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Archive February 2024

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TRAA MEETS WITH FMCSA LEADERSHIP

Today in D.C., TRAA met with FMCSA's Chief Legal Counsel Brian Stansbury and other senior leaders to discuss the anti-towing comment Acting Deputy Administrator Sue Lawless submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking creating 16 CFR Part 464: Unfair or Deceptive Fees Trade Regulation (88 FR 77420).

 

During the 45-minute meeting, the TRAA team, including lobbyist and legal representatives, reviewed the many policy and legal issues with the content of FMCSA's letter and their request that the FTC include the nation's towing industry in their "Junk Fees" Rule. After much educating and reminding them of roadside safety policy the administration already has in place, we were able to discuss alternative mechanisms for addressing FMCSA's concerns regarding "predatory' towing practices. One option is to create a towing taskforce within FMCSA in which towers would have a seat at the table to review bills and discuss potential policy.

 

We expect to hear from FMCSA shortly on potential next steps. In the meantime, TRAA members will be discussing this critical issue with 100+ Members of Congress and their staffers next week during TRAA's annual Legislative Action Workshop & Hill Day.

 

A big "thank you" to all three representatives for TRAA at today's meeting: Bill Johnson, TRAA's Legislative Chair, Liesl Sheehan, Partner at Tremont Strategist Group, and Katherine Funk, attorney with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC.

 

In closing, this assault on our industry is being responded to by the TRAA. Now is the time for all to get involved with TRAA and your state association. The trucking associations and insurance industry are powerful adversaries. As the adage goes, divide and conquer. United we will prevail!

 

Want to support TRAA as we defend the industry? If so, donations to our Lobbyist Support Fund are greatly appreciated.

TRAA'S LOBBYING & LEGAL TEAMS TAKE CHARGE

As we reported last week, TRAA has been actively advocating on the industry’s behalf regarding the comment FMCSA submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking creating 16 CFR Part 464: Unfair or Deceptive Fees Trade Regulation (88 FR 77420).

 

As you are aware, the issue is complex and has many layers. Firstly, the so-called “Junk Fees” rulemaking announcement presented to Congress for approval made no mention of the towing industry, nor did the November 2023 Federal Register notice of the proposed rule. Towing was not brought into the fray as it relates to junk fees until late in the afternoon of February 7, 2024 - the very last day that the FTC accepted comment. At that point, the US DOT, via the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), submitted a letter requesting the tow industry be included as a focus of the FTC.

 

This letter was signed by the Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the federal agency currently tasked with the (federal) oversight and regulation of the towing and recovery industry. FMCSA leadership needs to be reminded that towing is an essential contributor to the smooth functioning of our economy, providing valuable assistance to motorists in need and keeping traffic flowing on our roads and highways. Towers offer timely aid to motorists during unforeseen circumstances such as an incident or breakdown, often at great personal risk. A tower is killed every six days on average on American roads, highlighting not only the crucial role that towers fill, but also the great danger associated with the profession. We feel betrayed by how the industry was treated by FMCSA and have expressed these concerns to the agency.

 

Since the minute this outrageous and out-of-the-blue comment was submitted, the TRAA has been working feverishly with our lobbying and legal teams to mount a response to this action. One needs to find out the source of an issue before one can mount a response. All indications are this is a directive from the Biden Administration in coordination with the trucking industry. Our sources indicate that many individuals at FMCSA who regularly work with TRAA, were completely unaware of the initiative. This attempt to insert the towing industry under the proposed rules is fraught with issues and the mere fact our industry was never mentioned may open a door for a legal challenge. Also, Congress has ceded jurisdiction of non-consensual towing to the States. These facts are being reviewed by TRAAs legal team. As of today, TRAA, working with our lobbying and legal teams has:

 

  1. Secured meeting with FMCSA Acting Deputy Administrator Sue Lawless (the top FMCSA official) and Chief Legal Counsel Brian Stansbury for next week;
  2. Coordinating with Members of Congress willing to lead an effort pushing back on the idea that towing fees are included as part of junk fees;
  3. Securing legal memo identifying legal faults in FMCSA’s efforts, including Congressional statute that we believe negates the intended effort from FMCSA and will serve as the basis of any future legal efforts, should they be necessary;
  4. Submitted official letter to FTC Chair Khan on behalf of the industry;
  5. Submitted request for an informal hearing with the FTC.

