Tow Trucks, Operators and Vehicle Storage Facilities

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News and Updates

Proposed VSF Rule Published in Texas Register; Public Comment Period Now Open

On January 25, 2021, TDLR received a Rule Petition from The American Property & Casualty Insurance Association. The Rule Petition requested that a definition for “pre-arranged shipping transactions” be added to the applicable TOW rules found in 16 Tex. Admin. Code, Chapter 86. TDLR was required by law to either deny the Rule Petition or initiate a rulemaking within 60 days of receiving the petition.

TDLR spoke with the Petitioner and thoroughly reviewed its request. The Department subsequently determined that the Petitioner was seeking to address ongoing issues that arise during the release of vehicles from Vehicle Storage Facilities (VSFs). It also determined that this issue is best addressed by amending the current 16 Tex. Admin. Code,§ 85.710, to clarify the persons or entities who are classified as a vehicle owner’s “authorized representative” for purposes of securing the release of vehicles.

For these reasons, TDLR has initiated the rulemaking process in response to the Rule Petition. On April 9, 2021 the Department’s proposed rule amendment for 16 Tex. Admin. Code ,§ 85.710 was published in the Texas Register. The public comment period is open and runs from April 9 to May 9, 2021. The proposed rule may be found in the Texas Register.

Comments from any interested person, including TOW/VSF licensees, may be made electronically on the Department's website;by facsimile to (512) 475-3032; or by mail to Vanessa Vasquez, Legal Assistant, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, P.O. Box 12157, Austin, Texas 78711. The deadline for comments is 30 days after publication in the Texas Register.

TDLR encourages licensees and members of the general public to review the proposed rule and engage in the rulemaking process.

Rule Review Adoption Justification

At their meeting held March 3, 2021, the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation adopted the rule review of 16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapters 85 and 86, Vehicle Storage Facilities, and Vehicle Towing and Booting, effective March 15, 2021.

The rule review adoption was published in the March 26, 2021 issue of the Texas Register (46 TexReg 2050).

TDLR encourages all persons interested in the Tow Trucks, Operators, and Vehicle Storage Facilities program to review the rule review adoption.

TDLR Proposes Administrative Rules

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation proposes amendments to an existing rule to the Vehicle Towing and Booting program rule at 16 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 86, §86.700. The proposed amendments explicitly prohibit tow truck companies and tow truck operators from: (1) towing vehicles involved in Non-Consent tows to locations other than those stated in rule; (2) recommending that vehicles be towed to any location other than a licensed Vehicle Storage Facility; and (3) obtaining authorization from vehicle operators for repairs or any fees other than those required to perform the tow.

The proposed rule was published in the December 18,2020, issue of the Texas Register (45 TexReg 8949). The Department will accept comments on the proposal until January 19, 2021.

The Department encourages anyone interested in the Vehicle Towing and Booting Program to review the rule proposal online. Comments may be submitted electronically on the Department’s website.

Preparing for Hurricane Season - Clarification on UCR Tow Trucks and VSFs

As Texas prepares for potential hurricanes this season, TDLR reminds tow truck drivers and vehicle storage facilities that federally licensed Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) tow trucks that are preforming consent tows are exempt from TDLR license requirements and do not need a TDLR tow license in order to remove a vehicle from a vehicle storage facility (VSF). In an effort to document when a UCR designated company picks up vehicles in Texas, VSFs may request that operators who claim a UCR designation provide their company USDOT number. However, providing this number is voluntary. If a UCR operator does not provide a company USDOT number or TDLR license numbers but has properly filled out the remainder of the VSF011 form or other instrument of release, you must release the vehicle. Providing the USDOT number is voluntary and is not a valid basis for denying release.

Private Property Towing for Expired Registration

Question: Can I perform a private property tow for a vehicle with an expired registration?

Answer: No. On March 13, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation, declaring a state of disaster for all counties in Texas due to the threat of COVID-19. Governor Abbott also issued a statement on March 16, 2020, granting a temporary extension to obtain an initial registration and renewal of registration for a vehicle. Tex. Occ. Code § 2308.253 (d) and (e) prohibit the towing of vehicles from private property on the basis of an expired license plate or registration unless certain requirements are met. Due to the extension granted for obtaining the initial registration or renewal of registration for a vehicle, tow companies may not tow vehicles from private property for expired registration or renewals until further notice.

