Safe Clear Changes Tighten Tow Truck Driver Requirements

New, tighter restrictions on who can get a permit to be a Safe Clear tow truck driver are now in place. The updated rules come two weeks after a speeding Safe Clear driver with an extensive criminal history crashed into an elderly couple, killing them both. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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The stricter guidelines have already resulted in suspended permits for 16 Safe Clear drivers and include more oversight of the appeal process that apparently allowed Sergio Gonzalez to get a permit despite felony drug and assault convictions. Gonzalez was denied a permit in 2005, but was later given one by a lower-level clerk. Mayor Bill White says the new rules will help prevent that in the future.

"The of these changes is to apply the standard very strictly. Not to say there will never be an exception in any case, but I think based on this guidance and the guidance that the chief has directed and the level of review, this will implement certainly what we intended."

Under the new guidelines, a retired assistant police chief will serve as the hearing officer at wrecker permit appeals and the city will enforce rules that prevent drivers with criminal records from being a part of Safe Clear.

"Anybody can show-up and claim, well they made a mistake in the past but they're not making them today. That's why you have bright-line standards. That's why you have some rules and we shouldn't have a rule if most of the people are going to be able to appeal from the determination. We ought to change the rule if that's the case to prevent appeals."

Gonzalez was not responding to a Safe Clear call when the accident occured. There are 383 drivers who are part of the Safe Clear program, which began in January.

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