 

In addition, we have secured meetings with over 100 Congressional offices to discuss this matter during our upcoming Hill Day from March 5 – 7th.

 

In closing, this assault on our industry is being responded to by the TRAA. Now is the time for all to get involved with TRAA and your state association. The trucking associations and insurance industry are powerful adversaries. As the adage goes, divide and conquer. United we will prevail!

TRAA LEADS INDUSTRY RESPONSE TO UNJUST ATTACK AND GOVERNMENT OVERREACH ON TOWING FEES

As many of you are aware, the Biden Administration has taken an unprecedented step and partnered with the American Trucking Association, a highly political organization, to attack the towing industry. 
 
For background, in the fall of 2022, the Biden Administration, via the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its intent to regulate “junk fees.” This proposed rule seeks to limit the use of “unfair or deceptive fees,” and is aimed at addressing items like extra charges from Ticketmaster, overdraft fees assessed by banks, and airline fees charging families to sit together. However, many industries and consumers have taken this as an opportunity to make a claim that any fee they dislike is unfair and deceptive and should be included in the final rule.
 
On February 7th, the last day comments on the proposed “junk fee” rule were accepted, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Acting Deputy Administrator, Sue Lawless, submitted an official comment to the Federal Register requesting that FTC include predatory towing in the final rule. The letter mainly complains about towers “hiding fees” and not adding them to the bill until it is final. Some of the particular practices FMCSA mentions include:
 
  1. lack of itemized bills;
  2. per-mile fee;
  3. daily storage rate; 
  4. and administrative fee.
 
FMCSA, citing a report published by the American Transportation Research Institute in November, is pushing for the final FTC rule to include:
 
  1. Clarity that tow companies are not allowed to have hidden fees or fees disclosed after the tow – and to make each charge in this category a separate violation;
  2. A requirement for a “total price,” i.e. A maximum total of fees or charges the customer must pay;
  3. A “mandatory ancillary fee” that includes any ancillary fee or charge and prohibit charging any ancillary fee not included in the total upfront price;
  4. A prohibition on charging for an ancillary fee that has “no value” or “costs nothing to the provider”/can be reasonably assumed by the customer to be an included cost;
  5. A prohibition on excessive fee practices;
  6. Guidance on how to implement this around state laws that might vary.
 
While it is highly unusual for a federal agency responsible for regulating an industry to ask another federal agency to do its job, TRAA has already launched its response, leading the industry in doing so and providing protection for its members. 
 
 
  1. Meetings with Members and FMCSA: We have been in contact with several Congressional offices since February 7th. We will be continuing these meetings along with meetings with FMCSA during TRAA's Hill Day the first week of March. We're particularly working with those Members who are leading the fight against “junk fees” and who understand the crucial service and dangerous work tow operators provide. Thanks to our efforts, there are Members who understand that our industry is critical to economic wellbeing and unfair and unjust regulations will hurt small and family-run businesses. 
  2. Official Response to FTC: We are submitting an official response to the FTC objecting to this regulatory overreach and educating them on the reality of working under dangerous circumstances and time constraints to remove large vehicles from roadways.
 
Want to support TRAA as we defend the industry? If so, donations to our Lobbyist Support Fund are greatly appreciated.
 
 
 
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Who We Are

TRAA is the national association representing the U.S. towing and recovery industry. We act as the "voice of America's towing industry" by offering representation, education, and leadership at the federal level. Much of our focus is on representing the interests of the towing and recovery industry on Capitol Hill including promoting positive legislation and opposing potentially negative legislation. TRAA is the industry's watchdog on Capitol Hill!