Tow truck association warns of ‘chaos’ following PC’s approach to new industry regulations

By Alan S. Hale August 9, 2021

The Provincial Towing Association of Ontario says the province’s hardline approach to implementing new regulations on Ontario’s towing industry is fueling frustration among operators.

The organization, which represents more than 50 tow truck operators in the Greater Toronto Area and 177 provincewide, has already withdrawn support for the province’s pilot project to create exclusive towing zones on GTA highways as a strategy to end violent turf wars, accident chasing and other abusive behaviour in the industry.

The two-year tow zone pilot was announced by Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in March. At the time, they said it would be up and running this summer once towing firms were selected for the four highways involved in the pilot via a competitive bidding process.

While Mulroney’s office indicated the ministry still plans to move ahead with the pilot, backlash from the towing industry appears to have slowed its progress.

PTAO president Mark Graves said his organization has backed away from the pilot because its requirements to operate in the zones are flawed and the contracting process has been mismanaged by the province.

“There’s zero guarantee of payment, but there’s a liability to get the work done on time,” he noted in a phone interview. “In the contract, there is also a section that says you have to have years of experience and training, but there’s no regulation across North America for training, so there’s no way to verify it if you put it as a requirement in a contract.”

The towing association says some angry operators may take longer to clear away accidents as a way of making a point about the strategy’s ineffectiveness.

“There’s certainly a chance for some pushback should they choose to go in their own direction,” said Graves. “There would be chaos on the roads if they don’t get cleared quickly, there is potential for secondary accidents, additional liability for the Crown, and the economic impact could be huge. If the clearance times are affected because of the way they’re treating the towing industry, the economic impact could be devastating.”

This reaction runs counter to what the PCs hoped to achieve by enacting tow zones. In March, Mulroney told reporters the changes would “put an end to the violence and criminal activity” while ensuring highway accidents are cleared quickly,

Meanwhile, Graves said the province and its newly formed towing advisory group — tasked with hammering out regulations promised in this spring’s Bill 282, Moving Ontarians More Safely (MOMS) Act — refuses to heed input from the PTAO.

“It’s all completely predescribed. There’s no time for discussions on different directions or anything. It seems like they’ve already got the solution plotted, and they just want to walk us through it, and get information that supports their pre-determined solution,” said Graves.

“We want regulation … The industry is looking to better itself through a proper licensing model, and we want to work with the government to make sure it is implemented successfully.” The MOMS Act lays out provisions that will require tow truck drivers to obtain a certificate, but they have yet to be rolled out.

On June 3 — the day the law received royal assent — tow truck drivers held a rolling protest against the MOMS Act around Queen’s Park then stalled traffic on the Gardiner, Don Valley Parkway and Highway 401 throughout the day.

Advisory committee member backs province’s pilot
Canadian Towing Association president Doug Nelson, a member of the advisory committee, offered a different perspective on why the PTAO’s input is not having much sway.

“Maybe it’s not effective input,” quipped Nelson in an interview with Queen’s Park Today.

Nelson and his organization are strongly in favour of the towing regulations contained in Bill 282 after pushing unsuccessfully for such legislation for more than a decade. He said drastic reforms are needed for an industry in which honest business owners are being pushed out by “thugs.”

“It’s just awful; the shootings, the fire bombings and burning trucks. Why would anyone want to get into this industry?” said Nelson. “Consumers and insurance companies are getting abused something terrible, and it just has to end.”

Documents obtained by Queen’s Park Today show the province’s Request For Bids on the tow zone contracts was amended several times to specify requirements surrounding truck operators’ tools, training, the number of trucks on patrol and more.

Mulroney’s office said such addendums to an RFP are “routine,” and the province is still looking for bidders.

“We want to ensure the pilot’s success,” said her spokesperson Natasha Tremblay.

Tremblay did not respond to the PTAO’s criticisms about the consultations but promised the province would “continue to consult extensively with stakeholders, including the towing sector.”

A government website still says the pilot will begin “in summer 2021.”