[HISTORY: Adopted by the Harford County Council by Bill No. 92-87. Amendments noted where applicable.]
For the purposes of this Article, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them by this section:
- DISABLED VEHICLE
- A motor vehicle which has been damaged or rendered inoperative as the result of a collision or accident, as a result of wear and tear or mechanical failure, or as a result of any other cause, and of which a law enforcement agency has requested the removal.
- REGULAR BUSINESS DAY
- That period between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
- The moving or removing or the preparation thereof of a disabled vehicle by another vehicle for which service charge is made, either directly or indirectly. A charge made indirectly includes dues or other charges of bona fide clubs or associations which provide towing services.
The Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits may revoke or suspend the license of any person licensed to engage in the towing business upon the violation of any of the provisions of this Article or any rules and regulations promulgated pursuant hereto or upon the failure to comply with any of the provisions and terms of any repair agreement executed pursuant to § 237-13 of this Article or upon the conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction of the crimes of perjury, bribery, or impersonating a police officer or of any felony.
The Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits shall, after consultation with the Sheriff's Office, develop and adopt rules and regulations for the administration and enforcement of this chapter.
Any person who is aggrieved by a decision of the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits shall have the right to file an appeal with the Board of Towing Appeals within 30 calendar days of the decision for a hearing in the matter.
It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in towing disabled vehicles from the scene of a motor vehicle accident in the county unless the person is licensed under this chapter and unless the license is not suspended or revoked at the time of towing.
Nothing in this chapter shall prevent a law enforcement agency from contacting any towing company if special equipment is needed or if an emergency exists and no licensed towing company is available to or capable of handling the emergency.
[Amended by Bill No. 94-28]
Application shall be made on forms to be furnished by the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits. The applicant shall pay an application fee when the application is made, which shall be retained by the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits to cover initial examination and inspection costs. If the application is approved, the applicant shall pay a license fee per towing vehicle, covering the license for the then current calendar year. Thereafter the licensee shall pay each year a fee per vehicle for a renewal of the license. A certified copy of the license must be carried in each towing vehicle and such copies may be obtained from the Department. The amount of each fee shall be established by the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits through rules and regulations adopted in accordance with § 807 of the Harford County Charter.
The licensee shall be provided with a decal for each towing vehicle by the Sheriff's Office. This decal must be affixed to each towing vehicle in a conspicuous location.
No licensed tow company operator shall change the location of its business without notifying the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits and the Sheriff's Office at least 60 calendar days in advance unless such relocation is occasioned by a substantial casualty loss of such location, including acts of God. The new location must meet all requirements of this chapter or the license will be canceled.
Before any license shall be issued or renewed to any person to conduct a towing business, such person shall be required to give evidence to the county of comprehensive general liability insurance coverage in the minimum limits of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) per individual, three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000.00) per occurrence and one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) property damage on each vehicle, provided by a company licensed to do insurance business in the state.
The Department of Inspection, Licenses and Permits, after receipt of an application for a license, shall forward it to the Sheriff or the Sheriff's designee for investigation and inspection to ensure:
That the applicant has facilities to provide towing services when requested on a twenty-four-hour basis;
That the towing vehicles of the applicant are in good mechanical condition and equipped with the towing gear and safety apparatus determined necessary by the Sheriff's Office; and
That the towing vehicles of the applicant are registered as tow trucks with the State Motor Vehicle Administration under the Transportation Article, § 13-920, of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
The Sheriff's Office of Harford County should promptly report its findings to the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits. If the applicant shall be denied a license based upon such findings, such decision shall be appealable as provided in Section 237-3.
The Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits shall request a report from the Zoning Administrator on the applicant's compliance with the County Zoning Regulations.
All records required by this chapter to be maintained by licensed towing companies shall be open to inspection by authorized law enforcement agencies, during normal business hours.
Each tow company shall provide one (1) business telephone number to its place of business but may have an extension of such telephone at any other location where a company representative may be contacted.
The Sheriff of Harford County may retain a current list of all duly licensed towing operators. Whenever the services of a towing vehicle shall be required and a request is made to a law enforcement agency concerning such services, the law enforcement agency shall call the licensed towing operator for that geographically assigned area who is shown to be next assigned by a rotation list, except when an owner requests a specific towing company provided that such tow company can respond within a reasonable time. If the vehicle is a traffic hazard or obstructing traffic and the company cannot respond within the time specified in this chapter, the next assigned tow company based on the rotation list for that geographically assigned area shall be called and the owner of the vehicle shall be subject to the fees prescribed in this chapter. In the event the towing operator does not then have a towing vehicle available for service, the law enforcement agency shall call the next towing operator and so on until a towing vehicle has been secured. If a towing vehicle does not arrive at the scene of a collision or accident within twenty (20) minutes after request is made, the officer at the scene shall notify the law enforcement agency of such fact. The law enforcement agency shall then contact the towing company to ascertain the cause for the delay. If the law enforcement agency is not reasonably satisfied that the towing vehicle will arrive at the scene within five (5) minutes after the second call, it shall contact the next towing company on the rotation list for the assigned geographic area, etc., as if the first towing company had not been contacted. Consideration will be given, however, to abnormal traffic patterns that result from adverse weather conditions, emergencies, or other causes. Upon arriving at the scene of an accident, the towing operator shall immediately remove the disabled vehicle to the operator's storage lot or to a place of the owner or operator's choosing. In the event a disabled vehicle cannot promptly and efficiently be removed from the scene of an accident, the towing operator may call another licensed tow company to assist in such removal. A towing company shall be required to release a disabled vehicle only during the regular business day, but may release such a vehicle to the owner at other times.
No towing company or any employee thereof shall dispatch any vehicles to the scene of an accident based on information obtained by way of signals or messages transmitted on frequencies allocated for use by a law enforcement agency in the county.
Maximum reasonable and customary charges for towing vehicles shall be established by the Towing Appeals Board. Rates will be reviewed once in a calendar year upon written request by licensed towing companies.
It shall be unlawful for any towing company to make repairs for consideration on any disabled vehicle removed by a towing vehicle without first entering into a signed agreement with the owner of the disabled vehicle or the owner's authorized representative. This agreement must include an estimate of repairs.
One (1) copy of any agreement entered into pursuant to this section shall be given to the owner of the disabled vehicle or the owner's authorized representative.
One (1) copy of any agreement entered into pursuant to this section shall be retained as permanent record for a period of two (2) years by the licensee who owns or leases the towing vehicle to be used in towing or removing the disabled vehicle.
It shall be unlawful for any person towing disabled vehicles to offer to secure or provide bail or to enter into any agreement, oral or written, to secure or provide bail or arrange for the providing of bail for any person involved in a motor vehicle collision or accident in the county, with the exception that this section shall not apply to bona fide automobile clubs, associations, or insurance companies.