Ministry seeks feedback on towing, storage panel report

By CTAR Staff

Toronto, Ontario — August 3, 2015 — The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is encouraging the public and tow truck industry stakeholders to submit feedback on the ministry’s recommendations for the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014 (Bill 15).

In early 2015, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, along with the Ministry of Transportation, formed a 19-member towing and storage consultation panel consisting of municipal representatives, policing services, the insurance sector, and vehicle storage, towing, financing and leasing stakeholders. Alongside other key sectors, the panel set out to define recommendations that would help the government ministries implement the act.

Since its formation, the panel has conducted various stakeholder meetings, as well as five regional meetings in June, to gather additional feedback on its recommendations.

Commercial vehicle operator’s registration

The topics covered in the report include the definition of a tow truck, notably the function of the truck itself in addition to its overall safety, certification and capacity to effectively tow vehicles. The panel also discussed tow truck operators’ hours of service, recommending drivers should be exempt from standardized work days within 160 kilometres of their business, citing the industry’s difference in operating practices from other businesses.

The panel additionally touched on weight restrictions of vehicles, with the panel proposing that operators be subjected to adjusted weight limit restrictions to improve vehicle safety. Further, the panel believes a standardized training program highlighting the importance of safe towing practices, regulations and skills-based training would act as the foundation of basic service practices. Finally, the panel motioned for semi-annual inspections of towers by MTO officers, while operators must pull into truck inspection stations similarly to other commercial industries.

Towing and vehicle storage operator requirements

Touching on the second category, the ministry report recommends that tow trucks be clearly identifiable through the display of the towing business’ name, the company’s contact information and its license plate.

The panel also decided towers should carry minimum insurance covering general liability ($2 million), cargo liability ($50,000) and customer vehicle insurance ($100,000), consistent with Ontario municipal bylaws.

Record keeping requirements should additionally be harmonized across industry stakeholders to simplify record-keeping using itemized invoices.

Consumers’ rights

Bill 15 places a strong emphasis on the rights of motorists. To that end the panel discussed three topics: access to personal property, disclosure of towers’ related financial or personal interests and authorization for towing and services. Consumers must first authorize towing and storage services so that they’re aware of where their vehicle is being towed to. The panel also recommended that consumers be allowed to access their personal property during the storage facility’s business hours upon committing to pay service and storage charges. The vehicle owner would also have to give written permission to permit access to the vehicle.

Invoices and payments

The Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014 further proposes the introduction of invoices that include the towed vehicle’s make, model colour and year, date and time of services, location the vehicle was towed from and where it was towed to, information on the tow operator and the company, itemized services and costs, and an invoice number. The Act further requires operators to accept alternate forms of payment, notably credit card options in place of cash.

Fair Value

The panel’s recommendations note that services should be financially viable to consumers, towers, insurers and all other industry stakeholders while encouraging industry-wide competition. The report states this should include fixed costs, variable costs, indirect costs, direct costs and profit margins for both towing and storage facilities. Further, it notes that services will be safe and conducted by skilled operators, and that storage will be convenient, safe and secure.

Notice Period

Finally, Bill 15 motioned to reduce the amount of time storage companies can legally wait before notifying consumers where they vehicle is stored from 60 days to 15 days, which the panel agreed was critical. However, it also cautioned that it may be difficult to find the owners of certain vehicles who live either outside the province or outside Canada.

The deadline to submit feedback on the panel’s recommendations is August 12. Comments can be emailed to towingandstorage@ontario.ca, using the subject line “Towing and Vehicle Storage Consultation.”

To mail your feedback, comments can be sent to:

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Consumer Policy and Liaison Branch
777 Bay St., 5th floor
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2J3

To read the full report, or to submit feedback online to the Regulatory Registry, please visit ontariocanada.com.

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