While Oro-Medonte Township misses out on fees, one local tow-truck operator says new regulations provide consumers with more rights
While some local municipalities may be feeling the financial pinch from sweeping changes to the towing industry in Ontario, the companies themselves say it's better for their business as well as the customer.
When Phase 3 of the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act (TSSEA) came into effect Jan. 1, 2024, existing municipal licensing programs for tow operators were superseded by provincial regulations.
With little choice in the matter, Oro-Medonte Township repealed its towing bylaw last week and Essa Township will likely follow suit and repeal its towing regulations next week.
“Municipalities no longer have authority for such a licensing regime,” said Lisa Lehr, manager of legislative services for Essa Township.
In addition to losing revenue, the township will have some administrative work to do, she said, including establishing a towing rotation with the OPP for collision towing services, establish and administer bylaws related to parking and towing from a parking lot, establish and administer bylaws related to fencing, signs and other physical requirements for storage compounds.
Lehr expects she will have to deal with an increase of complaints from motorists and tow companies.
“With passage of TSSEA, tow companies are not mandated to require their storage compound be located in the municipal boundary of which they operate,” she said. “As a result, you will see a significant increase in tow companies/vehicles/drivers towing between municipal boundaries.
“This could result in increased competition and tow trucks that 'chase' accidents to be the first to the scene to tow,” Lehr added.
The move will cost both townships revenue — about $20,000 annually in Oro-Medonte, and $11,000 annually in Essa.
According to Brandi Money, owner of Terry & Marsh’s Towing, which is a division of Abrams Towing, the new regulations have reduced the financial burden tow operators have previously experienced by having to have a licence in every municipality where they might work.
Under the previous rules, Oro-Medonte and Essa required a licensing fee for the tow company, a licensing fee per tow truck and a licensing fee per tow-truck driver.
“If I wanted to tow in Oro-Medonte and Essa, I would have to pay each municipality a fee for each part of the business,” Money said. “It was the only way I could legally work in those municipalities.”
Money says the new regulations are not only good for her pocketbook, they're good for consumers, too.
“The new regulations provide consumers with more rights,” she said.
Some of the new regulations include:
Every tow-truck operator and vehicle storage operator (company owner) must have a certificate to offer services in the province of Ontario. Every tow truck must clearly display their name and TSSEA certificate number on the truck. You have the right to see a copy of the certificate.
The vehicle owner has the right to decide who can tow their vehicle and to what location, unless otherwise directed by police.
Tow-truck drivers must obtain consent before they tow your vehicle. Without signed consent (a form allowing permission to tow) the tow operator cannot charge for towing services. Towing consent is not required for membership or roadside assistance type services.
Consumers must be provided with an invoice before requesting payment and a receipt upon payment. This is not required for membership or roadside assistance type services.
Rates cannot exceed the maximum rates published with the Ministry of Transportation.
Referrals to a business, facility or person can only be given if requested. Tow-truck drivers and operators must disclose any benefit they receive for providing referrals to a person, business or facility.
Multiple payment methods must be accepted (cash, cheque, credit card, debit).
Towed vehicles must be transported via the most direct route. The vehicle owner must be notified by the tow operator or tow-truck driver if taken to a different location from the one the vehicle owner specified.
Customers must be allowed to retrieve personal property from towed vehicles with no charge. Storage operators must allow authorized persons access to retrieve personal items from vehicles during business hours or prearranged times.
Tow operators must ensure every driver employed complies with TSSEA regulations and the Highway Traffic Act and its regulations.