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TowNews

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  1. A tow truck operator who says he has already lost 40 per cent of his business due to COVID-19 remains in limbo after a months-long battle with the City of Mandurah to park his vehicle on his property. At their meeting last week, Mandurah councilllors were deadlocked on a request to allow Kaotiik Towing co-owner Shane Woods to park two tow trucks at his house on Copperfield Close in Greenfields. They initially voted to reject conditional approval but then voted against refusing the application. The City’s policies allow Mr Woods to park his trucks at his home, with about 20 other businesses operating in a similar way throughout Mandurah. Mr Woods is seeking retrospective approval for two commercial vehicles after he was told he had to seek approval in February. “I’m a secondary responder and I contract to emergency services,” he said. “We do all the bad stuff, all the stuff that people really don’t want to see.” Mr Woods said there were only three other trucks that did the same job. “If I come down the road and it’s late, I turn my headlights off, I turn my truck off and roll down the street. “My truck is no noisier than your standard family 4WD. It’s 18 months old.” Mr Woods said driving to a warehouse would add time to his journey which would mean he would not meet his contracted time. He said if the council did not allow him to operate at any hour he may have to use a noisier truck. “My other truck, that’s a F350 old school tow truck. That falls outside council’s guidelines of commercial vehicles, so I can use that and there’s nothing they can do about it,” he said. “That vehicle is very, very noisy. I’m trying not to disturb the neighbours.” Mr Woods said he would “potentially” appeal the matter with the State Administrative Tribunal, depending on the outcome. “The vehicle is behind our gates. I don’t disturb anybody. I’m trying to earn a dollar. If I can’t earn a dollar, I can’t pay my rates,” he said. With less cars on the road due to coronavirus, Mr Woods said he had already lost 40 per cent of his business. The City advertised his application and received five submissions, with one in support, one neutral and three objecting. Those against Mr Woods’ proposal raised concerns about noise, safety, hours and visual amenity. City staff had recommended approving Mr Woods’ applications with conditions including that he not drive the trucks to or from the lot between 10pm and 6.30am. Councillors had already deferred the matter from their March 24 meeting to May and after a series of votes and more than an hour of debate, they decided to delay it again until June. Mr Woods is currently exempt from council approval until 90 days after the current State of Emergency is in effect. Council narrowly voted down conditional approval, with only Mayor Rhys Williams, Deputy Mayor Caroline Knight and councillors Peter Rogers, Matt Rogers and Ahmed Zilani voting to approve it. The meeting then descended into confusion as staff scrambled to craft a motion to reject the application. A visibly exacerbated Mayor implored councillors to allow Mr Woods to have the vehicles at his property. “The planning policies clearly ... allow a commercial vehicle in this place. I understand that there may be some issues for the residents living next door but that’s why the conditions are in place,” Mr Williams said. Councillors eventually compromised by delaying the matter for a month, with a workshop to be held before then. RESOURCE LINK
  2. Man running from vehicle crash shot at and hit by vehicle in Gage Park CHICAGO - Shots were fired Monday after a 41-year-old man who was fleeing the scene of a crash was hit by a vehicle in Gage Park on the Southwest Side. About 7:20 p.m. he was involved in a minor vehicle crash in the 2900 block of West 51st Street, when a tow truck occupied by three males arrived, Chicago police said. The man tried to run from the scene of the crash and the men in the tow truck chased him down and struck him with the tow truck, police said. One of the men in the tow truck fired shots, but no one was struck. The 41-year-old man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, while the three men from the tow truck got into a white vehicle and fled the scene, police said. Are One detectives are investigating. RESOURCE LINK
  3. https://www.fox32chicago.com/news/man-running-from-vehicle-crash-shot-at-and-hit-by-vehicle-in-gage-park
  4. SJC: Pedestrian struck and killed by tow truck on State Road 16 FHP says the victim was tending to an animal on the road at the time ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A young woman died after being struck by a tow truck on State Road 16 in St. Johns County late last night, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Troopers say the tow truck was traveling eastbound, just west of Collins Avenue when the crash happened. FHP reports the 18-year-old woman was tending to an animal on the road when she was hit. She died at the scene. No charges are pending. RESOURCE LINK
  5. A Statement from Mission Wrecker, Bexar County, Texas This happened to one of our driver's this Friday evening. Luckily, no one was seriously injured. We had just finished assisting a customer on the side of the highway and they had just left the scene and were back on their way. Our driver got back in the cab and was getting ready to leave. BAM! Then this happened. We were struck on the side of the highway by an 18 wheeler. Slow Down or Move over when you see emergency lighting. Help us all get home safe.
