TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario government intends to change the way tow truck drivers and the towing industry are regulated.
Under the banners of consumer protection and auto insurance rate reduction, the government wants to introduce legislation that would include tow trucks under the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) system for the first time in the industry’s history.
The legislation would also require some changes to the ways the drivers and companies and storage operators interact with customers. While their prices and fees won’t be regulated, they would be required to:
Have permission from a consumer or someone acting on behalf of the consumer before charging for towing and storage services
Publicly post prices and other information, like the operator’s name and contact information
Accept credit card payments from consumers
Provide an itemized invoice listing the services provided and the total cost.
Doug Nelson, executive director of both the Provincial Towing Association, and the Ontario Recovery Group sees both good and bad in the government’s plans. While he is in favour of the province taking responsibility for regulating the industry, he strongly disagrees with the towing industry being subjected to CVOR rules.
“We’ve been working on this since 2008, and we believe regulation of the towing industry belongs to the province not the municipalities. Municipal licensing has been an expensive endeavour for those involved in towing in areas where there is municipal regulation, and sometimes caused some consumer abuse issues. We are very happy the government has finally taken the step to regulate the industry on a provincial basis rather than a municipal one.”
Nelson said the associations intend to let the government know they disagree with its stance on CVOR.
“We do not agree with that. We will contest that thought vigorously. The towing industry should not be under CVOR. It has not been under CVOR for many good reasons,” he told Truck News.
In making the announcement, the government cited a high accident incidents rate as one of the reason it is implementing the new regulations. According to its latest figures, in 2010, Ontario tow truck operators had a 19.7% collision rate, compared to only 1.1% for drivers of other commercial vehicles.
“We understand the accident record regarding tow trucks is a direct result of a lack of a proper incident management system in the GTA. The police continuously use a first-on-scene system. The tow operators listen to the radios, and they scan the airwaves. As soon as that call is put out, they race to the scene of the accident. That’s when they get themselves in trouble. There is a lot of work that has to go into this. Certainly incident management has to be one of the aspects of this to get it straightened around properly,” said Nelson, adding that, “incident management falls on the shoulders of the Ministry of Transportation. That’s where it belongs. The Ministry of Transportation are the people that own the highways.”
When asked how he would like to see incident management improved, Nelson mentioned Calgary and Florida. He said both jurisdictions have tow truck drivers patrolling set areas of the roadways (in Calgary it’s during rush hour, in Florida it’s around the clock on the major highways). When a motorist is in need of help, the driver responds and provides assistance (fills an empty gas tank, changes a flat tire, etc.). If the car needs to be moved, they tow it to a staging area, where the motorist can then make arrangement to have it towed to a repair shop. In Florida, Nelson said the federal government pays for the Road Ranger program, and in Calgary, the cost is also covered by government funding.
CVOR would mean daily vehicle inspections and drivers being limited by hours-of-service (HoS) limits. Nelson said those limits would be harmful to the industry.
“Certainly this winter has been a classic example, where the towing industry has been working very hard to satisfy the consumers who need help. It would be very detrimental, especially in rural Ontario, where an operator runs out of hours, and he can’t go out and service a customer that has broke down or in the snow ditch,” he explained.
“But hours of service would also have a detrimental effect on the larger tow truck companies in the GTA because most of the drivers in the bigger companies in the GTA use their trucks for work during the day, then they take them home with them, and if they run out of hours, they’re not going to be able to put in as many hours, because some of them could be going from central Toronto or downtown Toronto out to Whitby where they live. It becomes an issue.
“Certainly there is going to have to be a lot more discussion around CVOR. I think there are other ways to attack it. There are other ways to address those issues.”
At this point, the government’s plans are still in their infancy, and Nelson wants the industry to have a hand in their development.
“The regulations and the standards have not been drawn up yet. Obviously we would want to be involved in the drafting of the regulations and the standards. We are anxiously waiting for the next steps, which would be to develop the standards and the regulations.”
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