News & Updates

April 2017 – President’s Message

Hello Coalition Members

Spring is upon us. Themes of rebirth and renewal often use symbols from the Spring season. After sometimes harsh winters, we look forward to a change in season and what Spring offers us.

It seems fitting after over a year and a half of working on our training initiative with our partners at CTTA the completion of 5 training modules are now complete and ready to launch in Spring of 2017.

So much time, commitment and collaboration was put into this project. I am proud of what we have accomplished. We set a goal to provide a comprehensive training program to assist our members for not only newly hired drivers but as a refresher course for recent hires. This program will help bridge gaps within your inhouse training procedures and prepare drivers for the next step, level 1 training.

Our training program consists of 5 modules. At the end of each module the driver will have to complete and pass a test to move onto the next module. Once completed, a certificate of completion can be printed out. We are finalizing pricing structures now and by the time of this newsletter being published it will be on our web site. You will be able to access these modules for purchase at either www.motorclubcoalition.org or at www.CTTA.com You will need to be a current member of either organization. If you have yet to see the trailer for the modules, it is posted on our website.

We had another successful Annual Membership Meeting. Thank you for attending and a big thank you to Jim Inglebright of Road Runner Towing. Every year Jim sponsors the cost of securing a conference room at the Jelly Belly Factory and lunch. Jim, we couldn’t do it without you! Many of our associate members attended as well. They serve such an important part of our organization and we want to thank them too.

In addition to discussing the launch of our training initiative, our legal team was in attendance to bring us up to date on current legislation effecting the industry and what lies ahead. CHP was also in attendance to educate the attendees on the BIT inspections. Another successful Annual Meeting in the books.

Your Board will be attending two trade shows this year to help promote our training modules. American Towman/CTTA show in Las Vegas on May 10th through the 12th, and the Tennessee Tow Show September 14th through the 16th. If you plan on attending those shows please stop by our booth and say hello.

Thank you again for supporting your Coalition!

Steve Sgarlato

President

UCMCS

 

 

How to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

safety

safety

Servicing your motor club customer today requires an efficient business model. Your machine has to be well oiled to meet the demands of volume and customer expectations. Many of the motor clubs perform customer service surveys to let know how they are doing and of course you end up being the most important part of the survey when they require service. In some cases the amount of compensation or call volume you receive will correlate to the perceived service the motor club customer received. Here are a couple of tips to help you get off to the right start in pleasing your motor club customer.

* Customer service starts with safety! Being safety minded around your customer translates into a general message. The message you send when you communicate that you are a safe operator is always a positive one. It says you are interested enough in what you are doing to bother paying attention. It is another way of saying that one cares about what is going on. Your customer will find this irresistible and will have a hard time giving a negative response to someone who took the time to care about their safety.

* Communicate! Our industry spends a large amount of time training from a technical point of view and rightly so. Knowing how to do a thing correctly is not only prudent but again communicates that one has bothered to care. We should continue to do this but we should spend an equal amount of time teaching our operators what to say. Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated, for example: “Mam/Sir, I know I am 33 minutes later than you expected< I am sorry for the delay, I don’t want to make excuses but we are just swamped and I pledge to do my best to get your car issue resolved to your satisfaction. Again I apologize for being late.” Or perhaps you can simply inform the customer of next steps. What we do is routine to us but foreign to our customers. Giving them a quick peek into the next steps of service can put them at ease and once again create a bond between operator and customer.

* Rehearse. Once you have set expectations with how you want your operators to perform, have them do a performance for you. Ask them to greet you and give them as much encouragement as you can while giving them tips on how represent you best. In the end you find that you will have safer drivers who will being pushing customer service at the same time, in baseball we call this a double play or a twofer.

U.S. SUPREME COURT DOES NOT OVERTURN CALIFORNIA TOWERS’ ABILITY TO CHARGE A CREDIT CARD SURCHARGE

creditcards

creditcards
Back in 2015, a federal court declared that California Civil Code section 1748.1, which bans businesses from charging surcharges on credit card purchases, was unconstitutional and unenforceable.  As a result, the ban on surcharges was lifted and California retailers, including tow companies, are free to offer dual-pricing.  Thus, you can charge one price for customers who pay cash or check, and a higher prices for customers who choose to pay by credit card.  An appeal to this case, Italian Colors Restaurant et al v. Harris, has since been pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the ban on surcharges in California has remained lifted during this wait.

