The Ontario government has established a task force to review the province’s towing industry overhaul in response to a deadly war against tow trucks that has been raging in the Greater Toronto Area for nearly two years.
Details of the task force are expected to be released on Monday, according to a senior government official familiar with the announcement. The goal is to determine the best way to regulate the industry, the source said, which the Globe and Mail does not identify.
Consultations with towing stakeholders will take place over the summer, the source said, and regulatory changes may begin to be implemented as early as the fall.
The commitment to explore a provincial licensing framework marks a significant change for the Ontario government, which told The Globe in January that it was not on the table.
A Globe and Mail survey published in February revealed that a deadly towing war has been going on in the GTA for two years as companies compete for larger slices of a lucrative segment of the industry known as collision towing or “pursuit” by accident.
At least four men linked to the towing industry have been killed since December 2018. A law firm was kicked out of the city after his office was burnt down twice, then shot dead in broad daylight. In the past six weeks, four police officers have been charged with towing bribery, including accepting bribes.
The government source said on Sunday that the province’s position on the need for reform changed when the extent of the violence became clear.
A joint forces police operation led by York Regional Police was launched in February to quell violence and organized crime in the towing industry. Since then, about 30 people have been charged with the Paramount project, and investigators say they expect to charge at least 20 more.
The provincial task force, which has already started meeting, includes representatives from the Ontario Provincial Police and ministries of transportation, the Solicitor General, government and consumer services, municipal affairs and housing , finance and labor, training and skills development.
Tow trucks are licensed at the municipal level – however, of the 444 municipalities in the province, fewer than 20 have such a system. Patchwork means that a driver working across the GTA, for example, would need a different license for each community in which he hopes to work. The rules are not only superimposed and contradictory, but are also almost impossible to apply on provincial highways.
The absence of provincial regulations also means that there are no province-wide training or safety and equipment standards, and no standardized complaint process – making it difficult for consumers to know who to trust or whom to contact in the event of a problem. In addition to licensing, the task force will also explore elements such as background checks to help combat fraud within the industry.
It is common knowledge in the towing industry that some peripheral businesses such as body shops, car rental companies and physiotherapy clinics will pay tow truck drivers to bring them business. As a result of these bribes, a single car can bring in thousands of dollars, so the “hunters” race for each job, with confrontations breaking out in arguments and fist fights and even blows. knife and shots.
In order to tackle the “chase” element, the task force will examine a potential redesign of the current “first on stage” rule, which rewards tow truck drivers for being the first to crash.
Stakeholders who have long called for the removal of this rule have previously told The Globe that this could be done through contracts or an approved towing rotation list.
The government source said on Sunday that specific details of the province’s plans remain unresolved – for example, whether the reforms will go through legislative or regulatory changes.
A previous provincial towing task force, which met almost a decade ago, concluded in a 2012 report that there was “more and more premeditation and good organization.” [fraud]In Ontario’s auto insurance system – especially in the GTA. Two key recommendations from this report were provincial licensing and regulation through an administrative authority.
In 2015, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government passed legislation to provide checks and balances to the industry, including requiring towing companies to provide price lists and quotes to customers. The Wynne government has also made it mandatory for all towing companies to obtain a commercial vehicle driver registration or registration certificate, which can be revoked if enough infractions are accumulated.
However, the stakeholders rejected these solutions as toothless and difficult to apply within the framework of the patchwork system.
“You know what happens when they [rack up] too many points? “Ontario Provincial Police inspector Doug Fenske previously spoke about the UVU registration system in an interview with The Globe.” They close the business and open under a different name the next day. “
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