Tony Caldwell / Postmedia Network
Several dozen tow truck drivers arrived at Ottawa City Hall to hold a protest on March 5, 2018.

Ottawa police wrote 148 tickets in 2017 under a city bylaw that targets aggressive tow truck drivers, adding to the hundreds of other violations recorded in the previous two years.

The city’s only enforcement tool against pushy tow operators is a bylaw provision that requires them to keep a 100-metre buffer from a crash scene, unless they’re called by motorists, police or insurance companies. The bylaw stops tow trucks from pulling right up to the banged-up vehicles to start selling their services.

According to statistics provided by the Ottawa Police Service, there have been 418 tickets between 2015 and 2017 under the tow-related provisions in the bylaw regulating traffic and parking. Police wrote 169 tickets in 2015 and 101 tickets in 2016. The police force said it’s too early in the year to provide 2018 statistics.

Of all the tickets over those three years, police wrote the most under a section of the bylaw that prohibits tow operators from offering services while being within 100 metres of a vehicle involved in a collision, specifically on a road. Police wrote most of the remaining tickets for tow operators within 100 metres of a collision or an “apparent” collision. A small number of tickets went to tow operators who were parked 100 metres from a collision, which is another subsection of the bylaw.

Last week, dozens of tow trucks rumbled down the highway from the Orléans police division to Ottawa city hall. The operators parked their rigs and emerged with placards demanding fair treatment by police. The operators claimed police are deferring to tow companies under contract with the Ottawa Police Service for run-of-the-mill tows, when customers should be free to choose who tows their disabled vehicles. Police declined to comment on the claims.

If nothing else, the demonstration illustrated the large number of tow companies in the capital and the competition for business.

The buffer-zone bylaw provisions are the only way the city enforces the tow industry. City bylaw staff looked into the idea of regulating the tow industry through a licensing regime, but decided against it last year after the province implemented new consumer-protection rules. Sixteen municipalities in Ontario license the tow industry. Instead, city staff committed to keep tabs on how the provincial regulations are working out and report to council in the next four-year term.

The province now requires tow operators to be up front about the cost of their services and accept credit cards as payment. Tow operators must get permission from the vehicle owner, or someone acting on the owner’s behalf, before towing or storing the vehicle.

Source: Ottawa Sun