Chapter 9.10


9.10.010    Intent.

9.10.020    Definitions.

9.10.030    Registration required.

9.10.040    Application for tow operator registration.

9.10.050    Proof of insurance.

9.10.060    Registration suspension and revocation.

9.10.070    Suspension, revocation – Hearings and appeals.

9.10.080    Compliance with laws, rules and regulations.

9.10.090    Secure storage facility.

9.10.100    Towers authorized for police impounds.

9.10.110    Drivers.

9.10.120    Soliciting business.

9.10.125    Tow operators performing private impounds – Requirements.

9.10.130    Fees charged by tow operator for police-initiated impounds.

9.10.140    No vested right to do police-initiated impounds.

9.10.150    Violation – Penalty.

9.10.010 Intent.

The City of Spokane Valley (hereafter referred to as “the City”) declares that the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed an exercise of power of the City to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Therefore, the intent of this chapter is that all persons performing police-initiated impounds within the corporate limits of the City as hereinafter defined shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 04-001 § 1, 2004).

9.10.020 Definitions.

In construing the provisions of this chapter, except where otherwise plainly declared or clearly apparent from the context, words used in this chapter shall be given their common and ordinary meanings and, in addition, the following definitions shall apply:

A. “Chief of police” means the chief of police of the City of Spokane Valley, or his/her designee.

B. “City” means the City of Spokane Valley.

C. “City-authorized tower” means a towing service having a valid and current registration filed with the City authorizing the furnishing of police-initiated impounds.

D. “Impound” means the taking of a vehicle into legal custody, pursuant to law.

E. “Police” means any authorized agent of the City of Spokane Valley police department or other law enforcement agency having jurisdiction.

F. “Police department” means the City of Spokane Valley police department.

G. “Police-initiated impound” means the vehicle has been impounded at the direction of a police officer of the City. Police-initiated impounds do not include impounds ordered for evidentiary purposes by the Spokane County sheriff’s department.

H. “Private impound” means the vehicle has been impounded at the direction of a person having control or possession of the private property upon which the vehicle was located. This chapter is not intended to cover private impounds.

I. “Registered tow truck operator” means any person who engages in the impounding, transporting, or storage of unauthorized vehicles or the disposal of abandoned vehicles. (RCW 46.55.010(6))

J. “Tow truck” means a vehicle designed or intended to tow vehicles which are disabled by mechanical failure or physical damage or are being impounded pursuant to law. (Ord. 04-001 § 2, 2004).

9.10.030 Registration required.

It is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, for any person, corporation, partnership, joint venture or other business entity to perform police-initiated impounds within the corporate limits of the City without having a valid and current tow operator registration with the City. Such a registration shall not be transferable. Upon a sale or transfer of the towing business, a new registration with authorization must be obtained as provided in this chapter. The registration required by this chapter is in addition to a general business license required by this state, and the regulations established in this chapter are supplemental to the registration requirements of the state of Washington. (Ord. 04-001 § 3, 2004).

9.10.040 Application for tow operator registration.

Application to become a City-authorized tower must be made in writing on an application form furnished by the police department, and must be filed with the chief of police. The application shall include complete information concerning the ownership of the business, the number and type of vehicles to be operated, the name under which the applicant intends to operate, the legal form of the business entity operating the business, the office address of the towing business, the address of any storage facilities, the name and address of the person in charge of the business, plus any additional information reasonably required by the chief of police. The applicant shall also furnish with the application a current registration certificate from the Washington State Department of Licensing pursuant to RCW 46.55.020 as adopted or hereafter amended, and a current letter of appointment from the equipment and standards review section of the Washington State Patrol. The chief of police shall determine whether all requirements have been met and information furnished as required by the provisions of this chapter. All equipment, master log, files and any other paperwork used in the towing business for police-initiated impounds shall be available for inspection by the police department during reasonable business hours. (Ord. 04-001 § 4, 2004).

