Created on Friday, 02 July 2010
Tow truck drivers provide an essential service on our roads and highways. They are often the first to arrive at accident scenes, and are often the ones who contact police and emergency services.
Tow trucks are rarely far away and are available 24/7, regardless of weather and road conditions. Mechanical breakdowns, lock-out services and flat tires are some other services that they provide.
A colleague's 18 year-old daughter was traveling on Hwy. 404 recently, when she suddenly developed a flat tire.
She managed to steer the car safely to the shoulder. Never having had a flat before, she was understandably frightened and anxious.
This young woman called her father, who was too far away to provide any direct assistance. Within minutes, a passing tow truck driver stopped to offer help. He was polite, courteous and professional.
He assessed the situation and changed the woman's tire — and didn't charge her for his efforts. He was pleased to help a stranded motorist, and soon my colleague's daughter was on her way.
I've heard many Good Samaritan stories, where tow truck drivers have assisted stranded motorists. Unfortunately, I've heard horror stories, too.
Often tow drivers are independent contractors, who make their living by cruising our highways, looking for accidents. Some will attempt to "scoop" a vehicle from the scene by persuading drivers to sign waivers or consent forms, allowing the vehicle to be towed to a specific collision repair facility. Sometimes, the towing company has a vested interest in the "recommended" repair shop.
Or, an unscrupulous driver may even "sell" the job to a repair facility that pays the highest price for the captured vehicle. Fees for the driver are often based on a percentage of the repair estimate.
All industries and professions have their bad apples. It's unfortunate that a few unscrupulous drivers/operators tarnish the reputation of the vast majority who operate with honesty and integrity.
Tow truckers are regulated by the municipality they work in. Currently in Ontario, no central regulator has jurisdiction over rules, rates, licensing etc.
All motorists should choose a repair facility before they actually need one. It is important that you advise the tow company and driver where you want your vehicle taken. Remember, it's your vehicle, and therefore it's your choice where to have your vehicle repaired.
Your new-car dealer is trained and equipped to repair your vehicle properly with genuine replacement parts, matching paint, using necessary tools, etc. This will ensure that your vehicle continues to meet factory specifications and maintain its warranty coverage.
Most new and many certified used vehicles sold by new-car dealers carry roadside assistance coverage. This covers many of the services provided by tow trucks, and often includes collision towing services. All motorists should familiarize themselves with this benefit and how to contact their service provider.
I strongly recommend that in all cases of mechanical breakdown or a collision that makes your vehicle inoperable, your first calls should be to your dealer and roadside assistance provider.
Roadside assistance will arrange to have your vehicle towed to your franchised dealer, or to the closest franchised dealer representing your make of car, if you are far from home. If you lack roadside coverage, ensure that the tow driver understands your wishes.
The lesson here isn't so much about the goodwill of tow truck drivers or the wild west attitude of others. Rather, it's the general preparedness of motorists when auto accidents or mechanical malfunctions occur.
I salute the many dedicated tow truck drivers who patrol our roads and highways, seven days a week. Their work is physically demanding, highly competitive and necessary for the enhanced safety of today's busy highways.