There are changes afoot in Ontario for drivers stranded at the side of the road and in need of a tow.
With millions of drivers in Ontario (about 9 million), there's bound to be bumps in the road daily. Some will get involved in a collision, some will run into engine problems, while others will get a flat tire. Many people will need help by way of a tow.
- Related Read: 5 Times When You’re More Likely To Get In A Car Accident
According to the province, there are approximately 1,200 towing and vehicle storage businesses in Ontario, and some 3,000 tow truck drivers. Most are there to help. But, the actions of a few, claims the province, have forced the government's hand and created a need for new rules and regulations.
- Related Read: Steer Clear Of Tickets—New Ontario Rules Of The Road
Tow truck and storage rule changes
In early 2016, the following changes will be phased in to help drivers in a time of need know what exactly they can expect if getting a tow.
Drivers can expect to:
- Receive a current statement of rates in writing.
- Not have to pay for a tow or storage service they have not authorized.
- Be informed if the tow and storage provider has an interest—in any way—in a location or facility to which the vehicle is being towed to for repair, storage, appraisal etc.
- Be given free access to the vehicle so that property in it, including money, valuables, and the like can be removed.
- Get a detailed invoice listing, and itemizing, the tow and storage services provided prior to having to pay.
- Not have to pay more than 10 per cent over the authorized estimated amount.
- Not pay more for the services than the amount usually charged just because the cost is to be paid, directly or indirectly, by an insurer.
- Be able to pay by credit card "or any other prescribed payment method at the consumer’s choice."
Want to learn more? Check out Bill 15, Ontario’s Fighting Fraud and Reducing Insurance Rates Act (opens in a .pdf).
In an interview with TheStar.com, Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada says this is a huge step in the right direction although admits there's still work to be done: "we’ve made progress and the government is moving forward, but we’re not at the end of the journey. There are some blanks to be filled in and some that are glaring that need to be addressed. Bill 15 and the regulations enforcing it," he said, "are a step in the right direction, but the other piece is consumer education and outreach."
What To Do If You're In Need Of A Tow
The following are a few driver tips from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) if you're in need of a tow:
- Make sure the tow truck has a municipal licence number on its side before you use its services.
- Look to see if the tow truck is affiliated with a reputable company you recognize.
- Ask if the tow truck has a police contract.
- Carefully read everything the tow truck driver asks you to sign.
- Ask that your vehicle be taken to a secure location where an adjuster or appraiser from your insurance company can have access to it. Some municipalities require that your vehicle be taken to a Collision Reporting Centre or police station before it goes anywhere else.
- Contact your insurance company, if possible, for information on towing and where to take your vehicle to be repaired.
- Consider having your vehicle towed to a preferred vehicle repair shop. Some insurance companies use preferred repair shops where they have an agreement that guarantees your vehicle will be repaired to the highest possible standards. For more information, contact your insurance company.
No one ever plans to be stranded on the side of the road, but it happens. Know what to do if it happens to you; stay calm, ask lots of questions, give your insurer a call if you can for help (that's what they're there for), and read everything you're given or are expected to sign.