9.10.050 Proof of insurance.

A certificate of insurance must be filed with the chief of police at the time the application is filed. Insurance coverage shall be in the minimum limits of $1,000,000 per vehicle combined single limits for bodily injury and property damage liability per occurrence, on hook coverage of not less than $50,000, and $50,000 of garage keeper’s coverage for vehicles in the custody of the operator until they are redeemed or sold. The certificate of insurance shall indicate the operator’s extent of coverage, limits and the expiration date of said policy. Such insurance as is required in this chapter shall be maintained in full force and effect for the full period to be covered by the tow business registration applied for. Applicant shall submit a certificate of insurance to the City at the time of registration application indicating compliance with the insurance requirements set forth herein and naming the City as an additional insured on the insurance coverage. The insurer shall be obliged to give not less than 30 days’ written notice to the City before any cancellation or termination of the policy earlier than its expiration date. Cancellation of or failure to maintain the insurance automatically cancels the operator’s registration. (Ord. 04-001 § 5, 2004).

9.10.060 Registration suspension and revocation.

A tow operator’s registration with the City shall be suspended or revoked if the tow operator does any of the following:

A. Operates or permits the operation of a tow truck by a driver the tow operator knows or reasonably should have known does not have a valid driver’s license required by state law for tow operators, or whose required license has been suspended or revoked;

B. Fails to maintain in full force and effect the insurance required in this chapter;

C. Fails to comply with the requirements of this chapter;

D. Authorizes any person to drive a tow truck that is not equipped as required by this chapter or state law, as currently enacted or hereafter amended;

E. Falsifies any information on the application, or information required to be kept or submitted to the City by this chapter;

F. Allows the registration certificate issued by the Department of Licensing to lapse, or if such certificate is suspended or revoked;

G. Knowingly operated or permitted the operation of the tow truck while the driver is using or is in possession of alcohol or controlled substances during its operation;

H. Engaged in unfair methods of competition and/or unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the operation of a tow business. (Ord. 04-001 § 6, 2004).

9.10.070 Suspension, revocation – Hearings and appeals.

A. “Suspension” of a registration means that the City-authorized tower’s privilege to perform police-initiated impounds is barred for a specific period of time within the City. A suspended registration may be reinstated upon the lapse of a specified period of time or by correcting the deficiencies.

B. “Revocation” of a registration means that the registration has been canceled. A City-authorized tower whose registration has been revoked cannot have his/her registration reinstated, but must comply with all conditions of revocation including reapplying for a new registration.

C. When the chief of police obtains information from which he/she believes a violation of this chapter has occurred, the chief of police shall provide the City-authorized tower with a notice of proposed suspension/revocation which shall provide notification to the tower that a hearing will be held on whether to revoke or suspend the registration at a time or date determined by the chief of police. The notice of proposed suspension/revocation will be sent to the tower at the address listed on the application. It is the City-authorized tower’s duty to keep the address information on the application current at all times. In the event the tower fails to attend the hearing, the registration will automatically be revoked/suspended. Any revocation/suspension will not be effective until the chief of police makes a determination following the hearing.

D. The chief of police will conduct the hearing pursuant to the provisions of the tow operator hearing rules, as currently adopted or hereafter amended. If such hearing rules are not currently adopted, the chief of police shall draft and adopt hearing rules forthwith. The chief of police shall determine if the City-authorized tower’s registration should be suspended or revoked, and determine the conditions of reinstatement, if any, on a suspension.

E. Notwithstanding subsections C and D of this section, a registration suspension/revocation shall become effective immediately without the benefit of any presuspension/revocation hearing when the chief of police determines that any of the following has occurred:

1. The operator has failed to maintain in full force and effect the insurance required in this chapter;

2. The operator has allowed the registration certificate from the Washington State Department of Licensing to lapse;

3. If such registration certificate from the Washington State Department of Licensing is suspended or revoked;

4. The registrar has operated or permitted the operation of a tow truck for police-initiated impounds by an unlicensed driver or by a driver whose license has been suspended or revoked.

F. Upon revocation/suspension of any registration issued pursuant to this chapter, or the denial of any registration regulated by this chapter, an appeal may be filed in Spokane County superior court within 21 days of final agency action.

It is unlawful for any person whose registration has been revoked or suspended to keep the registration issued to him/her in his/her possession or under his control, and the same shall immediately be surrendered to the chief of police. When revoked, the registration shall be canceled, and when suspended, the chief of police shall retain the same during the period of suspension. (Ord. 04-001 § 7, 2004).