COVID-19: Continuing Education Waived

TDLR continuing education requirements are waived for all individual licenses expiring in March, April, and May 2020. Licensees still need to submit their renewal applications, pay the required fees, and TDLR will check their criminal histories, but they will not need to complete any TDLR-required continuing education this licensing cycle. (§51.405, Occupations Code)

Note: TDLR is not authorized to waive continuing education requirements imposed by a certifying or credentialing entity other than TDLR. If a certifying entity requires continuing education to maintain certification, and certification is required for Texas licensure, then that continuing education must be completed. If the certifying entity waives continuing education or allows it to be completed on a delayed basis due to COVID-19, then you may follow the certifying entity’s policy.

Please check the TDLR COVID-19 webpage for the most up-to-date information.

Updates to Tow Trucks, Operators and Vehicle Storage Facilities Law(s)

This message is provided to notify you of changes to the Vehicle Towing and Booting law(s).

House Bill 1140 passed by the 86th Texas Legislature, amended Occupations Code, Chapter 2303, relating to fees for vehicles stored at vehicle storage facilities; authorizing fee increases and decreases; eliminating a fee; eliminating a minimum fee. House Bill 1140 and the changes to Chapter 2303 became effective June 14, 2019.

House Bill 4170 passed by the 86th Texas Legislature, amended Occupations Code, Chapter 2308, relating to nonsubstantive additions to, revisions of, and corrections in enacted codes, to the nonsubstantive codification or disposition of various laws omitted from enacted codes, and to conforming codifications enacted by the 85th Legislature to other Acts of that legislature. House Bill 4170 and the changes to Chapter 2308 became effective September 1, 2019.

TDLR encourages all persons interested in the Tow Trucks, Operators and Vehicle Storage Facilities program to review the updated Occupations Code, Chapters 2308 and 2303.

The updated rate are available in the rules and can found in Texas Administrative Code 85.722

Impoundment and Storage Fees Update

The 86th legislative session gave the Commission of Licensing and Regulation the ability to adjust the impoundment and storage fees based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Workers (CPI-U) by an amount equal to the fee in effect on December 31 of the preceding year. As of January 1st, 2020, vehicle storage facilities may charge the following rates for storage and impoundment.

Daily storage fee:

Per the 2019 biennial adjustment, starting January 1st, 2020 the maximum amount that a VSF may charge for a daily storage fee is as follows:

(A) Vehicle that is 25 feet or less in length: $20.64.

(B) Vehicle that exceeds 25 feet in length: $36.11.

Impound Fee:

Per the 2019 biennial adjustment, starting January 1st, 2020 the maximum amount that a VSF may charge for an impoundment fee is $20.64.

Tow Inspections Discontinued

Effective immediately, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is discontinuing periodic inspections of tow companies. Local jurisdictions have ordinances overseeing tow company and tow truck operations, and the Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Department of Motor Vehicles also inspect tow trucks, depending on their size. Discontinuing these periodic, routine inspections will reduce the redundant regulatory burdens on this industry and allow both TDLR and licensees to more efficiently use their time and limited resources to perform additional time-intensive inspections of massage, cosmetology and vehicle storage facility establishments.

Texas law does not require TDLR to perform periodic inspections of tow companies or tow trucks. Further, there have been no serious health or safety violations identified by TDLR during these inspections. TDLR will continue to investigate complaints received regarding tow companies, check insurance, and perform spot inspections when necessary.

Emergency Consent Tow Licensing: October Severe Weather and Flooding

Under authority of Chapter 86, Texas Administrative Code, TDLR Executive Director Brian Francis has activated emergency consent tow provisions for the 54 Texas counties identified by Governor Greg Abbott in his October 16 and October 19, 2018 disaster declarations. These emergency provisions will help expedite recovery and cleanup efforts and allow more tow operators to assist our fellow Texans in their time of need.

