[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Chester 8-3-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-25. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 214, Towing, adopted by Ord. No. 92-3, as amended.
The purpose and intent of this chapter is to provide criteria and standard operating procedures that are reasonable, non-exclusionary and nondiscriminatory in the selection and use of towing operators for police-initiated towing. Towing operators will, to the extent possible, provide towing, repair and storage services for vehicles that are abandoned, disabled, illegally parked or stolen, involved in accidents and/or suspected or identified by the Borough as being involved in criminal activities or motor vehicle offenses.
The following words and terms when used in this chapter shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
- A private automobile, station wagon or pickup truck.
- BASIC TOWING SERVICE
- The removal and transportation of an automobile from a highway, street or other public or private road, or a parking area, or from a storage facility, and other services normally incidental thereto, but does not include recovery of an automobile that has left the roadway and does not include any additional labor required to clean up the scene.
- DAYTIME HOURS
- From 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., prevailing time.
- INSIDE BUILDING
- A vehicle storage facility that is completely indoors, having one or more openings in the walls for storage and removal of vehicles and is secured by a locking device on each opening.
- A motorcycle, motorbike and bicycle with motor attached and any other motor-operated vehicle similar to a bicycle or tricycle, to include all-terrain vehicles.
- NIGHTTIME HOURS
- From 4:31 p.m. until 7:59 a.m., prevailing time.
- OUTSIDE SECURED
- An automobile storage facility that is not indoors and is secured by a fence, wall or other man-made barrier that is at least six feet high and is installed with a passive alarm system or a similar on-site security measure. The facility is to be lighted at night.
- OUTSIDE UNSECURED
- An automobile storage facility that is not indoors and is not secured by a fence, wall or other man-made barrier and all other storage facilities not defined above as inside building or outside secured.
- RECOVERY OF VEHICLES
- The recovery of an automobile from a position beyond the right-of-way or berm or from being impaled upon any other object within the right-of-way or berm. It shall also include the recovery of a vehicle which is overturned or on its side.
- TOW VEHICLE
- A vehicle equipped with a boom or booms, winches, slings, tilt beds, wheel lifts or under-reach equipment specifically designed by its manufacturer for the removal and transport of private passenger automobiles.
- Any motor vehicle other than an automobile as defined above and which requires heavy-duty towing.
- Moving a vehicle by use of the cable or winch from a position that is not accessible for direct hookup by conventional means of loading onto a tow vehicle. It shall not include pulling a motor vehicle onto a tilt bed or car carrier or lifting a vehicle with a conventional tow sling.
Removal of motor vehicles. Whenever a police officer orders the removal of automobiles from private or public property, the officers shall utilize the rotation lists established in Subsection B of this section.
Towing contractors. Every three years, the Borough Council shall establish by resolution a list of automobile towing contractors and a list of truck towing contractors to be utilized by the Police Department. An operator may, if qualified, be on both lists. The lists will work on a rotating basis or weekly call-out schedule at the discretion of the Chief of Police. Such lists shall be utilized by members of the Police Department on a non-exclusionary and nondiscriminatory basis. Only those towing contractors who meet the minimum standards of operator performance set forth in this chapter shall be included on such lists. There shall be no limit on the numbers on either list. Operators may be added to the list at any time.
Equipment. All towing operators shall meet the following requirements:
For classification as an automobile towing service, the operator must possess at least one flatbed-style tow vehicle and/or one hoist-type tow vehicle with a sling and a wheel lift.
For classification as a truck towing service, the contractor must have one heavy-duty tow vehicle capable of towing a fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing a minimum of 80,000 pounds.
All tow vehicles must carry the following equipment:
All towing vehicles must have amber emergency warning lights mounted on the vehicle so as to warn approaching traffic of their presence. The size and location of these lights must conform to New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicle standards. The operator must have an amber light permit.
All towing vehicles must carry a copy of their rate schedule. Said schedule must also be displayed in a conspicuous manner at the operator's place of business.