  6. Freeway service driver attempts to remove turtle from road, struck by semi on I-94 RACINE COUNTY — Law enforcement officials tell FOX6 News a freeway service driver who had pulled over to remove a turtle from the roadway on northbound I-94 near 7 Mile Road was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Friday, May 29. The incident happened around 9:15 a.m. — and it shut down two lanes of northbound I-94. Officials say the freeway service truck was traveling northbound on I-41/94 near 7 Mile Road when the driver stopped, with lights on, in lane four to remove the turtle. While the driver was outside of the service truck on the shoulder of the roadway, he was struck by a passing semi-tractor and trailer unit. The semi-tractor and trailer and driver were later located in Ripon. The name of the freeway service driver is not being released until family members are notified. RESOURCE LINK with video "TOWER DOWN CONFIRMED by WTA PRESIDENT"
  7. The High Road: PTAO president discusses GTA towing coverage and a path forward Toronto, Ontario — The president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario has expressed concern about the recent coverage of the arrests of members of the GTA towing community in an interdepartmental operation, Project Platinum. Following the publication of a CBC story, Canadian Towing Professional spoke with PTAO’s president, Mark Graves and PTAO’s Fair Towing Ontario Task Force co-ordinator John Henderson. The article quoted Henderson as saying: “It’s gotten to the point where there could be as much as 60 percent of the towing industry in the GTA [that] is run by the criminal element.” Graves expressed concerns about how the quote was used. “I wish there had been more of an emphasis on the ‘as high as’ part of the quote,” said Graves. Graves cautions readers that the figure stated is not representative of the entire industry in Ontario. It more represents localized areas in large urban centers. He also feels statements such as these should not have been used in isolation. “If you have one legitimate business with a 100-truck fleet, and 100 single-truck operators that are not following the rules, you could report the statistics in any number of ways,” says Graves Henderson goes further and says that putting any hard numbers on how widespread criminal behaviour within the GTA towing sector would require an accurate assessment of how many companies and drivers actually exist. Currently, there is no system in place to quantify the towing industry. This makes it impossible to know the percentage of good and bad operators within the industry. “According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, any vehicle that is capable of towing another vehicle qualifies as a tow truck,” says Henderson. “In our presentations to government figures, we have made changing the definition of tow trucks in the Highway Traffic Act as one of our top priorities,” says Graves. “We put together a significant presentation on what a tow truck is and is not.” Graves says Henderson isn’t the only member of the towing community to see his words get printed without proper context—in fact, he says he has had something similar happen to him on several occasions. “I’ve had 20-minute interviews cut-down into 15-second sound bites. [Interviewers] clip a few words, and, all of a sudden, they’ve completely changed the context of the statement.” Systemic media bias against the towing community Graves feels that members of the press are prone to highlighting the wrong-doings of towing industry professionals while giving a pass to other members of other industries involved in the same crimes. According to Graves, reports of wrongdoing in the broader automotive aftermarket tend to be harder on members of the towing sector than other industries facing related allegations. Graves says this persistent bias can be seen in the CBC article. The piece opens with the line: “Several organized crime groups working in the towing industry have been using violence and property damage as a way to grab control and territory within southern Ontario, York Regional Police said Tuesday, while announcing multiple arrests.” It is not until its ninth paragraph that the article makes mention of other industries police say are colluding with criminals in the towing sector—specifically physiotherapists, auto repair businesses, and rental companies. According to Graves, the Police’s statements seem to imply that towing professionals are the originators of this type of criminal collusion. He adds that PTAO has never seen any evidence that proves this to be the case. While the specific piece, which focuses on the actual arrest of towing business figures across the greater GTA following the recovery of firearms and narcotics at GTA towing facility locations, may have a valid reason for side-lining the specific allegations against members of other industries, Graves point can be made of a number of recent stories about the towing community. One particularly glaring example comes from a March press release from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Spot these five common insurance fraud scams. While towing businesses are involved in just one of the fraudulent activities listed by the think-tank, “Inflated Tow, Store & Dent,” it happens to be the one listed first. Though this broad category also includes malfeasance by auto repairers, it is the towing sector that gets top billing in its description. “Dishonest towing companies and auto repair shops intentionally overbill insurers, driving up insurance premium costs.” According to Graves, reporters have been particularly unfair to the towing community since reports of the turf war began to appear in papers around the world—turning innocent towing professionals into pariahs in the public’s mind. “They can point the finger at any industry they want – but it is the collusion that is the problem,” says Graves. “The fact is, it is not just the tow trucks. The towing companies are being led by, or working with other groups.” Graves hopes that members of the press, who he says are more sensitive to not casting unfair blame on all physiotherapists and collision repair facilities due to the actions of bad actors, can remember that: likewise, not all towing companies are to blame.” Industry-to-Province collaborations moving in the right direction While the towing sector may be struggling to get a fair shake from the press, according to both Graves and Henderson, officials