After years of tormenting ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft, as well as their customers, with burdensome regulations designed to prop up area taxi cab companies, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is set to be dissolved later this year by an act of the Legislature. Founded in 1987, the Hillsborough PTC regulates ground transportation companies such as cabs and limousines, as well as overseeing tow-truck companies in the Tampa Bay area.
Now that the Hillsborough PTC’s days are numbered, some of its remaining proponents warn that consumers will lack the kinds of protections that apparently only the PTC can provide. A recent local news report honed in on the PTC’s oversight of tow-truck companies as an example.
Indeed, tow-truck company activities can and should be regulated by local and state authorities. However, it does not take an entire government agency to do just that. In fact, the PTC was the only such local transportation board in the entire state of Florida. Other counties delegate ground transportation, towing and other such oversight and regulation to police departments, consumer-protection bureaus and other departmental offices within county government.
In Miami-Dade County, for example, tow-truck companies are regulated by the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, which also enforces consumer-protection measures like maximum towing rates, background checks on tow-truck operators, vehicle-safety standards, insurance requirements and other protections and remedies established by the Miami-Dade County Commission for consumers who have been towed. Orange County, which includes Orlando, has a consumer fraud unit that deals with all sorts of consumer-related issues, ranging from house repairs and construction to towing grievances.
Many municipalities also enact their own regulations that either work in harmony with the county’s or add additional layers to them. Florida state law also establishes basic guidelines. While towing is an industry inherently prone to angry customers, Florida’s is a relatively stable market.
The Hillsborough County Commission is currently exploring ways to distribute the PTC’s regulatory responsibilities across existing county agencies. Tow-truck oversight, for example, is likely being transferred to the Sheriff’s Office. The commission is set to consider this and other staff recommendations related to the PTC’s impending dissolution at its next meeting Aug. 16.
Residents should praise the Legislature for dissolving an obsolete, unnecessary government agency that had been undermining competition and restricting transportation choice. However, county residents should remain vigilant of commission proceedings to ensure it preserves the rules and regulations the PTC enacted once upon a time—those that were reasonable and worked. This exercise should not used as an opportunity by local politicians, bureaucrats and entrenched interests to foist the kinds of unnecessary, burdensome regulations that led to the PTC’s dissolution in the first place.
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