April 29, 2021 by Greg Meckbach
Ontario tow truck operators will be prohibited from stopping within 200 metres of motor vehicle accidents unless they are specifically asked to do so by people involved in the collision.
This is what will happen if Bill 282, the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, is passed into law.
The intent of the law is that if a tow truck operator approaches an accident scene, that tow truck is not allowed to stop within 200 metres unless a police officer or the client has called that towing company, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for Ontario.
Bill 282 passed second reading Wednesday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. As a result, the bill was referred to a legislature committee, which would normally hear from stakeholders and possibly recommend amendments before passing the bill into law.
It is omnibus legislation that proposes a plethora of changes to several existing laws, the Highway Traffic Act among them. Some of the problems the bill aims to address are stunt driving and motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians boarding and existing streetcars. Bill 282 would also create a brand new law called the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act (TSSEA).
“The TSSEA will, if passed, benefit Ontarians and legitimate tow and vehicle storage operators by increasing provincial oversight and transparency and providing support for legitimate towing operators, thereby mitigating behaviours such as fraudulent billing practices, collision chasing and high-pressure sales tactics,” said Nina Tangri, Progressive Conservative MPP for Mississauga-Streetsville, in the legislature Wednesday.
“It eliminates chasing,” IBC’s Karageorgos told Canadian Underwriter Thursday. “Right now, what we see are tow trucks racing to the scene and trying to be the first one there to hook that vehicle. A lot of the [dispute and fraud] problems arise from the fact that there is no protection at the scene of the collision.”
The draft legislation stipulates that “No tow driver’s certificate holder shall provide or offer to provide towing services, or park or stop a tow truck, on a highway within 200 metres of, (a) the scene of a collision or apparent collision; or (b) a motor vehicle involved in a collision.”
There is an exception for a towing operator responding to a collision “at the request of a police officer, inspector or person involved in the collision.”
For insurers, the restriction on approaching collision scenes, without being asked to do so by police or clients, is about who controls the vehicle immediately after a collision, said Karageorgos. “When you lose control of the vehicle, you don’t know where it ends up. It ends up costing time, money and frustration. Any step that starts with creating that control, of the scene of the collision, is a good first step.”
Right now, there is no provincial oversight of the towing industry, he added in an interview. Instead, various Ontario municipalities have their own bylaws.
“Rather than the patchwork system in place now that varies by municipality, this will improve consistency and, ultimately, standards across the industry. The act will also outright outline vehicle and equipment requirements for tow trucks,” Tangri told the legislature.
If passed into law, the TSSEA would include requirements to obtain consent before providing towing services or vehicle storage services, requirements respecting estimates and invoices, rules about amounts that may be charged for towing services or vehicle storage services and prohibitions on coercion and misrepresentation.
“The bill is really enabling legislation. A lot of the details will be worked out in the regulations. It’s a good start,” said Karageorgos.
“Unfortunately, as much as there’s a lot of great tow truck drivers out there — and they serve a very, very valuable purpose to our community — there have been some who have unscrupulously taken advantage of people, and unfortunately some criminal activity associated with some of that. This bill will bring in regulations to certify that industry to make it more accountable and, I think, safer for the folks in Ontario,” Oakville MPP Stephen Crawford said Wednesday in the legislature during debate on second reading.
The TSSEA will require certification for tow operators, tow truck operators and vehicle storage operators, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said during debate on second reading.
“Legitimate tow and storage operators will benefit from the creation of a level playing field with clear requirements, consistency of standards across municipal boundaries, and a reduction in intimidation and other unfair practices currently being employed by bad actors in the sector,” said Tangri.
The TSSEA will include penalties for towing operators who fail to meet the standards, and could also address auto insurance fraud, she added.
“The high cost of auto insurance is something that has been an issue in this province for years and certainly is something I’ve heard about often from my community. Insurance fraud significantly affects premiums for all motorists. By combatting insurance fraud, we’ll reduce costs to providers—savings which in turn can be passed back to Ontarians.”
Feature image via iStock.com/stacey_newman