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End ‘first available,’ or ‘first-on-scene’ towing procedure, company owner says


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By, Norris McDonald Special to the Star


Several weeks ago, I wrote a column about tow trucks. I specifically talked about how, when there’s a crash on the highway, there’s a no-holds-barred race between trucks to get there because the first to reach the scene gets the tow.

Ambulances used to do that. They were privately owned and they’d race to get to a crash scene first because if there was a fatality, the first-on-scene would get the body. Some of those ambulances were owned by funeral homes; other parlours paid the ambulance driver for the delivery.


Mike Harris put an end to that in 1998 with what was called the Local Services Realignment, which resulted in the EMS ambulance system. And at least one tow-truck company president thinks the current government has to act as decisively to end the free-for-all on the roads that exists today.


Joey Gagne is the owner and president of Abrams Towing Services. Abrams has locations in the GTA, Hamilton, Windsor, Ottawa — just about everywhere — and has been in business since 1984. For years, Gagne was president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario, which works on the legislation process with government.


For just about forever, there’s been a problem with accident clearance on, particularly, the 400-Series highways. That’s where the money is. You have established, honest, tow companies that have been around for what seems like forever and they frequently have their business stolen from them by poorly trained, opportunistic, cowboy towers who swoop in, scoop the damaged vehicle and haul if off to unscrupulous body shop operators who refuse to release it until obscene amounts of money are paid.


Since that column appeared, I heard from a lawyer who spends just about all his time in court on behalf of Canada’s big banks, trying to get those cars and light trucks released from liens. And from Gagne, who felt I owed the honest towers a column to tell their side of the story.


Gagne, in his role as president of the tow association, was on the committee that came up with the most recent set of regulations that became law in 2018 and stipulated that tow trucks had to have their rates posted, had to take credit cards as payment, and that sort of thing.


But Gagne, in our wide-ranging interview in which he talked about his company’s rigorous training program and how a few bad apples are not representative of what’s essentially been a long-established, mom-and-pop industry, said those regulations failed to put an end to the “first-on-scene” or “first available” system.



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I've watched the issues plaguing Canada for years noting they're similar to issues experienced in many cities and areas of the US.


I believe that where the government and law enforcement accepts, authorizes and condones call-chasing, scanner racing, pass the hat, where's the chip, or any other type of non-formal response ... they're way behind the times. A formal bid-process is a far better process to eliminate a section of towers who have questionable backgrounds, improper facilities, ill-equipped wreckers, and an unlawful business sense that includes over-charging, gouging, aggressive threats, or whatever tactics created by towing vehicles.


Personally, I don't necessarily blame towers for going after business when it's done in a lawful manner. The blame clearly fall's on the agencies that govern towing and highway's served. "First-on-scene" wreck chasing only promotes reckless response and aggressive drivers vying against each other and that frequently spills into violence or ends in a preventable crash. Rotation-response is a proactive manner in-which, "rotating and available", towers are dispatched in the, "rotating next-up", company.


I salute Mr. Gagne's efforts to help formalize Canada's industry. The motoring public has a right to expect NOT to be victimized while the law enforcement community must meet that expectation to retain public trust. In that towers are required to submit (AND PASS) a thorough background investigation and fingerprint check, meet truck equipment and inspection requirements, and agree to follow contract requirements for service.


As the narrative above states, "... the current government has to as decisively to end the free-for-all on the roads that exist today", formalized response, in-itself, has far reaching complications with intent to eradicate graft, body-shop pay-offs and cops on-the-take. If formalization worked for Canada's ambulance industry and formalization works in many, many cities and counties across America, I'm confident formalization would work in Canada, but has to start at the government and agency level. And, that includes enforcement of contract requirements after the fact. The concept of formalization is easy ... if towers can't meet and abide by contract guidelines, they aren't allowed to respond to calls falling under law enforcement jurisdiction. Accordingly, any lawful minded tow owner should get behind this legislation and make it happen. Good Luck Mr. Gagne ... you've awakened a sleeping giant.       R.

Randall C. Resch

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As much as I am not a fan of government micro-managing "free business" per-say , Rotation and assigned territory towing ( As long as it is fair, enforced and followed properly ) DOES work and is WAY safer for all involved. The scanner chasing and racing across cities to try and beat the other guy there is just barbaric to me. The act of running up and projecting yourself and your services upon a vulnerable accident victim is about as unprofessional as it gets in my opinion. Although I know there are still many places that dont regulate towing in any way, I still find it surprising given the way society is today. I wish Mr. Gagne the best of luck and applaud his fortitude.


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