tow truck toronto

Ontario police announce new rules for notoriously corrupt and violent tow truck industry

If you haven't been closely following Toronto's tow truck industry drama... well, I don't blame you, because it's been messy, drawn-out, and has involved torched vehiclesshootingspolice corruption and even murder.

The ongoing turf wars have gotten progressively more violent in recent years, conspicuous and complicated, leading Ontario Provincial Police to finally formulate some stringent new regulations for the sector, which they just announced on Tuesday.

To be able to perform police-requested tows, tow and storage service operators will now be vetted through an annual application process that includes licensing, ownership and registration checks for vehicles, a criminal background check for drivers and more.

Operators will need to be green lit by a local commander to make the cut of approved partners, and can be booted from the list at any time.

There is also a list of new guidelines — one of which is, notably, a ban on parking trucks "on ramps, highways, or prohibited areas located on the controlled access portions of provincial highways."

On the police end, a company can only be called once per shift, and all tow requests will be documented to avoid the past incidences of preferential treatment among members of the highly competitive and territorial industry.

This is all in an effort to "enhance public safety and help mitigate the increase in criminality in Ontario's towing industry," the force says in a release, as recent incidents have gotten completely out of hand and put the public at risk.

An Ontario judge recently decried the "internecine violence" and corruption in the GTA towing game and called for better regulations in the wake of an investigation that led to hundreds of organized crime-related charges against towers that York Regional Police said were "in relation to violence, property damage, fraud and drug trafficking."

"The GTA has been the scene of violence between rival tow truck companies who have been fighting over financial profits from the towing of vehicles and, the most significant source of profit, the frauds following the initial tow," YRP continued in a statement on their 2020 joint-forces probe into the towing scene.

"The competition for control of the towing market has resulted in murders, attempted murders, assaults, arsons, threats and property damage."

Cities like Ottawa are vowing to oversee the sector with a closer eye; a new municipal licensing system is now on the table in the capital, on top of existing bylaws, such as one that bans operators from being within 100 metres of a collision unless they were specifically called.

Meanwhile, the provincial government is taking new actions based on the findings of a task force it launched last year, starting with a tow zone pilot program that will limit certain stretches of highway to only certain tow providers.

Towers must submit their applications to their local OPP detachment as part of the new directives by Nov. 1.

Unfortunately, the new rules appear to only apply to tows that are ordered by OPP officers, and not ones ordered privately by customers, which are often collision tows that have led to fraud, fierce competition and "accident chasing."

Lead photo by

Matt Chesin

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