in government and law enforcement are more interested in working with industry figures to help combat criminal activities in the towing sector. PTAO—through its Fair Towing Ontario Task Force—has made significant strides in the design of a Provincial licensing model that would hold companies and drivers within the towing industry responsible for their actions. Made up of a group of towing industry stakeholders, representatives of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and others committed to providing safe and efficient services to the motoring public, the task force works to raise awareness about the current situation. “The task force has set-up a website–fairtowing.ca–which includes a presentation we delivered to the government,” says Henderson. “It included videos of specific incidents that depict the types of issues that need to be resolved. One of the videos Henderson says is particularly telling and shows a black pick-up truck acting as a blocker truck, allowing a single towing vehicle to make its way to the scene of an accident—a clear example of the type of dangerous acts that occur due to the current lack of industry regulations. PTAO, along with the Task Force, is also working on a Provincial licensing model that Graves and Henderson believe will be a framework for a safer towing sector. “We have provided the province with the basics of a Provincial licensing model that could significantly reduce the criminal aspects that are currently a part of towing in specific regions,” says Graves. “Sure, it won’t eliminate everything, but it is something that can be built-on, not just a rubber-band solution.” The issue, however, may get worse before it gets better. “One of the messages that PTAO has been pushing in recent months is that—thanks to the COVID-19 situation—a lot of companies are struggling to survive. When the economy reopens, the current situation may be exacerbated in localized areas,” Graves cautions. “Criminals—in any sector—are just following the money.” RESOURCE LINK
  8. While the number of people dying on highways in crashes is decreasing as more people stay home, the National Safety Council says the rate of fatalities per miles driven is increasing, suggesting less traffic is enticing some to speed. https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/fewer-cars-dont-mean-less-risky-rides-study-finds/2238390/
  9. Criminal warrants were issued last week to the owners of four Mobile towing companies, the latest installment in the long-running dispute between the city’s wrecking businesses and local law enforcement. In total, 28 warrants were issued Friday to four men for a combination of Insurance Fraud 1st and Insurance Fraud 2nd, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. Chad Fountain, the owner of A+ Towing, was issued with warrants charging him with four counts of Insurance Fraud 1st and two counts of Insurance Fraud 2nd. Danny Williams of Southport Towing was issued a warrant charging him with six counts of Insurance Fraud 1st, while the owner of Casher’s Wrecker Service, Wilbert Casher, is wanted on warrants charging him with six counts of Insurance Fraud 2nd. Lastly, Alan Luther was issued a warrant charging him with 10 counts of Insurance Fraud 1st. None of the four have handed themselves in to law enforcement, according to the MCSO jail log. Efforts to reach the four men were unsuccessful. The city’s towing issues arose last summer after local law enforcement accused several towing companies of price gouging customers and charging them more than legally allowed in the city’s towing ordinance. Not long after announcing the probe into the industry, AL.com discovered that the Mobile Police Department impound lot was also overcharging customers for towing services and storage, and had been doing so since at least late 2015. Some in the towing industry claim the practice has been going on for more than a decade. In response, MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste said the department would immediately change its internal practices, but assured the actions were not criminal. Friday’s criminal warrants come months after the father and son owners of SOS Towing were indicted by a Mobile County grand jury. Gary Smith Jr. and Gary Smith Sr. have been facing charges since being arrested and charged by MPD in September. The two men also had four tow trucks taken under controversial civil asset forfeiture laws. The trucks were ultimately returned after a Mobile circuit judge said the seizure was unlawful. The Mobile County District Attorney’s office appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court but ultimately dropped the civil case earlier this year. The Smith men’s next court date in the criminal trial is set for July 14, according to Alabama court records. RESOURCE LINK ADDL. RESOURCE LINK
  10. Hundreds of charges laid, including first-degree murder, following investigation into towing industry turf war Police have arrested 20 people and laid hundreds of charges in connection with a long-simmering turf war for control of the Greater Toronto towing industry that they say has resulted in “murders, attempted murders, assaults and arsons.” York Regional Police say that a joint-forces investigation, dubbed Project Platinum, was launched in February to probe some of the violence. They say that investigators, in turn, identified “several organized crime groups” working within the towing industry who were fraudulently inflating costs and, in at least 10 cases, even “deliberately causing collisions” to increase profits. They say that the groups netted millions of dollars in illicit profits but as the money increased so did the “demand for territory and with that the need to control that territory through violence.” Police ultimately identified more than 150 different acts of violence that the groups are believed to be responsible for, though they say that many offences likely went unreported, meaning that the real number may be even higher. “We allege that the competition for control of the tow market has resulted in murders, attempted murders, shootings, assaults, arsons, threats and property damage,” Superintendent Mike Slack said in a video announcing the arrests. Slack said that police believe the truck companies collaborated with auto repair shops, physiotherapy clinics and car and truck rental companies to “grossly inflate” bills with each group getting a cut of the proceeds. He said that insurance