehicle in question will not be removed in an expeditious or safe manner and will jeopardize public safety, in which case the motor vehicle operator or owner shall be required to utilize a compensated dispatched towing company.
The owner or operator of any motor vehicle required to be towed or stored shall have the right to remove all personal items and effects from the motor vehicle unless the Township Police Department has placed a police hold on any such items.
The motor vehicle owner or his representative shall have the right to take photographs of any stored vehicle for insurance purposes.
Upon request of the motor vehicle owner or his representative, a towing company shall provide a detailed and itemized bill for all services rendered.
Junk vehicles. If the vehicle is unclaimed by the owner or other person having legal right thereto for a period of 15 business days, the towing contractor shall notify the Chief of Police or his designee that the vehicle has been held for the statutory time and that the vehicle is ready for sale. The Township Clerk shall supply titles for abandoned junk vehicles in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 and 39:10A-3.
Abandoned vehicles. If the vehicle is unclaimed by the owner or other person having legal right thereto for a period of 20 business days, the towing contractor shall notify the Chief of Police or his designee that the vehicle has been held for the statutory time and that the vehicle is ready for sale pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 to 39:10A-4.
After the expiration of 20 business days, the Township Police Department shall make application for title to the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Sales of all junk and abandoned vehicles shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 et seq.
Proceeds from sale. Proceeds from the sale of junk or abandoned vehicles shall be used to satisfy any towing or storage charges which may have accumulated on the subject vehicle. Excess proceeds shall be paid to the Township Treasury. If the proceeds are insufficient to cover the accumulated costs, such excess shall be waived by the towing contractor, and no further funds will be due from the Township of Mine Hill or the purchaser of the vehicle. This section will be administered in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 et seq.
Failure to follow statutory procedures. Any operator found to be disposing of vehicles in violation of this procedure will be charged with misapplication of entrusted property (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-15) and will be prohibited from providing service for the Township of Mine Hill.
The operator shall always act in a professional manner and at all times be courteous and respectful toward members of the public, as well as representatives of the Township of Mine Hill.
Repeated reports of discourteous behavior by the operator which can be substantiated and documented may be considered by the Township of Mine Hill as sufficient cause for removal of the operator from the towing list.
Fees and rates for the towing and storage of motor vehicles, including automobiles, trucks and fees for road service set forth in this chapter, shall be modified by resolution of the Township Council at the annual reorganization meeting, which rates shall be based on the usual, customary and reasonable rates of towing companies towing and storing motor vehicles in the Township of Mine Hill. The fees shall be paid directly by the motor vehicle operator to the towing company. It shall be unlawful for any operator to charge fees in excess of the fees prescribed in this chapter for the services regulated herein. For all fees that are an hourly rate there is a one-hour minimum and beyond the first hour the fee will be assessed in thirty-minute increments.
Fees and rates for the towing and storage of motor vehicles, including automobiles, trucks and fees for road service, shall be reviewed by the Chief of Police on an annual basis, and shall be revised, if necessary, by resolution of the Township Council. The Chief of Police shall advise all towing companies placed on the towing list of any such revisions.
The fees and rates set by this chapter, and any subsequent revisions thereto, shall be submitted to the Division of Consumer Affairs for review within 90 days of adoption of any resolution establishing the rates for towing and storage, and shall be made available to the public during normal business hours of the Township of Mine Hill.
The rates applied to towing services performed under this chapter shall be posted in a conspicuous place, visible to the public at the operator's storage facility and principal place of business.
All fees are subject to New Jersey state laws, including but not limited to N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1(c), which provides that when a vehicle is abandoned due to the death or incapacitation of the driver or any passenger, the person storing the vehicle shall charge the owner of record or the security interest holder no more than $100 for the first 72 hours after the vehicle is placed on the premises.
Consent tows and the use of specialized equipment to perform a recovery service are permissible and are outside the terms of this chapter.
In no instance shall the operator request payment from the Township for any services rendered to the owners of private vehicles except, however, in those cases where the Police Department authorizes the removal of a Township-owned vehicle.
Towing of any and all disabled municipal vehicles shall be covered under the pricing listed in this chapter.
The operator shall prepare a bill for towing charges for each vehicle towed, consistent with the rate schedule of towing services in this chapter. Prior to the release of any vehicle by the operator from the storage facility, the operator shall obtain payment for its towing fee and storage as indicated on said bill.
