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updated: 9/3/2013 2:38 PM

Naperville may remove limit on towing licenses

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The number of companies that can be licensed to haul cars away after Naperville police respond to wrecks may increase if councilmen approve a towing policy that's set for a vote Tuesday.

The proposed policy update would remove the cap that limits available towing licenses at 11 and would change the licensing process from yearly to every other year, Police Chief Robert Marshall said.

Licensed towing companies are placed on a rotation to receive calls when the police department needs a vehicle removed in all situations, including seizures resulting from drug cases, vehicles caught violating parking restrictions or cars disabled after accidents, Marshall said.

In an annual review of the policy, which some say was sparked by a couple of towing companies complaining after they missed the previous application deadline, Marshall said police could not find any "good business reason" to retain the cap on available licenses.

"As long as they're qualified and they meet our licensing requirements, why should we exclude a number of tow companies?" Marshall said.

During a city council review of the proposed policy update last month, seven tow truck operators or towing company owners spoke against allowing an unlimited number of licenses.

"If the limit is removed, costs will go up," said George Gabris of Classic Towing, which he described as "a small mom-and-pop business started 25 years ago in Naperville."

"Eventually large, out-of-town firms will be the only companies that survive in Naperville," he said. "Small shops like mine will be driven out of business."

While companies currently licensed to tow for Naperville police think offering unlimited licenses would be bad for business, Marshall said police hear a different tune from companies without a license.

"Tow companies not currently licensed with the city argue in favor of the expansion of the licensing system, indicating that such an expansion would benefit their business," he wrote in a memo to councilmen.

Removing the cap is not meant to favor or harm any certain company, but to allow the market to decide how many towing firms will work for Naperville police, Marshall said.

Within the past 10 years, the most companies to apply for one round of licenses was 14, so police would not expect a dramatic increase in the number of applicants.

The proposed policy update leaves unchanged regulations that require companies to have a vehicle storage yard within a mile and a half of city limits, an operator on duty 24 hours a day and at least two tow trucks and drivers available at all times.

City staff members say the storage yard requirement will serve to limit the number of additional companies that could apply for towing licenses, as there is not a lot of space in industrial areas suitable for such facilities.

Councilmen did not deliberate the issue much after hearing from tow truck operators at a meeting last month, but some said they planned to sit down with licensees before it comes up for a vote at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 in the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.

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