Greg Graves stands in front of a truck parked outside his business.

Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network
The province is mandating new regulations for tow truck operators in the new year which will force businesses to follow new guidelines. The new regulations will be a welcome change for Greg Graves of Graves Towing who has seen his fair share of shady business practices.

The days of cash-only towing bills or towing companies holding impounded cars hostage have gone the way of leaded gas.

Greg Graves of Graves Towing said the only companies negatively affected by the province’s new Bill 15, Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act that comes into effect Jan.1, will be the cowboys.

“For the regular, established towing companies, it’s no problem at all. But for the chasers, it’s a different story,” Graves said.

Graves said some of the new stipulations in the Bill – such as mandating customers have access to their impounded cars between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. – are just good customer service.

“Even on Christmas Day, if we want to be here or not, we still come in to let them in,” Greg said.

He said he knows of several businesses that won’t allow people access to their own car after 3 p.m.

“While I’m not crazy about extra regulations by people who don’t know the business, there are some things in there that are common sense,” he said.

Barrie was one of 16 municipalities across the province that collaborated with the provincial government to renew towing regulations, said Barrie’s manager of enforcement services, Tammy Banting.

“Generally, I believe these changes (now province wide) will assist the consumers and the industry to ensure processes and information is provided in a similar manner throughout the province,” she said.

Banting said Barrie already requires tow-truck businesses to provide an itemized invoice, detailing the list and cost of services.

“The city of Barrie has always required, under our licensing bylaw, that tow-truck companies submit a list of rates and advise the consumer of such rates,” said Banting.

She did note the only change to the city’s licensing process is the current motor vehicle safety certificate, which will be replaced by province’s commercial vehicle operator registration in January.

“Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America,” Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said in a press release on Monday.

“By including tow-truck operators in the province’s commercial vehicle operator’s registration program, we are improving road safety and are ensuring that we are effectively monitoring and overseeing operators.”

With approximately 3,000 tow-truck drivers working out of 1,200 Ontario towing businesses, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services says it created Bill 15 to strengthen consumer protection after a collision occurs.

“Our government is committed to protecting consumers at home and in the marketplace,’ said Minister Marie-France Lalonde in the release.

“Consumers in need of a tow or roadside assistance in Ontario can have confidence that the tow truck service helping them will do the work safely and will deal with them in an honest and fair way. Our new rules will help drivers make informed decisions when getting their vehicle towed.”

Lalonde said the new Bill will first and foremost ensure tow-truck companies have permission from the consumer – or someone acting on their behalf – before towing or storing a vehicle.

The tow company must publicly disclose its rates, and display its name and telephone number on the trucks as well as at their places of business.

Truck drivers must now accept credit cards and not insist on cash-only payments. And the Bill states customers must be notified where their cars will be towed to, and must be allowed to remove personal items from their vehicles on business days.

In Barrie, the Barrie Police Service undergoes a tendering process for police towing requirements, said Barrie police board chairman, Jim Dickie.

“These contracts usually are set for two years plus one option year,” Dickie said.

Through a private tender application, Graves Towing has been awarded the police services’ towing contract by the police services board for the past several years.

Source: The Barrie Examiner