The Ontario government plans to implement new rules governing how tow trucks can operate in the province to eliminate the practice of “accident chasing”, including a two-year pilot of restricted towing zones in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Based on a provincial task force's recommendations in 2020, the province will establish four tow zones in the GTA starting in the summer of 2021. Tow truck companies will require permission from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) or the government to operate within the four zones that will running along provincial highways, such as the 400, 401, and QEW. The move follows the OPP’s rollout of towing guidelines on highways in the GTA last February, outlining what tow truck drivers’ responsibilities are when responding to a towing request from the OPP or a motorist.
Additionally, the provincial government says it will table new legislation designed to enhance standards and improve safety. The province is also forming a new technical advisory group made up of representatives from towing companies, consumer advisory groups, car insurance companies, municipalities, and law enforcement organizations.
The overarching goal is to ensure consumers understand their rights when it comes to getting a tow, reduce violence between competing towing companies, and minimize the number of disputes between insurers and tow-truck operators in small-claims courts.
"Our government is taking action to make the towing industry safer through strengthened oversight and standards," said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation in Ontario, in a press release. "Ontario's towing industry is a vital service on our roads and highways every day, and these actions will help to improve safety for all drivers.”
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What are your rights when you need a tow?
Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act outlines your rights if you need to hire a tow truck. The government introduced rules to regulate tow trucks and vehicle storage services in 2017. Some of the requirements that tow truck operators must follow, including:
- Getting your permission to tow or store your vehicle and inform you where your vehicle will be towed.
- Giving an itemized invoice detailing the services they provide, and the total cost of those services before asking for payment.
- Accepting credit and debit card payments in addition to cash for services rendered.
- Providing you with their name and telephone number.
- Allowing you to access your vehicle if it’s towed to a storage lot to remove personal belongings at no charge between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on business days.
- Informing you if they are receiving a financial incentive to tow your vehicle to a specific storage facility or repair shop.
If you need to get your vehicle towed, here are a few tips:
- If you have a roadside assistance plan, use it to request a tow truck to where you are.
- Some large municipalities (like Brampton, Hamilton, Mississauga, Toronto and Windsor) licence tow trucks. Check for the municipal licence number on the truck before agreeing to be towed.
- You have the right to choose where your car is towed (unless it’s necessary to go to a collision reporting centre). It is a crime for a tow truck operator to recommend a body shop unless asked.
- Read carefully anything a tow truck driver asks you to sign.
- Call your car insurance provider. Your insurer may have preferred towing companies and vehicle repair shops to recommend. Moreover, your auto policy may cover the cost of a tow after an accident if you have optional collision or all-perils coverage. The mandatory Direct Compensation-Property Damage (DCPD) portion of your policy will pay for towing if you are not at fault for the accident.
- If you need a tow because your vehicle breaks down, you may be reimbursed up to $50 if your policy includes what’s known as a roadside assistance endorsement or Ontario Policy Change Form 35.