MORAINE, Ohio (WDTN) - A change in the way Ohio interprets one law has led to a backlog of abandoned vehicles at many towing companies.
After most weekends Interstate 75 in the Miami Valley is dotted with broken down vehicles.
"A lot of these people don't know who to contact until after their garage or repair shop opens following the holiday," says Doug Thoma, co-owner of Sandy's Towing.
But sometimes that call is never made.
"People are not repairing vehicles as often," Thoma says. "If the value's down on them, they'll leave them sit on the side of the road or a side street."
That's when they end up in lots like those at Sandy's Towing.
Thoma estimates he has around 1,700 abandoned vehicles.
"We have multiple cars we've been sitting on for years," Thoma says.
If the vehicle is taken from the Interstate and the owner doesn't come forward, police will normally help the towing companies get the title.
Thoma says the process takes at least four months, but then they can sell the abandoned vehicle for scrap.
"That money we've always looked at as a big part of our income," Thoma says.
But Thoma says some of that income has dried up because now the company can't get titles for vehicles towed from private property like parking lots.
That means they have to store them.
He estimates he's sitting on about $700,000 worth of vehicles.
"It makes it very hard for us," Thoma says.
So 2 NEWS called Ohio's Bureau of Motor Vehicles to find out why.
They tell us it's because of a change in the way a state law is interpreted.
Before a towing company could contact the vehicle's owner and if they didn't claim it, the towing company could get the title.
But now only repair shops or storage places can do that.
"They now have to go through a court process to claim title to the car," says Joseph Andrews, a spokesperson with the Ohio Department of Public Services.
Andrews says he's not sure how long the court process could take and that it would likely depend on how busy the court is.
Andrews says the only other option for towing companies is to try to change the law.
Thoma fears many smaller tow companies will run out of space to store the vehicles.
"It's going to start pushing them out of business because they can't get rid of these vehicles," Thoma says.
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