Dennis Roberts, the owner of TransCan Service Centre, a Blind River, Ont.-based heavy tow operator, has a warning for the trucking industry. Good luck getting a tow after hours, he says, thanks to a potential unintended consequence of Ontario’s Bill 15, which will require tow truck operators to operate under CVOR rules.
The Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014, has received final assent and the public comment period ended Oct. 31. It aims to reduce fraud among tow truck operators but buried in the Act is a requirement that all tow operators in the province be governed by the CVOR. The problem, Dennis told me, is that in rural parts of the province especially, tow operators respond to after-hours calls after they’ve already put in a full day’s work.
Soon, they’ll have to comply with hours-of-service rules just like any long-haul truck driver. Because the majority of calls come in during the day, Dennis said it’s not practical to keep a tow truck driver on-call at night – there simply isn’t enough work to justify a dedicated nighttime tow driver.
“The problem is, I’m in rural Ontario and in our areas – basically, anywhere outside urban areas – most of us respond to breakdowns and OPP requests for tows after hours, after we’ve already put in a day’s worth of work,” Dennis explained. “If they bring us into the CVOR, we’ll be obligated to follow the same hours-of-service as long-haul truckers, which means now you’ve got a huge area of Ontario that is no longer going to have service for tow vehicles after 10 at night because we’ll all be out of our hours-of-service.”
The other issue is that heavy tow trucks will face the same weight restrictions as other vehicles within their class, Dennis explained. Currently, tow trucks are not required to pull through the scales. Because of how they’re configured – and especially for heavy tow trucks with their accessorial equipment – these trucks are almost always overweight on one or more axle. It’s just the nature of the business and it has always been ignored.
Dennis worries today’s trucks will no longer be permitted to do the job required of them.
“By the very nature of the design of a tow truck it will be impossible for them to do their job (under current axle weight limits),” Dennis said. “There are a lot of the bigger heavy tow trucks with rotators and stuff like that, where they really only have 5,000-10,000 lbs of capacity left to do the towing; all their weight capacity is taken up by the unit itself. They will technically be illegal.”
Dennis wants to see more awareness raised about the impending changes in hopes the trucking industry will help appeal for common sense and push for some exemptions.
“What are the trucking companies going to do when they have 15 trucks blocked and they can’t move because an accident has closed the highway and nobody can respond to that accident?” Dennis reasoned. “Who is going to look after these accidents when Hwy. 17 or Hwy. 11 is shut down? I’ve talked to my local municipal government, I’ve talked to the OPP and MTO officers at the weigh scale and my fleet customers – nobody is even aware of this.”
Well, now you are. I will be looking into the issue in more detail but it seems that this is another example of an unintended consequence from some non-trucking piece of legislation that could potentially have a very big impact on the trucking industry.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies