The towing professionals raising the profile of the industry
In this inaugural issue of Canadian Professional, the magazine has highlighted the work of towing professionals across Canada. From association leaders to operators who have helped raise awareness about the dangers faced by recovery professionals, the common theme among these figures isn’t just that they are all at the top of their game. The individuals included on this list are all working to improve the towing game for everyone.
Ron Cowie has played a leading role in keeping Vancouver’s commuters moving ahead. In charge of a family business founded in 1976, Cowie has ensured that the Mundie’s fleet is among the best equipped in the country.
With service across much of mainland B.C.’s south, Mundie’s offers an enormous array of services that urban commuters— whether or not they recognize it—rely on every day. Without Cowie’s work ensuring that it is there to tow the passenger vehicles, buses and semis, the metropolitan area would not be able to function properly.
Jamie Davis Towing and Recovery
A founding member and past chair of the Western Canadian Automotive Business Association, and Jamie Davis Towing and Recovery in Hope, British Columbia.
David is perhaps best known to non-tow pros for his work on television. He established himself as a leader in the B.C. and within the broader Canadian towing community long before his work on the Discovery Channel hit Highway Through Hell. Beyond his work in the industry and on the screen, the Towing Hall-of-Famer is known for his work raising awareness about the Slow Down Move Over campaign.
United Towing Services
An executive board member in the Western Canada Automotive Business Association, Garry Leach founded his business with just a tow truck and a dream.
Six years later, the company’s fleet had grown to 55 tow trucks. It also became the first-ever towing company to go under contract with Manitoba Public Insurance.
While still in his twenties, Leach served as the president of the Manitoba Automotive Trades Association’s towing director and as president. It was in that role that Leach became heavily involved in the drafting of Manitoba’s towing regulations. Today, Leach’s business has expanded into Alberta, where it is now based, and British Columbia, making it a primary towing partner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police over much of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Outside of his work in business, Leach is a supporter of many community organizations and festivals. He has even served as the president of the Bow Valley Crime Stoppers Association. Despite being a Canadian, Leach received the American Towman Silver Star from the American Towman Show in 2014.
Edmonton tow operator
A young father operating out of Alberta, Finnegan almost died when a transport truck hit his tow truck during a recovery, throwing him more than 12 metres.. While Finnegan’s injuries, which included a punctured spleen, cracked ribs and an arm broken in two places, might have been enough to keep him down for a few weeks, it did not stop him from speaking out about tow truck drivers’ well-being. In an interview with Fort Sask Online, Finnegan helped the general public put a human face on towing professional. “A tow truck operator shouldn’t have to look at his truck before his shift and ask himself ‘is this the day I go home?’ And that’s what it comes down to.”
Tagg’s Extreme Towing & Boosting
After a car crashed into his winch line, Geoff Tagg, the owner of Tagg’s Extreme Towing & Boosting in Red Deer, became an advocate for tow safety. Now calling for the adoption of blue emergency lighting on tow trucks. He has spoken to newspapers about the dangers faced by towing professionals, and used interviews to ask drivers to remember that—in his words—“We just want people to slow down and take it easy, obey the law or pull over. We want to get home, too. We have families. We want to get home but we are out there, putting our lives on the line to help other people.” An early adopter of 24/7 service, Tagg’s Extreme Towing & Boosting has a reputation built on getting drivers home safely, and feeling respected.
Tagg’s customer service talents have earned the business many five-star reviews.
“Jeff was excellent. Courteous, prompt service what more can you ask for from a towing company. Followed up after and made it as seamless as possible. I am really impressed.”
Using social media to share the more whimsical moments of life in the towing sector, and to prompt conversations about best practices in the industry, Saskatoon’s Chris Kosty is a prolific towing community builder.
Through posts on a number of industry-related Facebook pages, Kosty has managed to start raise serious, thought-provoking conversations about everything from back-up alarms, to difficult customers and charging disputes.
What makes Kosty’s work stand out—aside from his biting wit—is his willingness to discuss the moments most people won’t. In Kosty’s case, humility usually comes in the form of amusing anecdotes about his “smart-ass” getting him into trouble with outraged dimwits.
While these stories always have humour, they also have serious messages as well. One post, in which Kosty describes a court case between a speeding driver and a towing pro whose chain ostensibly damaged the speeder’s car, Kosty ends with a gut punch. “I have to wonder why the court is even taking this seriously, or of our lives really do not matter to them. I have asked my friend to allow me to sit in on future court cases because I would really like to know what the judge says.”
His work has gained him a following outside of the industry as well. In January, the CBC covered a story about his good Samaritan approach to a woman whose day could not have gotten any worse.
Low Cost Towing
As the president co-owner of Low Cost Towing in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, George Remple is known for his commitment to the business and to the towing community through his public support for new, safer lighting for tow vehicles.
With yearly temperatures varying between 40 and -40 centigrade, the Remples have managed to turn inhospitable working conditions into a blue ocean space in the towing market. Online, the Low Cost team is praised for its commitment to customer service.
“Best service I’ve ever had in my life! Always there when you need them thanks so much low cost towing you save my life,” wrote one delighted customer on the business’s web page. It isn’t just customers who have noticed the excellent service provided at the business. In 2016, Cindy and her husband George Remple were awarded the CAA Saskatchewan Roadside Assistance Award and Excellence.
What sets Remple’s customer service work apart is his ability to quickly react to challenges. On March 21, as the coronavirus pandemic touched down in Canada, Remple’s skills came into clear focus.
As nervous business owners across Canada released confusing mixed messages to customers, Remple wrote just one concise note. In it, he explained the new procedures that customers would follow in order to collect vehicles during the pandemic.
“We are trying to take every precaution as a business to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you are trying to get a vehicle released from impound, or collect items from your vehicle please call and we will try to accommodate this but please understand the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is our priority.”
Dr Hook’s Towing
Owner of Dr. Hook’s Towing in Winnipeg, Roscoe has been involved in the auto recovery sector for more than four decades. Founding his business in the 1970s, Roscoe has transformed it from a ten-person operation running six trucks into one with close to 100 fleet vehicles, and 125 employees.
Roscoe’s success, he credits to three things. First, his focus on equipment investments allowed the business to establish a reputation for reliability—and earned the company a contract with Winnipeg’s government! Second, Dr. Hook was an early adopter of new approaches to the towing business, including computerized dispatching and 24/7 service. Third, he splits his duties with his wife, Julie, who leaves him to the day-to-day operations while she handles administration and accounting.
The vice president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario, Derek Didone has played a major role in efforts to raise the profile of the towing sector in Ontario and accross Canada. The son of industry legend Derek Didone Sr., Didone’s involvement in the towing industry began when he was 14, and served as a dispatcher. After moving through the ranks of County Towing, he took on a leadership, now serving as its vice president. In 2014, he was named a Towman of Recognition, and was elected to serve on the PTAO board.
As a business leader, Didone serves as the owner of County Towing, to focus on strategic growth.
With 18 highly trained staff members operating 25 fleet vehicles, the business has long provided light, medium and heavy duty towing and recovery services. Didone has also worked to diversify the businesses offerings, by offering services relied on by governmental organizations in Essex County. In fact, County Towing and Coxon provides traffic management services, manages hazardous materials transportation, and even employs a dedicated emergency response team coordinator.
In 2018, County Towing purchased Coxon’s Towing in Windsor, a Canadian city directly south of Detroit.
Since taking on his leadership role, County Towing and Coxon has moved towards environmentally friendly business practices. The business uses eco-friendly materials when available.
For the past 30 years, Larry Bartlett has been one of Northern Ontario’s leading voices on issues related to the towing and recovery sector. A lifeling member of the towing and recovery community, he founded his company, Bartlett’s Towing, in 1988.
A prolific blogger, Bartlett has urged fellow towing and recovery professionals to invest in upgrading equipment and providing up-to-date training for staff. He also played a pivotal developing new procedures to keep on-ice rescues on Lake Nipissing, one of the most unpredictable bodies of water in the world, safe for operators. These practices were used in the recovery of a truck that had fallen through Lake Nipissing’s ice sheet, and dropped more than 30 meters below the surface.
He is also something of an industry pioneer, and is credited with establishing four-wheel drive off-road recoveries, bringing the first tilt and load into the North Bay-Nipissing region. A committed environmentalist, Bartlett has established his business as a leader in deep-water recoveries.
A long-standing member of the ORG and PTAO,Vandenheuvel is also involved in several charitable organizations. Beyond the towing sector, she is a professional child and youth worker, and recently purchased a building to serve as affordable, safe-housing units for homeless youth. Along with Gary Vandenheuvel, Tammy Vandenheuval founded Preferred Towing in Sarnia, Ontario in 1991. Over the next three decades, she has played a key role in building up the businesses fleet, taking it from just one light-duty wrecker to a 16-strong fleet of light, medium and heavy-duty wreckers, tractors, floats, rolloffs and disposal bins.
Andrew Vink is a long-standing member of the ORG, the Quebec Towing Association (APDQ), and is a current board member of the PTAO.
A trained paramedic, Vink did not always imagine taking a leading role in towing and recovery sector. As the grandson of industry legend Herb Vink Sr., Vink was one of six directors of Herb’s Towing. In the 2000s, he became involved in efforts to revive Herb’s Towing’s Cornwall, Ontario division. At the brink of collapse then, the Cornwall division has grown to employ 15 industry professionals.
Terry & Marsh’s
PTAO board member Barry Money has been a member of the PTAO since 2005, and has previously served on the board of directors for the organization. He has also been involved with several other industry associatons. As a business leader, Money owns Terry & Marsh’s in Barrie, Ontario. Since taking over, the business has grown to service all of Simcoe County.
John Paul Cruz
JP Towing Service and Storage
PTAO board member John Paul Cruz began his career in the towing and recovery industry in the early 1980s. He aims to unite towers across Canada in order to improve the level of safe and reliable service provided to customers and the public. He previously served as the vice president of the PTAO.
Within the industry, Cruz is determined to raise awareness of the need for formal training and professional standards within the towing and recovery industry.
As the founder of JP Towing Service & Storage, Cruz has grown his business from a single-wrecker operation to one of Ontario’s most recognized brands.Cruz credits this success to his entrepreneurial candor, which allowed him to build strong relationships without sacrificing customer service.
Previously the president and CEO of the global association for business analysis – International Institute of Business Analysis, PTAO CEO Stephen Ashworth is business executive who has brought an outside perspective to the work of the PTAO. Beyond his career, Ashworth has written articles covering governance, change management and strategic leadership.
Pine Ridge Services
Mark Graves is the president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario. A long term member actively involved in the organization’s efforts to solve shared problems facing towing professionals, Graves was named the Towman of the Year award in 2017. Beyond his involvement in PTAO, Graves is also a board member for the Ontario Recovery Group.
Joanne Graves, Mark Graves founded Pine Ridge Services in 1998. Since then, the business has grown beyond its Thessalon, Ontario base of operations, operating a satellite office in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Pine Ridge Services provides light, medium and heavy towing, floating services, traffic control first response, and environmental remediation services.
Anna Godbout is a member of PTAO in a leadership position at Godbout Towing in Kelowna, Ontario. When the Godbout family started the company in the 1980s, it had just two light-duty trucks. Today, Godbout Towing has since grown into one of the most respected and largest towing companies in Northwestern Ontario. The Godbout name and numberhas become a known household in the area around Kenora, Ontario.
Godbout has played a big role in bringing Godbout Towing beyond its work on highway recoveries. Today, the business work closely with private organizations and governmental groups to manage abandon and illegally parked vehicles, tow impounded and seized vehicles, as well as perform off-road recoveries.The business has received praise for its safe management of high-stakes recoveries.
Godbout has established emergency procedure for recovering even loaded transport trucks from lakes. With the Lakes around Kelowna flowing into the Great Lakes, it is difficult to overestimate the significance of Godbout’s work protecting the environment.
Industry veteran Sal Fidele is a board member for the PTAO. He has served on the board of the PTAO since 2013. His work in the towing sector began in Mississagua in the 1980s. In 2000, he founded ABC Towing, which operates across Oakville and Burlington. While, in its first few years of operation, the company only offered light-duty towing, by 2003 it began to offer heavy towing recovery and float services.
TransCan Service Centre
Dennis Roberts is a PTAO board member, member of the Roadside Responders Association of Nova Scotia (RRA), a past member of the Towing and Recovery Alliance of Canada (TRAC), and of the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO), and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Roberts has been a licensed automotive and heavy truck technician for more than 30 years. As the owner of TransCan Service Centre in Blind River, Ontario, Dennis’s business a leading towing provider to the Blind River area and Highway 17 corridor between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
Waterloo towing professional
One evening, Pinheiro heard that one of his friends in the police was involved in an active firefight between police and a man in a vehicle Pinheiro got behind the wheel of his tow truck. He then drove into the attacker’s car, giving police enough time to nab the shooter.
“I knew exactly what I had to do – I had to make sure that it came to an end without anybody getting hurt or killed.” It later emerged that the shooter had been behind the killing of a stranger with a crossbow.
Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin honoured Pinheiro for his actions.
Towing Hall of Famer Joseph Gagne has served as a president of PTAO on two occasions, and in a number of roles on its board. A noted industry advocate, Gagne has served as the acting press officer of the Ontario towing sector for more than a decade— responding to more than 30 media requests for comment from towing industry professionals.
On the national level, Gagne worked with Parliamentarians to redraft a bill related to industry regulations.
As a business leader, he has taken his business from a one man operation in 1983 to being Canada’s largest towing and recovery service provider.
Beyond his work in the industry, Gagne supports a number of causes, including the Ontario March of Dimes, the Toronto Police Crime Stoppers, Sick Kids Hospital, Children’s Wish Foundation, Toronto Food Bank, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Association.
As the president of the Association des Professionnels du Dépannage du Québec (APDQ), Rejean Breton works to raised the profile of the towing sector in Quebec.
He took over the position in 2004, following the death of the founding president, Raymond Outlette.
Under his tenure, Breton has help build-up the strength of the association membership list by focusing on delivering high-quality platforms for discussions.
In 2015, Breton authored a new list of goals to guide the organization, which the membership approved without dissent. The move occurred just after Quebec implemented a move over law—a first of its kind in Canada.
Last year’s Salon Provencial, the APDQ’s annual conference, brought more towing professionals together than ever before.
The treasurer of the APDQ, Quebec’s towing professional association, Pierre Laberge is the president of the Laberge Group, which provides towing and roadside assistance services in Toronto, Montreal and Lachine.
While APDQ’s funding comes, in part, from membership dues, the majority of its finances are collected through three fundraising events: the Raymond Ouellet Golf Open, the Elegance Contest ab=nd Technical Demonstrations of APDQ tow trucks and the Annual Congress and its National APDQ Salon Roadside Assistance. In his work as treasurer, Laberge has helped to keep the APDQ’s operations running efficiently, allowing the 25-year-old association to spread its message effectively.
Jean Paul Larouche
Since 1979, the Larouche Remorquage team has provided Quebecers with the towing services they need to operate in the province’s merciless climate.
Under the leadership of Jean Paul Larouche, who took over the company at the turn-of-the-century, the business has grown immensely, from operating a 10 vehicle fleet, to a 30 vehicle fleet. Honoured by the AllState Performers Club on several occasions, the business is also loved by consumers.
Online, it isn’t just that the company is praised for its efficiency and customer service, but for its work ensuring that no customer is left upset.
“Following an email that I sent to the company and which explains the problem, the team contacted me. They took the problem seriously… Congratulations to Larouche.”
In 1994, Mario Mayer founded a small towing business in Blainville, Quebec. A quarter-of-a-century later, Mayer’s business has grown to occupy a 50,000 square-foot facility, one of Canada’s leading providers of non-standard transportation. Outside of his work as a business leader, Mayer is also the current secretary of the APDQ. A position he was elected to by members.
Andrew Aker, a co-owner of Capital Towing, located just outside Fredericton, has become the face of the Slow Down, Move Over campaign in the province.
Pursuing the issue in the press, Aker has urged both Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments to amend move over laws to include tow truck operators.
As a business leader, Aker been praised online for his caring approach to roadside recoveries. In fact, Capital Towing has long maintained a five-star rating in its online reviews on Facebook— and not because of a lack of reviews!
Chris Doucet Repairs, Nova Scotia
Towing professional Chris Doucet frequently works with local RCMP detachments to provide the police with vital assistance in its investigations. In March, his assistance on a Cape St Mary’s, N.S. crime scene made national headlines. With his assistance in an underwater recovery , the RCMP were able to establish that no one had been harmed in the making of a video showing a vehicle plunging into the Atlantic.
The president of the Roadside Responders of Nova Scotia, Paul Beaton has long volunteered his time for the betterment of the Atlantic towing community.
Beyond his work with the RRNS, Beaton runs Beaton’s Towing, which was founded by his parents in 1964. Located in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, the business performs operations in and around Halifax. In 2016, it received a consumer’s choice award, and was declared the best Towing Services in Halifax.
Ruggles Towing and Recovery
Karen Ruggles serves as a board member for the Roadside Responders of Nova Scotia, and is a noted advocate for women in the towing sector.
The daughter of industry legend Ralph Ruggles, who founded Ruggles Towing and Recovery in 1959, she was very familiar with the towing sect by the time Ruggles trained as a tow truck operator 1991.
Since taking command of the business, she has established its reputation as a market-leader in providing flat bed services for specialty vehicles and towing heavy duty vehicles.