All towing companies shall be responsible for collection of all fees for services rendered. Owners are required to pay in full all municipally authorized fees and charges to the authorized towing contractor prior to release of the vehicle consistent with N.J.S.A. 56:13-1 et seq. and N.J.S.A. 2A:44-20.
If a towing company cannot repair the inoperable vehicle to the satisfaction of the motorist, the towing company shall, with the motorist's consent, or at the direction of the Police Department, subject to the provisions of P.L. 2007, c. 193 (N.J.S.A. 56:13-7 et seq.), transport the vehicle to the operator's place of business or to another mutually agreed upon location. The vehicle, once repaired, may be retained in the possession of the operator or other repairer, pending payment pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:44-20 et seq. The operator, if other than the repairer, shall be eligible for reimbursement for transporting the vehicle to the repair site. If the estimated cost of repairs exceeds $50, the motorist shall be given a written estimate of the repair costs before such repairs are made.
Reasonable clean-up fees shall be charged at a rate of $75 an hour. Towers shall not charge for any vehicles not actually used in the clean-up effort, or for any vehicles that are only used to transport recovery workers to the scene.
Fees for towing and storage shall be assessed as follows:
The Chief of Police shall have the power to suspend an operator from the Towing Operators Rotational List for a period of up to 30 calendar days for failure to comply with any provision of this chapter. A subsequent violation may result in the permanent removal of an operator from the Towing Operators Rotational List for a twelve-month period. An operator may appeal the Chief's ruling of either a suspension or a permanent removal. In such cases, an appeal may be filed with the Township Mayor within 10 business days of the Chief's decision. The Mayor shall render his determination within 20 business days. The Mayor's determination as rendered shall be final and conclusive under this chapter.
In addition, failure to comply with the Township's zoning, land use and property maintenance codes may subject any operator to suspension from the Towing Operators Rotational List upon request to the Chief of Police from the Township's Construction Code Official or Zoning Officer or Health Officer. Any operator suspended from the Towing Operators Rotational List for any violation of the Township's zoning land use and property maintenance codes shall have the right to due process and appeal as set forth in Subsection A above.
Vehicles designated and determined to be abandoned by the Police Department shall be removed to the operator's storage area. The last known registered owner shall be notified in writing by the Police Department within 15 days of vehicle being towed that the vehicle is in violation of the law and must satisfy all state and local laws pertaining to the registration and insurance requirements. If the owner does not comply or respond to this notification, the Police Department will initiate the proper title to take control of the vehicle within 90 days of having the vehicle towed to the storage area. The Police Department will make application for a certificate of ownership or junk title through the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
Whenever any motor vehicle that was towed by an operator pursuant to this chapter shall remain unclaimed for the minimum holding period set forth in N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1b, such vehicle may be subject to sale at public auction as provided in N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 et seq.
The Township Council shall, by resolution, provide for the sale of abandoned or unclaimed vehicles at public auction, after notice as required by N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 et seq.
The following procedure shall be followed in regards to the auction of abandoned or unclaimed vehicles:
The estimated value (EV) of the vehicle shall be determined as well as the outstanding towing and storage charges to the date of the anticipated auction.
If the EV of the vehicle exceeds $400 and is equal to or more than the aggregated towing and storage charges to the date of the auction, the vehicle should be sold at public auction with a minimum bid equal to the amount of the outstanding towing and storage charges. If, at auction, the amount bid is equal to the minimum bid, all of the funds are paid to the person towing and storing the vehicle from the monies given to the Township from the sale. If the bid exceeds the minimum, any excess is retained by the Township.
If the EV of the vehicle exceeds $400 but is less than the outstanding towing and storage charges due, the Township should auction the vehicle with a minimum bid equal to the EV of the vehicle and pay the entire amount over to the person who towed and stored the vehicle up to the amount of accrued towing and storage charges, retaining any amount over the outstanding charges.
If the EV of the vehicle is less than $400, then the municipality should auction the vehicle without a minimum price and pay over to the person towing and storing the vehicle whatever it receives, provided that it is less than the aggregate amount outstanding.
If no bid is received in any of the above scenarios, then the Township can pay the person towing and storing the vehicle the $400 (from its own coffers) and take title to the vehicle or pay nothing to the person towing and storing the vehicle and instead convey the junk title to that person.
Any conveyance of title (or application for title) to the person towing and storing the vehicle should be accompanied by a release signed by them, releasing the Township from any liability for the payment of any further fees to the person towing and storing the vehicle.
A public sale needs to take place in all cases in order to establish title in a third party (successful bidder) or to establish title in the Township (when no one bids, or the minimum bid is not achieved).