Published on Friday, 14 October 2011
One of the most demanding and competitive facets of the automobile industry in Ontario is the towing industry. I have enormous respect and admiration for the vast majority of tow truck drivers and operators that provide an essential service on our roads and highways.
Unfortunately, the towing industry is currently unregulated at the provincial level. Individual tow truck drivers and operators are regulated by the municipality in which they operate, but no provincial regulator has jurisdiction over tow rates, licensing and business practices.
This lack of regulation has led to systemic abuses, where unscrupulous drivers and operators will take advantage of unsuspecting motorists. Some tow truck drivers routinely coerce motorists into signing waivers or consent forms at the accident scene, allowing vehicles to be towed to a repair facility where the tow operator has a vested interest.
In some cases, tow operators will sell a collision repair job to the highest bidder, earning healthy commissions or kickbacks. All too often, consumers wind up paying exorbitant towing and storage fees because they simply didn’t understand their options.
These deceptive business activities are legal in Ontario, but highly unethical. To address these abuses, Willowdale MPP David Zimmer introduced Bill 147, the Towing Industry Act, in December 2010. He introduced a similar bill in 2008. Both times, the bill received all party support but never made it far in the legislative process.
The Toronto Automobile Dealers Association supported Bill 147 and has long advocated for stricter regulation of the towing industry.
Although Bill 147 no longer exists (it was terminated when the Ontario Legislature recessed for provincial election), it’s my hope that the newly elected MPPs take a fresh look at this issue and attempt to regulate the towing industry.
Bill 147 was meant to standardize business practices, safety guidelines and licensing arrangements for all tow truck drivers and operators in Ontario. It also sought to establish pricing, safety and incident management initiatives and a towing industry council to administer an Ontario-wide registration system
Nobody wants to think about the possibility of being involved in a traffic accident, but motorists need to be prepared. They should be aware of their legal rights and options in case they have to make quick decisions following an accident.
The most important thing motorists can do is to empower themselves with the right information. Before collision repairs are needed, determine where you want your vehicle towed and which repair facility will perform the repairs.
I recommend instructing the tow operator at the scene to take your vehicle to your new car dealer, which is equipped to make collision and mechanical repairs to your make and model, so that your vehicle meets factory specifications and maintains warranty coverage. Dealer collision centres are competitively priced and have relationships with all major insurance companies.
Motorists should also familiarize themselves with roadside assistance programs provided by the manufacturers, which often include towing services. Most new vehicles and certified pre-owned vehicles carry a roadside assistance program.
Another part of being prepared is to consider enrolling with Renewit, a collision support service that provides assistance when you’ve had a collision or your car has been damaged.
Renewit (renewitnow.com) is a free service that provides a quick link to your chosen new car dealer, as well as real-time information on road closures, traffic alerts and public transit updates. It’s available as an app on Smartphones as well.
Tow trucks drivers and operators in Ontario do a great job of getting to collision scenes quickly and providing a valuable service for consumers.
But the towing industry in Ontario needs provincial regulation. I encourage readers and concerned citizens to urge their newly elected MPPs to put this issue back on the table