The disaster area includes the following Texas counties: Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bandera, Bastrop, Baylor, Bee, Bexar, Blanco, Brazoria, Brazos, Brooks, Brown, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Calhoun, Callahan, Cameron, Chambers, Coleman, Colorado, Comal, Comanche, DeWitt, Dimmit, Duval, Eastland, Edwards, Ellis, Erath, Fannin, Fayette, Fort Bend, Frio, Galveston, Gillespie, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Harris, Haskell, Hays, Hidalgo, Hill, Hood, Hopkins, Houston, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Jones, Karnes, Kenedy, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Kleberg, Knox, Lampasas, La Salle, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Llano, Madison, Mason, Matagorda, Maverick, McMullen, Medina, Mills, Montgomery, Nolan, Nueces, Palo Pinto, Parker, Polk, Real, Refugio, San Jacinto, San Patricio, San Saba, Shackelford, Somervell, Starr, Stephens, Sutton, Tarrant, Taylor, Throckmorton, Travis, Trinity, Uvalde, Val Verde, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Webb, Wharton, Willacy, Williamson, Wilson, Zapata, and Zavala counties.

Emergency consent tow operator license applications are now available from TDLR:

To be eligible, you must:

  • complete the online application;
  • hold a valid driver’s license issued by a state in the United States;
  • pass a background check; and
  • pay the consent tow operator license fee of $100.

The emergency consent tow operator license may ONLY be used for consent tow services performed in the 54 counties in the Governor’s October 16 and October 19, 2018 disaster declarations.

An emergency consent tow operator must carry this license at all times when performing tow operations, and must allow TDLR and law enforcement personnel to inspect their tow truck at any time.

Emergency Consent Tow Truck Permit. Call 800-803-9202. To receive an emergency consent tow truck permit, your tow truck must be affiliated with a TDLR-licensed tow company. See Requirements for Emergency Consent Tow Truck Permit.

If your tow truck is already affiliated with a TDLR-licensed tow company, the company can simply add your vehicle information to their account online using the online TOOLS system and print out the permit (also referred to as a “cab card”). If your tow truck is not affiliated with a TDLR-licensed tow company, you must apply for an emergency consent tow company license in order to receive the emergency consent tow truck permit.

Emergency Consent Tow Company License. Call 800-803-9202. TDLR’s licensing team will expedite your emergency consent tow company license application over the phone. You can also add your tow truck(s) during this process to get your emergency consent tow truck permit (cab card). Note: the tow company application process requires that your insurance company file your insurance information using TDLR’s online TOOLS system. See Requirements for Emergency Tow Company License.

Notice to all Vehicle Storage Facilities in a declared disaster area: All emergency consent tow licenses must be accepted as identification for vehicle pick-up or drop-off at your facility, just as any regular consent tow license would.

For questions or help, please email or call TDLR at 1-800-803-9202 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Emergency Suspension of Certain VSF Technical Requirements: Hurricane Harvey

To assist with the ongoing recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Governor Greg Abbott has temporarily suspended all necessary statutes and rules related to the physical requirements for establishing a licensed Vehicle Storage Facility (VSF). This suspension allows currently licensed VSFs to utilize additional temporary lots beyond those now in use, on which to store flooded and abandoned vehicles. This suspension applies only in counties within Governor Abbott’s August 27, 2017 Disaster Declaration (see below) and is in effect until the Office of the Governor terminates it or until the Hurricane Harvey disaster declaration is lifted or expires.

Licensed VSF owners or controlling persons must call TDLR at (800) 803-9202 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CDT to notify the agency of their need to use additional lots and to receive further assistance. Please have the following information ready:

  • TDLR VSF license number
  • Temporary lot address and location

The specific technical requirements in suspension are:

85.1000 Technical Requirements—Facility Fencing Requirements;

85.1001 Technical Requirements—Storage Lot Surface;

85.1002 Technical Requirements—Storage Lot Lighting;

85.1003 Technical Requirements—Storage Lot Signs

The suspension is effective in the following counties (updated September 6, 2018):

Angelina, Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kerr, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Milam, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, San Jacinto, Sabine, San Augustine, San Patricio, Trinity, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Willacy, and Wilson.

Licensed VSFs are advised to check first with their local law enforcement agency, motor vehicle division, and/or health department about location and placement of additional temporary lots.

Questions about additional temporary lots can also be sent to CSTowing@tdlr.texas.gov

For questions or help, please email CStowing@tdlr.texas.gov or call TDLR at 1-800-803-9202 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Advisory Board Meetings

March 16, 2021

The Towing and Storage Advisory Board met March 16, 2021. The agenda and staff reports (PDF) are available online. The meeting was archived and is available on TDLR’s YouTube page.