Tow trucks are motor carriers for the purpose of 49 U.S.C. §14501(c), which preempts state or local regulation of motor carriers transporting property. That law provides various exceptions permitting the regulation of safety, insurance coverage, price for nonconsensual tows, or requirements for property owner presence when the tow occurs. Not addressed in this scheme is the authority to regulate the disposal of towed vehicles. The Supreme Court has now ruled that such regulation is not preempted under federal law. In doing so the court limited the scope of preemption under 49 U.S.C. §14501(c) to the regulation of activities of the motor carrier while it has property in transit. The court found that transportation ended in this case once the car was delivered to the impound yard. Once that occurred the state was free to regulate the towing company’s activities, including how it disposed of the vehicle.
The case is Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc., v. Pelky and you can read the full opinion here.