High-visiblity safety vest. At all times when performing towing services in the Borough of Chester, all towing contractor personnel shall wear a high-visibility traffic safety vest, meeting the specifications set forth in ANSI/ISEA 107-2004, at level Class 2 or higher.
Facilities. Each operator must have access to a storage lot and place of business available to the public within five miles from the Chester Borough Police Department. However, if there are no qualified towing contractors within the five-mile radius, the five-mile radius may be extended until an eligible towing contractor can be located. The towing business and storage lot must comply with all zoning ordinances and regulations in the municipality in which they are located.
Availability and response time. Each operator must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and must respond within 20 minutes during daytime hours and 30 minutes during nighttime hours of the original telephone call request by the Police Department.
The Borough reserves the right to contact other towing operators, who may not be on the rotating list, if at the time of request all of the towing contractors on the rotating list are unavailable or if specialized towing or recovery equipment is needed and not possessed by any of the towing contractors on the rotating list. Towing operators not on the rotating list may also be called on in times of emergencies or natural disasters. If other towing operators not on the rotating list are called, their fees shall be reasonable and customary, based on prevailing rates in the industry.
Automobiles and motorcycles. The fee schedule for towing services and storage shall be established by the Borough Council by resolution.
Trucks. Towing operators shall charge reasonable fees for towing trucks, taking into account the size of the vehicle being towed, the time of day and day of the week and difficulty of the towing operation. Each operator on the list shall promulgate a fee schedule and file copies of that schedule with the Police Chief and Borough Clerk. Each of these schedules shall be available for public inspection at the office of the Borough Clerk during normal business hours.
Department of insurance regulations. Towing charges and storage charges for private passenger automobiles that are damaged in accidents or that are recovered after being stolen are subject to the rates established by the Commissioner of Insurance at N.J.A.C. 11:3-38. In those cases, the rates established by the Commissioner of Insurance and not those set forth in this chapter shall be applicable.
Release of impounded vehicles. No impounded vehicle is to be released without proper authorization from the Police Department. Vehicle release arrangements must be available from the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday (excluding New Jersey state holidays). The Borough shall supply junk titles or good titles for abandoned vehicles in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:10-1 et seq.
Each operator on the approved lists shall furnish the Borough Clerk with a certificate of insurance from an insurance company satisfactory to the Borough. Each certificate of insurance shall identify the coverage provided and shall provide that such insurance shall not be changed or canceled without giving 10 days' prior written notice to the Borough by certified mail, return receipt requested. Specific reference to the rotating lists of towing operators shall be made on all policies of insurance.
Each operator must have bodily injury liability, property liability, employer's liability and motor vehicle liability coverage with combined policy limits to comply with what the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles requires. Each approved operator must also have statutorily required workers' compensation coverage.
Each operator shall indemnify and save the Borough harmless from all damages and claims for damages which may be made by any person for bodily injury or property damages as a result of the operator's performing pursuant to this chapter.
Enforcement. The Police Department is designated to enforce the provisions of this chapter in accordance with the due process of law. In carrying out the provisions of this chapter, the Police Chief is hereby authorized to adopt additional reasonable regulations which are not inconsistent with this chapter.
Abandoned or unclaimed vehicles.
Any vehicle which is not claimed by the owner within five days of impoundment shall be reported by the operator storing the vehicle to the Police Department pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 through 39:10A-7.
After expiration of the five-day period, the Police Department shall make application for title to the Division of Motor Vehicles as per standing general orders. Vehicles which remain unclaimed after all requirements of the general orders are met shall be auctioned off to recover towing costs, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:10A-1 through 39:10A-7.
Any operator found to be disposing of vehicles in violation of this procedure will be charged with misapplication of entrusted property (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-15) and will be prohibited from providing service for Chester Borough.
Rights of owners.
Public inspection. This chapter, all regulations adopted by the Police Chief and the fee schedules of individual towers shall be available to the public during normal business hours.
Operator dealings with public.
