Queensland’s Tow-truck Licencing Legislation: Parliamentary Committee Reports

Monday 9 October 2017 @ 10.57 a.m. | Crime | Trade & Commerce

The Tow Truck and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (Qld) (the Bill) was introduced into the Parliament in August 2017 and then referred, under Standing Order 131, to the Public Works and Utilities Committee (the Committee) for detailed consideration. The committee has reported, as required, by 5 October 2017, recommending generally the the Bill should be passed.

About the Bill

The Bill implements all of the recommendations of the investigation into the towing industry conducted under the former District Court Judge Michael Forde established in response to complaints of " . . . rogue towing operations ripping-off Queenslanders, . . ”. According to the Minister in a Media Release:

“This Bill will regulate private property towing, as well as ensuring all drivers are accredited, trucks licensed and importantly fees will be capped."

In the Minister's view, one of the biggest issues to come out of the Forde investigation was the excessive fees charged by the alleged "rogue operators". The Bill would make Queensland, according to the Minister, ". . . the first state in the country to cap fees for towing from private carparks". Under the Bill, fees are be capped at $150 if the vehicle is released onsite and $250 for a standard tow from private carparks, including three days storage – with additional storage fees to be capped at $25 per day. The amount of $348 is to remain the cap for crash towing.

The key reforms proposed by the Bill are:

  • to amend the Tow Truck Act 1973 (Qld) and the Tow Truck Regulation 2009 (Qld) to:
    • address issues regarding private property towing by, among other things, requiring that private property towing may only be performed in regulated areas by drivers and assistants who have the necessary certificates and are using licensed tow trucks; 
    • increase penalties for operating an unlicensed tow truck and operating, or being employed in connection with, a tow truck without a driver or assistant certificate; 
    • set maximum towing charges for private property towing; and 
    • require towing operators to have towing consent evidencing an arrangement with the occupier to remove vehicles from the property 
  • to amend the State Penalties Enforcement Act 1999 (Qld) and the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) to ensure young drivers aged 17 years continue to be accountable for their driving behaviour: 
    • by ensuring they are subject to mandatory disqualification periods for serious driving offences, 
    • liable to enforcement action by State Penalties Enforcement Registry for unpaid penalty infringement notices for demerit point offences, and 
    • subject to the demerit point scheme, and
  • to amend the Transport Infrastructure Act 1994 (Qld) to provide toll road operators and local government tollway operators with the flexibility to issue a single demand notice for multiple unpaid tolls and associated image processing fees, with one administration charge applied to the notice.

The Committee's Findings

Other than the general recommendation that the Bill be passed the Committee made one other recommendation, namely that:

". . . the Minister consider amending Clause 31 of the Tow Truck and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 to "require" toll road operators to issue one aggregated demand notice, with only one administration fee, for multiple deferred toll amounts accumulated over a number of days."

Clause 31 of the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section 99(2) of the Transport Infrastructure Act 1994 (Qld) which provides:

"The notice may be given for 1 or more deferred toll amounts but may only include 1 administration charge."

The recommendation arose from the committee's consideration of the concern raised that the Bill's proposed amendments allowed, but did not "require", a toll road operator to issue a single demand notice for multiple unpaid tolls with a single administration fee.

Response to the Changes

The changes which bring potential tow-truck drivers in line with bus drivers, whose entire criminal history, including historical offences, is scrutinised has met with approval. However, other changes under the Bill giving authorities tough new powers to raid tow-truck holding yards without a warrant as part of an investigation into an incident. These entry powers have been opposed by the Queensland Law Society, who are reported as arguing the powers were “. . . far broader than police powers of entry, without evidence of the overriding privacy concerns”. In its submission to Parliament the Society stated that:

“There is the potential for this power to be abused by investigating officers, . . . ”

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