TORONTO, Ont. — Tow truck operators in Ontario had to ring in 2017 with a certificate. A CVOR certificate, to be exact.
Effective Jan. 1, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) specified that all tow truck operators are required to have a valid CVOR certificate to operate in the province legally.
This comes as no surprise to many operators, who heard of the news of Ontario’s Bill 15 passing at the end of 2014. In the bill, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) and the MTO outlined that tow truck operators will have to operate under CVOR rules. Just like other vehicles governed by a CVOR, now the ministry has the authority to monitor the safety performance of all tow truck companies.
Back in 2014, these were all just words on a page, but now as 2017 begins, many operators are understanding what following CVOR rules really means.
“So far, it’s been relatively painless,” admitted Dennis Roberts, owner of TransCan Service Centre in Blind River, Ont., when asked about the new CVOR rules he and his towing company have to abide by this year.
Roberts said TransCan applied for a CVOR certificate just over a year ago and not much has changed since then.
“For the most part, the CVOR itself was not the issue,” he explained. “Most companies – especially larger ones – already had their CVOR for general haulage. The only real issue that remains to be worked out is the issue of hours-of-service and whether or not (tow truck drivers) are going to have to enter the scales when the lights go on.”
Roberts said the issues of hours-of-service and scales highlight why tow truck companies have been excused from having CVOR certificates in the past.
Roberts said he believes towing is too unpredictable to be required to comply with hours-of-service rules.
“Towing is not really an over-the-road trucking operation, where things are scheduled,” he said. “You could get six tows in a row some days and then nothing for a whole day. Or it could be, you get one tow in the morning and then another at 10 p.m. So, it’s not scheduled and that’s where the problem lies – how do you manage a driver’s hours-of-service when you have no idea when they’re going to be working?”
He added the situation gets even more complicated for tow companies like his, which are based in rural areas.
“Most of the urban areas, there is enough work to have staff on-hand 24/7,” he said. “But where I am, it’s the opposite. We just don’t have the work to justify full-time staff for 24/7 operations. Where I am, I’m the only place in one hour in one direction and 40 minutes the other direction that has a heavy wrecker. If it’s Friday and I’m out of hours and there’s an accident, what are you going to do?”
He also brought up the issue of truck inspection stations.
“It’s more of a public safety concern than anything else,” he said. “Reason being is, if you’re on an OPP or law enforcement request call, how are we supposed to let the officers at the scales know, ‘Hey, I can’t stop because I’m on my way to an accident?’”
Roberts brings up valid points that the MTO isn’t ignoring.
For now, Bob Nichols, the senior media liaison officer at the MTO, said that tow truck operators and drivers are exempt from hours-of-service rules, as well as inspection requirements and entering truck inspection stations.
“The MTO will continue to consult with members of the towing industry as we develop the next phase of regulations that will include specific rules for operators, drivers and vehicles,” Nichols told Truck News. “Through these consultations, we will balance the operational concerns of the towing industry while continuing to fulfill our road safety mandate.”
Consulting with the MTO on the new phase of regulations is the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario.
The association’s executive director, Douglas Nelson, said that through talking with the MTO about the issues Roberts brings up, he believes that the department isn’t going to force hours-of-service rules on the towing industry.
“It would have a detrimental effect on incident management,” Nelson said of imposing hours-of-service rules onto the towing industry. “There’s no doubt about that. Because I can concur, unless you’re running a 24-hour operation, it’s hard to put fellows out after hours, to respond when they’ve already met their hours for the day. Hours-of-service is something we’ve discussed with the ministry and they’ve given us an exception right now as they study the situation. But I feel comfortable that the ministry isn’t going to force hours-of-service on the industry.”
He added that he agrees with Roberts when it comes to tow trucks entering inspection stations, too.
“What happens when you’re transporting back the vehicle owner in the truck with you? Sometimes you’ll have a husband and wife, sometimes there’s kids and then you have to go into the weigh scales. What do the drivers and operators do with these customers? It’s a safety issue, especially when there’s kids around,” he said.
However, Nelson said he does agree with the ministry that the industry should be subjected to CVOR rules.
“In general, it’s not a bad thing,” he said. “It’s not going to cause problems for the tow operators that are doing things right. For the most part it won’t affect the towing industry.”
Roberts agreed, but stressed his concern about the possibility of having to stop at inspection stations and pending HoS requirements.
“I understand the impetus behind getting us into the CVOR (program) so there can be some sort of monitoring and regulation within the industry. But the issues of hours-of-service and inspection stations are going to be a real thorn in the side of everybody if they’re not exempted,” Roberts said.
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