9.10.080 Compliance with laws, rules and regulations.

All City-authorized towers shall operate their towing business and conduct their police-initiated impound operations in accordance with all applicable laws of the state and all applicable rules and regulations of the Washington State Department of Licensing and the Washington State Patrol. Specifically, all registered business owners/licensees shall comply with Chapter 46.55 RCW, Chapter 308-61 WAC, and the State Patrol fee schedule, all as currently adopted or hereafter amended. (Ord. 04-001 § 8, 2004).

9.10.090 Secure storage facility.

All City-authorized towers performing police-initiated impounds shall maintain a building that the business occupies, either continuously or at regular times, where tow business books and records are kept and towing business is transacted.

All towing businesses performing police-initiated impounds shall maintain a secure storage facility approved by the Washington State Patrol for the purpose of securely storing towed vehicles. The storage facility must be located within the City limits of Spokane Valley to ensure convenience to City residents in the retrieval of vehicles impounded at the direction of the police department. The place of business and storage facility shall comply with all applicable state laws and regulations.

All vehicles impounded within the City as police-initiated impounds shall be placed within the storage facility of the towing business performing the impound, and shall remain within the storage facility until disposal or duly authorized order for release of the vehicle. (Ord. 04-001 § 9, 2004).

9.10.100 Towers authorized for police impounds.

A. The police department is authorized to establish and maintain a list of City-authorized towers that qualify for police-initiated impounds. City-authorized towers who meet all of the following criteria shall qualify for police impounds and be put on the police tow list:

1. Meet all other requirements for registration under this chapter;

2. Possess a current letter of appointment from the Washington State Patrol for Zone 2;

3. Pay the annual registration fee. This fee shall be set by resolution of the city council. The registration shall expire on December 31st of the year for which the license was issued and there shall be no prorating of the license fee. The registration fee is a cost-recovery mechanism for contract administration; and

The police tow list shall be reviewed at least annually to determine if each tower listed thereon still possesses a current letter of appointment. City-authorized towers qualified for police impounds shall be rated class A registered tow operators.

B. Class A List.

1. The list of qualified class A registered towing businesses kept pursuant to this chapter shall be used in connection with police-initiated impounds within the City.

2. When a person makes a request to the police department or police dispatcher for towing services when the vehicle is not subject to police-initiated impound, the request shall be treated as a nonpreference matter and the request shall be referred to a qualified class A registered tow operator in the same manner as if the police were requesting the towing service pursuant to a police-initiated impound.

C. All referrals under subsection B of this section shall be distributed on a rotation basis among qualified class A City-authorized towers.

D. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to preclude any person from requesting the services of a towing business of their choice, unless, in the opinion of the police department, accommodating such request would result in undue delay or the maintenance of a hazardous situation or condition.

E. Class A City-authorized towers shall observe the following practices and procedures when engaged in police-initiated impounds:

1. When called by the police department, the tow business will dispatch a tow truck within five minutes and be moving within 10 minutes during normal business hours;

2. Tow trucks dispatched at the request of the police department after normal business hours will be on the move within 20 minutes after receiving the call;

3. The tow truck that is dispatched will arrive at the stated location within 30 minutes;

4. If for any reason a City-authorized tower is unable to dispatch a tow truck within the stated time or if the dispatched truck will be delayed for any reason, the operator shall so advise the police department stating the reason and estimated time of arrival. In the event the tow truck fails to arrive at the scene within a reasonable time, the police department will contact another tow operator to respond to the scene and will cancel the original tow;

5. A City-authorized tower on rotation who is unable to dispatch or arrive within the times stated in subsections (E)(1), (2), (3) and (4) of this section will forfeit his turn and be placed at the bottom of the rotation list as if he had responded;

6. Consistent refusal or failure of the class A registered tow operator to respond to calls from the police department for towing services may result in the removal from the list of qualified class A City-authorized towers;

7. The City-authorized tower shall advise the police department when the tow company is temporarily unavailable to respond to rotational calls with a class A, B or C tow truck. Unavailability may occur due to conditions such as, but not limited to, other tow truck commitments, tow truck disabled and/or under repair, unforeseen driver shortage due to illness, etc. The period of unavailability may last less than an hour or much longer. The tow operator will give the reason for unavailability and approximately when the company will be available to respond to calls;