The operator shall always act in a professional manner and at all times be courteous and respectful toward members of the public, as well as representatives of the Borough of Chester. While members of the public, especially those whose cars may have been towed or impounded, may at times resort to strong language, threats and unbecoming behavior toward the operator, the operator is expected to exercise restraint and not to respond in kind and thereby reflect unfavorably on the Borough of Chester and/or the Police Department.
Repeated reports of discourteous behavior by the operator, which can be substantiated and documented, may be considered by the Borough as sufficient cause for termination of the contract.
No towing operator shall participate in the police towing list within the Borough without first submitting an application for inclusion on the towing duty list and receiving written approval from the Borough Council.
Application to participate in the towing duty list shall be made on the official application form available from the Police Department and submitted together with an application fee in the amount of $50 payable to the Police Department.
Applicants are required to comply with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. and N.J.A.C. 17:27-1.1 et seq. with regard to affirmative action employment.
All towing list approvals shall remain valid for the calendar year and shall expire on the 31st day of December next succeeding the date of issuance unless sooner suspended or revoked by the Chief of Police as hereinafter provided, or the Borough Council. If, during the term of a towing operator's approval, the towing operator relocates its business, the towing operator may request in writing to the Chief of Police, or Borough Administrator that its towing list approval be transferred to the new business location. The term of any such transfer approval shall expire on the date upon which the towing operator's approval would have expired had no transfer occurred.
The Chief of Police is hereby authorized to establish rules and regulations for the supervision, operation, inspection, safe operation of tow vehicles, retrieval of personal property by automobile owners, and subsequent applications for title to automobiles that have been towed at the direction of the Police Department. The rules and regulations shall be incorporated within the Police Department policy titled "Wrecker Service Calls."
The Chief of Police, or his designee, shall have the right, at all times, to inspect all towing vehicles and related equipment used by tow operators performing services pursuant to this chapter.
At any time, should the Chief, or his designee, determine that the vehicles and/or equipment being used are unsafe, he shall have the power and authority to direct the immediate correction or repair of any automotive defect, malfunction or violation of motor vehicle regulations within a specified period of time to be determined by the Chief.
The Chief of Police is authorized and empowered to establish from time to time, and transmit to all towing operators on the towing duty list, such additional rules and regulations not inconsistent herewith as may be reasonable and necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter, including a procedure to receive complaints and resolve disputes arising from the towing and storage of motor vehicles required by the Borough without the consent of the owner.
The Chief of Police or any member of the Police Department designated by him is authorized to administer and enforce all provisions of this chapter.
Any person, firm or corporation who violates any of the provisions of this chapter (including the rate schedule), upon conviction, shall be subject to the following:
For the first offense, a fine not to exceed $250 and suspension from the towing duty list for one month.
For the second offense, a fine not to exceed $500 and suspension from the towing duty list for six months.
For the third offense, a fine not to exceed $1,000 and suspension from the towing duty list for one year.
For the fourth offense, permanent revocation from the towing duty list.
In all cases of documented overcharges, the excess moneys paid will be returned by the contractor to the vehicle owner.
Each and every violation of this chapter and each and every day that any violation shall continue shall be construed as a separate and distinct violation. Any offense which is more than five years old shall not be considered as a basis for determining a subsequent offense.
The Police Department is specifically designated as the enforcement agency, which shall serve and execute process for violations of this chapter in accordance with law. Violations of this chapter shall be heard in the Municipal Court of the Borough.
A towing operator may be removed from the annual list by resolution of the Borough Council if its performance is determined to be unreliable or inadequate. If there is a breach of any of the provisions of this chapter or applicable regulations, an operator may be removed from the list by the Chief of Police pending action by the Borough Council.
Failure to comply with applicable zoning, land use, property maintenance codes, or any other local ordinances may subject any towing operator to suspension from the towing duty service list upon request from the appropriate Construction Code Official, Zoning Officer, Property Maintenance Officer, or other Borough official. Any towing operator suspended from the towing duty service list for violation of applicable zoning, land use, property maintenance codes or any other local ordinances shall be indefinitely suspended until corrections are made and approved by the applicable Borough official, and communicated to the Chief of Police or Borough Administrator.