What Drivers Need to Know About Ontario’s Plans for the Towing Industry

Province aims to regulate tow truck industry to improve road safety.

  • Province announces pilot program to test out the idea of restricted tow zones.
  • In these zones only one tow company is contracted and authorized to remove vehicles.
  • Pilot program set to begin in summer 2021.

There’s been a lot in the news lately about tow trucks and the towing industry in Ontario. From violence between operators and auto insurance fraud to proposed reform and regulations, there are layers upon layers of stories being told. It’s concerning, really, to the everyday driver given the essential service the tow truck industry provides.

What’s a driver like you or me to do when you find yourself stuck at the side of the road without the safety net of a reputable roadside assistance program?

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Province aims to ease drivers’ concerns

In March 2021, the province announced it was forming a “Joint Forces Operation team to investigate criminal activity in the towing industry with the goal of enhancing consumer protection and public safety.” This team will be made up of officers from both the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and municipal police services.

At the same time, the province also announced they were launching a pilot program that introduces restricted tow zones on designated sections of provincial highways. The pilot is expected to begin in the summer and will last at least two years.

The locations for the restricted tow zones are:

  • Zone 1: Highway 401 from Highway 400 east to Morningside Avenue
  • Zone 2 (which includes three unique sections of highway): Highway 401 from Highway 400 west to Regional Road 25; Highway 427 from QEW to Highway 409; and Highway 409 from Highway 427 to Highway 401
  • Zone 3: Highway 400 from Highway 401 to Highway 9
  • Zone 4: QEW from Highway 427 to Brant Street

When this pilot kicks off, only one towing company will be contracted for each zone, and only that company will be authorized to remove vehicles that require a tow.

The only exception is if your vehicle breaks down in one of the zones, you may be permitted (by OPP only) to use your roadside assistance membership if they determine you are in a safe location on the shoulder of the highway.

The province expects the tow zone pilot to:

  • Ensure tow operators have the training, experience and proper equipment to clear highways safely and efficiently.
  • Reduce congestion and delays by clearing the highway more quickly.
  • Help ensure reasonable tow rates for drivers by providing standard pricing and invoicing for towing services.

What you need to know if you need a tow

It’s stressful when you’re sitting at the side of the road, whether it’s because your vehicle broke down or because you’ve been in a collision. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, both the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the OPP encourage you to “Know your Tow”:

  • Remember, you have the right to decide who can tow your vehicle and the location it is towed to unless otherwise directed by police.
  • Call your insurance company for direction on towing companies, repairs, and car rentals. Even if it’s not due to a collision, they may be able to provide you with some friendly guidance.
  • Before your vehicle can be towed, a “permission to tow” form must be signed.
  • Don’t pay until you have seen an itemized invoice from the towing company.
  • If you want a receipt for your records, you are entitled to receive one for the towing services provided.
  • You have the right to pay by credit card if you choose; you are not restricted to cash only.
  • Decline offers to store your vehicle in a tow compound unless directed by your insurer.
  • Never sign a blank contract or take referrals from towing companies.