The tow company will be removed from the rotational list and will not be called until the operator advises the police department that the company is once again able to respond to calls with an A, B or C class truck. In all such cases, the tow company will resume its normal position on the rotational list without regard to any missed calls or its position prior to being unavailable;

8. The tow operator will advise the police department whenever a private call is received for tow with circumstances that indicate that the tow is for a vehicle which has been involved in an accident on the public roadway. The tow operator also will advise the police department of all private calls to motor vehicle accidents on private property resulting in bodily injury or death;

9. The tow operator will notify the police department before moving any vehicle involved in an accident on a public highway or street under the jurisdiction of the police department or where it appears that the driver of the vehicle to be moved is under the influence of intoxicants or drugs, or is otherwise incapacitated;

10. When the police department is in charge of an accident scene or other such incident, a tow operator shall not respond to the scene unless his services have been specifically requested by the police department, the driver/owner, or his agent;

11. The tow operator shall be available, or will ensure that specific employees are available, 24 hours a day for the purpose of receiving calls or arranging for the release of vehicles. This does not require the tow operator to maintain a staffed facility 24 hours a day, only to have staff available to receive calls 24 hours a day. Business hours will be posted conspicuously at the operator’s place of business so they can be seen during business hours and nonbusiness hours;

12. The operator shall post a current copy of tow and storage rates arising from police-initiated impounds in the following locations:

a. At the entrance to the place of business, in a conspicuous location, plainly visible and readable by members of the public, whether the business is open or closed. If, in order to meet this requirement, the rate sheet must be placed in a location exposed to the elements, it shall be protected so as to remain legible;

b. Inside the business location, where business is commonly transacted. The rate sheets shall be posted in such manner as to be clearly and plainly visible and readable at all times by customers of the business;

c. A copy of the current rates will be sent to the police department. Notice of any change(s) in service rates will be forwarded to the police department at least 10 days before the effective date of the change(s);

d. In the event that an operator has only a class B truck and utilizes it for class A and B type tows, the operator shall file a rate sheet that specifies the rates charged for the different types of tows.

Whenever any operator utilizes a larger truck than the towed vehicle warrants, the operator shall charge fees based on the size of the towed vehicle, not the size of the truck used. Example: A class C truck is used, at the operator’s discretion, to tow a class B truck size vehicle. The fees charged shall be those for a class B, not a class C;

13. Unless other arrangements are made with commissioned police personnel at the scene, all vehicles impounded by order of the police department shall be taken to the tow operator’s nearest approved storage location within the City;

14. The tow operator will maintain, for three years, records on towed and released vehicles that were towed at the request of the police department. This record will include, but is not to be limited to:

a. An itemized receipt of all charges for the services provided;

b. An inventory sheet or copy thereof made out by the police officer at the scene of the tow and signed by the operator;

c. All other records required by the police department.

Such records will be available for inspection by the police department during normal business hours at the operator’s place of business;

15. The tow operator will sign an inventory sheet made out by the police officer at the scene. The tow operator shall obtain from the officer, and the officer shall provide, a signed authorization for the impound as required by RCW 46.55.080(2);

16. Tow operators shall perform towing tasks competently according to a reasonable standard of care within the towing industry;

17. No City-authorized tower, employee or agent shall misappropriate, wrongfully convert to his/her own use, or abuse property belonging to another and entrusted to his/her care or storage;

18. Tow truck operators will use emergency lights to warn other motorists only when at the scene of accidents, disabled vehicles and/or recoveries. Such lighting shall not be used when traveling to or from the scene;

19. Tow truck operators shall be responsible for cleaning accident/incident scenes of all vehicle glass and debris;

20. Specific operating restrictions and/or requirements, by truck class, are as follows:

a. The standard air brake release tools (caging stud assemblies) required to be carried in the class Band C trucks shall be used, whenever necessary, to preserve potential evidence involving brake equipment or adjustment settings.