In late March 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court looked at a similar New York law banning credit card surcharges in Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman.  The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that laws – like the one in California – that make it illegal for sellers to impose a surcharge on credit card sales “regulate speech” and thus may be challenged as violations of the First Amendment.  As such, the Court threw out the lower court ruling that had upheld the New York law.  Please note that while the Court did not necessarily strike down state credit charge surcharge laws in their entirety, it is a critical development in that the Court could have upheld them as constitutional and chose not to.  It is suspected that the Ninth Circuit was waiting for direction from the U.S. Supreme Court on the matter, and now that they have it, a decision may be coming sooner rather than later that could settle the matter in California.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is important that you also check your contracts with dispatching entities to ensure that there are no provisions that also prohibit credit card surcharges.  For example, the CHP TSA contains a provision that expressly prohibits credit card surcharges (Element G.1) for tows initiated under the Rotation Tow Program.  The CHP has expressly stated that they will continue to enforce this provision and thus, a tower cannot charge a credit charge surcharge for a CHP-initiated tow.

 

CARB PROTECTIONS FOR TRUCKERS INCLUDED IN CALIFORNIA’S DIESEL & TAX BILL

carbs

carbs

After two years of negotiations, the California Legislature passed a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding bill, SB 1 (Beall), on April 6th, which will raise $5.2 billion annually to fix the state’s roads and highways.  While the bulk of this money will come from diesel and gas tax increases, UCMCS is pleased to let you know there are a few good things for the trucking industry that made it into the deal as concessions to the sector.

THE BAD

The package is funded through a variety of new revenues, most notably for the towing industry, a 20-cent diesel excise tax increase (adjusted every 3 years for inflation) and a 5.75% diesel sales tax increase.  Additionally, it includes a gas excise tax increase of 12 cents, a new “transportation improvement fee” ranging from $25-$175 depending on the vehicle’s value, a new $100 Zero Emission Vehicle Fee starting in 2020, and loan repayments from the General Fund.

THE GOOD

Despite loud opposition from environmentalists, as concessions to the trucking industry, the following two provisions were added:

  • As of 2020, all trucks must be CARB-compliant in order to register the vehicle with the DMV.  This language is identical to SB 174 (Lara), which was another bill introduced this year that UCMCS voted to support.
  • A new law that states that a commercial motor vehicle would not have to be replaced, retired, or retrofitted for at least 13 years, but not more than 18 years (or 800,000 miles whichever is earlier).  It wouldn’t apply to any rule enacted prior to January 1, 2017, so it wouldn’t undue any of the requirements of the current CARB rule.  However, this is a preemptive effort to avoid a new CARB rule when the current one expires in 2023.

We note that in the final days leading up to the vote on the bill, environmentalists were working hard to remove these trucking concessions, arguing that “this dirty truck provision came out of nowhere” and “exempting trucks from clean air rules has no place in a package that’s about fixing roads and improving transit,” however, ultimately the final deal was passed with them included.

Because it included tax increases, the bill constitutionally required a 2/3’s vote of the Legislature.  While Democrats alone have a 2/3’s supermajority in both houses and could have passed it without a single Republican vote, a few Democrats ended up voting “no” and thus the deal relied upon a deciding “yes” vote from Republican Senator Anthony Cannella of Ceres.  For his vote, Senator Cannella purportedly secured a number of special bonuses for his district, including $400 million in transportation funds for the extension of the Altamont Corridor Express, a commuter rail line between the Bay Area and Central Valley.

Governor Brown is expected to sign SB 1 ASAP.  The tax increases would then go into effect on November 1, 2017.

CHP CLARIFIES NEW CELL PHONE PROHIBITIONS

cellphone

cellphone
Since California’s law prohibiting cell phone use while driving was amended last year with AB 1785, there has been some confusion about which devices towers are allowed to use while driving. The towing industry has worked with the CHP to help identify the parameters of Vehicle Code 23123.5. Accordingly, the CHP has notified their enforcement personnel, as well as updated their Highway Patrol Manual, about the following clarifications:

California’s cell phone law (Vehicle Code section 23123.5) prohibits the use of a wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device while driving, unless:
The device is mounted to a windshield, dashboard, or center console in a manner that does not interfere with the driver’s view of the road, and;
The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature with a single tap or swipe of the driver’s finger.

California’s cell phone law (Vehicle Code section 23123.5) applies to the following devices:
A handheld wireless telephone
A broadband personal communication device
A specialized mobile radio device
A handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access
A pager
A two-way messaging device

California’s cell phone law (Vehicle Code section 23123.5) does not apply to the following devices:
Manufacturer-installed systems which are “embedded in the vehicle”
A radio installed and mounted in a vehicle with a wired hand microphone (e.g. business band or citizen band [CB] radio)

As further history, California law prohibiting all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone originally went into effect on July 1, 2008. Originally the law provided an exception for those operating a commercial motor truck, including a tow truck, to use a two-way radio operated by a Push-to-Talk feature. However, that exemption expired effective July 1, 2011. The law was expanded effective January 1, 2009 to also make it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device while driving. The law was further expanded effective January 1, 2017 to address the use of GPS and other apps while driving, by requiring that all handheld wireless telephones or electronic wireless communications devices be: 1) mounted; and 2) the driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature with a single tap or swipe of the driver’s finger.