Senate again passes Hawkins’ bill to help tow-truck operators

For the second time in less than a year, the Senate has approved a bipartisan bill introduced by 12th District Sen. Brad Hawkins after a request by a tow-truck operator located in his district.

The Senate today voted 48-1 to pass Senate Bill 5406, which would help tow-truck operators gain payment for keeping public roadways clear if called out by the State Patrol or local law enforcement agencies to clear a vehicle due to negligence.

“Tow-truck operators are small-business owners who are being called on by law enforcement officials to do important work to help keep our roadways clear, but they sometimes get stuck absorbing all the costs if drivers or insurance companies don’t pay,” said Hawkins. “I’m pleased to see the Senate pass this bill for a second straight year, and I hope the House will pass it all the way through this year.”

The bill would authorize a registered tow-truck operator, dispatched by law enforcement or another state or local agency, to bring a civil action to recover unpaid vehicle recovery, impound and storage charges from a person who was operating a motor vehicle on a public highway in an illegal or negligent manner. The bill specifies that these charges must align with an established fee schedule that already exists in law.

The request for a legislative fix came from Randy Houston, who owns Randy’s Auto Parts and Towing and provides towing services throughout the 12th District.

“The work of Senator Hawkins and the entire Legislature to help registered tow-truck operators get fairly paid for the work on behalf of law enforcement and government agencies is the right thing to do,” said Houston. “This will make sure that everyone who works to clear our highways and make them safe is treated equally. The leadership of Senator Hawkins was key to getting SB 5406 passed in the Senate with bipartisan support after many years of working on this issue. I look forward to working with Senator Hawkins to move this bill through the House and to the governor for signature.”

Hawkins added, “These tow-truck operators are helping to provide a great service throughout our state. These are often local, small businesses whose owners are trying to put food on their tables just like the rest of our families. They shouldn’t be stuck with the bill. That’s not right. If this keeps up, they might just say no if it looks like a situation where they won’t recover their costs. That would be a bad outcome for everyone.”

The proposal returns to the House of Representatives for further consideration. During the 2021 legislative session, the Senate approved SB 5406 on a 47-1 vote and the bill nearly cleared the entire House voting process. It was approved last session by the House Transportation Committee and House Rules Committee but did not reach the House floor for a vote. After that session ended, Hawkins’ bill was returned to the Senate, prompting today’s revote.

CAPTION: Randy’s Towing helps pull a stranded vehicle out of a river off Highway 2. Senate Bill 5406 would help tow-truck operators gain payment for keeping public roadways clear if called out by law enforcement agencies to clear a vehicle due to negligence.