When a tow truck operator is attempting to move a vehicle equipped with locked spring parking brakes that cannot be released by external air supply, the caging assemblies shall be used to release the brake tension. Under no circumstances shall the towed vehicle’s brake assemblies or adjustments be moved or disturbed in any way that will prevent later determination of the pre-accident or incident settings.

b. Class B trucks in excess of 23,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating need not carry dollies when towing or recovering heavy vehicles.

c. Class D, E and S trucks shall not be used to respond to initial calls unless specifically authorized by police personnel at the scene or by local written policy approved by the chief of police.

d. Class E trucks shall:

i. When used for multiple vehicle towing/recovery (one on bed, one in tow), all invoice charges shall be evenly divided between the vehicles so transported;

ii. Not be operated in excess of either gross vehicle weight rating or purchased tonnage weight limits;

iii. Be required to carry its portable lights only when used in a towing mode;

21. Whenever a special event or overflow storage lot is approved by the police department, the City-authorized tower shall maintain personnel at the lot 24 hours per day for security and vehicle and/or personal property release. If necessary, reimbursement for such labor shall be part of the contract for the special event, if appropriate, or by amended storage rates with a waiver of the 10-day rate change notice requirement approved by the police department.

At the conclusion of a special event or overflow situation, all vehicles not reclaimed by the owner shall be towed to the City-authorized tower’s regular storage facility and processed in the normal fashion. No additional fee shall be charged for towing the vehicle from the overflow lot to the regular facility;

22. All work performed by the operator and/or employee shall be in the most professional and expeditious manner. All invoices and other required forms shall be completed accurately and promptly.

F. Records kept on City of Spokane Valley police-initiated impounds shall be available for inspection by the police department during normal business hours. (Ord. 04-001 § 10, 2004).

9.10.110 Drivers.

All drivers must be a least 18 years of age, possess a valid Washington operator’s license with the proper class of commercial driver’s license where required, and be able to demonstrate that he/she is covered by the insurance policy of the towing business specified in SVMC 9.10.050. (Ord. 04-001 § 11, 2004).

9.10.120 Soliciting business.

It is unlawful for any person to drive or operate a tow truck on any public street or way open to the public for the purpose of soliciting business, without having been called to the location of an accident, disabled vehicle, or impound by the owner or operator of the vehicle, his authorized agent or the police. (Ord. 04-001 § 12, 2004).

9.10.125 Tow operators performing private impounds – Requirements.

Any tow truck operator impounding a vehicle from private property is required to notify the City police department and wait for clearance to proceed prior to impounding an abandoned motor vehicle. Impoundment of stolen vehicles is only authorized by law enforcement. In the event that the reported stolen vehicle subsequently requires impoundment, the reporting/posted tow company shall receive the tow. Towing operators shall otherwise comply with all towing and impoundment provisions in Chapter 46.55 RCW. (Ord. 13-019 § 1, 2013).

9.10.130 Fees charged by tow operator for police-initiated impounds.

The schedule of maximum fees shall conform to, and not be more than, the schedule of maximum fees then in effect by the Washington State Patrol. The schedule of maximum fees may be adjusted periodically by the police chief to conform to any adjustments made by the Washington State Patrol to its schedule of maximum fees.

Any class A licensee shall not exceed the fees of such schedule for services rendered at the request of the police department or its dispatcher. Charging fees in excess of those specified in the fee schedule, or charging for services not actually rendered, may result in suspension from the list of class A City-authorized towers. Private impound fees are set by the tow operator and recorded with the Department of Licensing in accordance with Washington State Patrol guidelines, and are not intended to be covered by this chapter. (Ord. 04-001 § 13, 2004).

9.10.140 No vested right to do police-initiated impounds.

It is the intent of this chapter to establish certain requirements for tow businesses authorized to do police-initiated impounds, but not to vest any specific rights to do police-initiated impounds or other police-requested towing services. (Ord. 04-001 § 14, 2004).

9.10.150 Violation – Penalty.

A. Civil Infractions. Any person violating or failing to comply with any provision of this chapter shall be subject to a Class 1 civil infraction pursuant to Chapter 7.80 RCW.

B. Suspension/Revocation. Any violation of the provisions of this chapter may be grounds for suspension or revocation of a tow operator’s registration with the City pursuant to this chapter.

C. Provisions Nonexclusive. Penalty and enforcement provisions provided in this chapter are not exclusive, and the City may pursue any remedy or relief it deems appropriate. (Ord. 13-019 § 2, 2013; Ord. 04-001 § 15, 2004).