companies had in turn banded together to fight the fraud, at one point hiring Carr law firm in Vaughan “to act on false claims until it too became the targets of violence, threats and extortion.” Slack said that as a result of the investigation police have laid hundreds of charges, including two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of tow truck driver Soheil Rafipour outside his Richmond Hill home in December, 2018 as well as charges of attempt to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to an incident at the offices of Carr law firm. He said that charges were also laid in connection with the orchestration of an arson on March 29 that resulted in the burning of three large transport trucks at a vehicle storage yard in Vaughan. “We are in the process of dismantling four distinct criminal organizations through these arrests and those to come,” Slack said. “With the accused facing charges and their assets seized we expect the extreme level of violence we have seen in our community to diminish.” Large cache of weapons seized Some of the charges announced on Tuesday were laid back in March but many of them were laid on May 20 after police executed search warrants at 21 different locations in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham, Hamilton, Oakville, Toronto, Aurora and East Gwillimbury. During the execution of those search warrants police seized a large cache of weapons, including 16 handguns, 13 shotguns, nine rifles, one machine gun, one air pistol converted to a .22 calibre pistol, one sawed-off shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition. They also seized five kilograms of fentanyl, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.25 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, 1.5 kilograms of cannabis and more than $500,000 in cash. Slack said that he expects the arrested to result in a “diminishing level of violence” across the GTA in the “short term” but he warned that regulatory changes need to be made to the towing industry in order for there to be “a lasting effect.” “Every aspect of this industry has an opportunity to make additional money, more than you normally would in payouts from insurance companies,” he said. “It starts with the tow, that inflated tow bill that is associated with that. Then there are inflated storage costs or moving vehicles around so that owners can’t find their vehicle and have to pay additional storage fees. Then there is the billing associated to damage, billing insurance companies for damage that did not occur or causing additional damage in the storage lot and billing that additional damage.” Slack said that police are hopeful that there will be bail conditions placed on many of the accused parties that “will prevent them from continuing to do business,” though he conceded that it has been “difficult” to get the courts to impose those conditions. RESOURCE LINK with video shows tow trucks being seized
  11. Tow truck driver charged with speeding and stunt driving on Nikola Tesla Boulevard A tow truck driver had his vehicle impounded and licence suspended for seven days, police say, after being clocked driving nearly twice the posted speed limit Saturday. The 44-year-old Caledonia man was stopped on Nikola Tesla Boulevard around 4 p.m. Saturday after his white truck was seen "operating at a speed considerably faster" than the limit, according to a media release. Police say the man was driving 113 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. The man is charged with stunt driving and speeding. If found guilty in court, the man could face a fine up to $10,000, six months in jail or a two-year licence suspension, say police. The service notes it's taken a "zero-tolerance approach" to stunt driving and asks anyone with information about the incident to contact police. RESOURCE LINK
  12. 1 driver dead after crash in SW Miami-Dade SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - One person has died after a crash in Southwest Miami-Dade. The crash took place in the northbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike just south of the Bird Road exit shortly before 7 a.m., Monday. One driver involved in the crash said their vehicle hydroplaned due to the slick roads. A Tow Truck responded to the scene to help when a second white Honda crashed into the Tow Truck. The powerful impact claimed the life of the driver behind the wheel of the white vehicle. The Road Ranger who was outside of the Tow Truck was uninjured in the incident. RESOURCE LINK with video
  13. The Accident Occurred a couple of days ago and there were no news reports founds. Marked "No Details Available at this time" if anyone knows what happened please respond.
  14. OTTAWA -- Ottawa residents are being asked to provide feedback on the city’s towing industry. The city has launched a “Towing Services Regulatory Review” as part of a review to see if the City of Ottawa needs regulations for towing companies, tow truck drivers and storage yards. While the City of Ottawa regulates towing services through provisions found in the Traffic and Parking Bylaw, there is no business licencing or regulatory regime for the towing industry in Ottawa. The city says it regularly receives concerns and complaints about towing services, particularly about billing, business practices, safety on the road, safety at collision scenes and alleged illegal activities. You can fill out the survey on the City of Ottawa’s website, or email towingregulations@ottawa.ca with feedback until June 30. Questions on the survey include whether the City of Ottawa needs specific regulations for tow truck companies and drivers in order to promote better public safety and consumer protection, and whether training for tow truck drivers should be required to ensure safety and protection of property. One questions asks if you agree or disagree that “the city should regulate rates for towing services to help prevent overcharging.” The City of Ottawa has launched a second survey for employees and owners in the tow truck industry. A report will be presented to the Community and Protective Services Committee later this year with recommendations on potential regulations for the towing industry. The survey was launched a month after the RCMP charged three Ottawa Police officers with breach of trust following an investigation into an alleged tow truck tip-off scheme. LINKS can be found in the News Story
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