[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Somerville 8-16-82 as Ord. No. 933. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "Towing Ordinance of the Borough of Somerville".
When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in plural number include the singular number, and words in the singular number include the plural number. The word "shall" is always mandatory and not merely directory.
For the purpose of this chapter, the following terms, phrases, words and their derivations shall have the meanings given herein:
- The Borough of Somerville.
- CHIEF OF POLICE
- The Chief of the Police Department of the Borough of Somerville or anyone designated by him.
- Any person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind.
- TOWING LIST
- A list maintained by the Police Department containing the names of those wreckers licensed by the Borough to respond to requests for the towing of vehicles made by the Police Department.
- A person engaged in the business of, or offering the services of, a vehicle wrecker or towing service, whereby motor vehicles are or may be towed or otherwise removed from one place to another by the use of a motor vehicle adapted to and designed for that purpose.
In order to protect persons who operate motor vehicles inside the Borough of Somerville, it is desirable and necessary to adopt this chapter to ensure proper licensing, storage, availability and other controls over persons and firms licensed to provide wrecker service.
Any person desiring to perform towing work at police request shall submit an application for a wrecker service license, in duplicate, to the License Officer. Application forms shall be obtained from the License Office. These forms shall include the name of the owner; home and business address, home phone and name under which the person does or will trade; the location, size and security features of the storage lot on which towed vehicles will be stored; the location to which the public must come to claim stored vehicles; a statement of willingness to provide wrecker service on a continuous twenty-four-hour-a-day basis each day of the year; a list of the towing equipment, its size and capacity; a complete listing of the insurance policies, carriers and agents the owner would place into effect upon license approval; a statement that the wrecker owner will indemnify and hold harmless the Borough in the event that any claim or recovery is made against the Borough arising out of the towing service or storage of vehicles, along with a description of the place he would use to adequately protect the property left in towed or stored vehicles; and a description of communications to be used on each wrecker and a description of the type of communication system utilized at the office where calls are received.
[Amended 6-6-83 by Ord. No. 945; 2-25-99 by Ord. No. 2073]
All applicants for a license shall obtain an application for a wrecker service license from the License Office, which upon receipt of same shall forward said application to the Chief of Police for investigation of the truth and accuracy of the information contained therein. Upon completion of his investigation, the Chief shall forward a copy of said application to the Borough Council along with a recommendation for approval or disapproval of the license and the reasons, if any, for this approval. Upon receiving the application for a wrecker service license, the Borough Council shall determine whether or not the applicant has complied with the necessary standards and criteria. If the applicant is found to be qualified, then, upon the payment of an annual license fee of eighty-five dollars ($85), a license shall be issued to the applicant and the applicant's name placed at the end of the towing list. All licenses shall expire on June 30 of each year.
No wrecker license shall be issued until the applicant has deposited with the Chief of Police a garage liability policy covering the operation of the owner's business, equipment or other vehicles for any bodily injury or property damage. This policy shall be in the minimum amount of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) for any one (1) person injured or killed and a minimum of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for more than one (1) person killed or injured in any accident and an additional fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for property damage.
Each policy must contain an endorsement by the carrier providing ninety (90) days' notice to both the Borough and the insured in the event of any change in coverage under the policy.
The owner shall provide or make available, when necessary, a wrecker vehicle of sufficient size and weight to remove and tow tractor-trailer rigs. All wreckers shall be equipped with warning lights required under state law. The owner shall provide continuous twenty-four-a-day service each day of the year and shall provide an attendant or answering service for the purpose of receiving calls for service. The owner shall be available to release stored vehicles during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day except Sundays and holidays. The owner shall assume all liability and shall indemnify and save the Borough harmless from such liability for damages sustained by vehicles while being towed or stored and for all personal injuries occurring to any of the firm's employees or other persons and shall maintain the required insurance policies. The wrecker/owner shall not release any vehicle directly impounded by the Borough without authorization by the Police Department.
All costs incident to towing and storage shall be paid by the owner or person in charge or possession of the towed and stored vehicle to the owner of the wrecker company and a receipt for payment shall be issued to said person. The Borough shall assume no liability or responsibility for any vehicle removed from any place without the authority of the Chief of Police. The wrecker owner shall maintain approved records and claim check system to assure release of vehicles to the rightful owner or authorized person. Such records shall be open to the Police Department for investigation of specific complaints and for compiling surveys under this chapter. The owner of any wrecker service shall permit any person appointed by the Chief of Police to inspect his wreckers, vault, security form or storage area at such times as the Chief of Police shall deem appropriate.
The Chief of Police shall ensure that wreckers are called to the scene of an accident or to impound vehicles on a rotation basis, distributing calls on an equitable basis from the towing list. The Chief of Police shall not call or cause to be called any wrecker not licensed with the Borough unless all such wreckers are unavailable. It is specifically permitted for the Chief of Police to call a wrecker out of sequence where proximity to the wreck and estimated response time make it more practical to do so.
The Mayor may terminate any license when he finds that:
The license was secured by fraud or by the concealment of a material fact by the wrecker owner and such fact, if known, would have caused the refusal to issue a license.
The wrecker owner has violated any of the requirements of this chapter or regulations established by the Chief of Police under this chapter.
[Amended 7-2-07 by Ord. No. 2232; 3-3-14 by Ord. No. 2432]
The Borough Council shall establish a table of maximum fees that may be charged by wrecker owners licensed under the provisions of this chapter for towing and storage. (The table may be found in the Borough offices.)
Pursuant to Ordinance No. 2575:
[Amended 4-16-2018 by Ord. No. 2549; 7-1-2019 by Ord. No. 2575]
The roster rules and regulations of Ordinance 933 "Regulating the Towing of Motor Vehicles and Establishing Penalties for Violation Thereof" shall be amended to read "(8) The fee for storage of vehicles shall be $50 for inside storage and $30 for outside storage as a daily rate." In addition, it shall be amended to read "The towing fee limit on normal automobile tow shall be $105 for all tows. All tows must be to the vendor's storage yard; any request to further than the mileage to the storage yard may be charged at a rate up to $4 per mile."
The Borough may at its sole discretion arrange for storage of the vehicles if storage spaces are not available and such storage fees above shall apply on daily rate. Day one of storage shall be the date in which the vehicle arrives at the storage facility and day two shall be the time in which the facility opens on the following day after the vehicle arrives at the storage facility.
The Chief of Police shall establish and cause the enforcement of reasonable rules and regulations for wreckers as from time to time he deems appropriate for the safety, well-being and protection of citizens within his jurisdiction and their property.
No wrecker may respond to the scene of an accident or emergency for the purposes of towing vehicles unless specifically called there by the police or person involved in the accident or emergency. This section is intended to prohibit wrecker owners from soliciting business at the scenes of accidents and emergencies and shall not be construed to prohibit any wrecker from contracting with any person, firm or corporation, provided that the wrecker owner, his agents and employees do not solicit towing contracts at the scenes of accidents or emergencies.
[Amended 2-19-85 by Ord. No. 982]
Every person found guilty of violating any of the provisions of this chapter may, in addition to being removed from the towing list, be liable to a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or ninety (90) days in jail, or both.