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Is this a level playing field? Ontario, Canada


Tow411
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Original Topic From August 2012:

 

Note Article Links are no longer active.

 

POLICIES DESIGNED TO BE FAIR and equitable sometimes turn out to be anything but. Such, it would seem, is the case with the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) policy on the use of towing services when police impound vehicles.

Under the policy, police are instructed to use the town’s 10 towing services on a rotational basis, so as to assure a relatively level playing field and avoid the spectre of several trucks racing to a crash scene.

If the policy worked as it was undoubtedly intended to, all 10 operators would enjoy the prospect of occasionally earning between $600 and $900 for a single incident and up to $2,000 for a vehicle that is subject to a longterm impound.

But in reality it appears that a large share of “impound tows” are by one of the 10 firms, Chambers Towing on Dawson Road.

The apparent reason isn’t simply that Chambers has been around longer than some of the other firms or does a better job. Rather, it’s because Chambers has good storage facilities, including an indoor storage area.

As we see it, every city, town or township should always try to have policies that are fair and equitable in both theory and reality.

In the circumstances, we think the current OPS policy needs to be supported through the creation of a common storage area on Town property, ideally operated by either the Town itself or a body such as the Dufferin Area Tow Association, to which all 10 towing firms belong.

Of course, any of the 10 firms might still have an advantage if they are accredited with the Canadian Automobile Association or another roadside assistance plan.
 

RESOURCE LINK MISSING

 

Tow truck drivers question OPS calls An area tow truck operator has spoken out, feeling his and many other firms are being left out of the loop when Orangeville Police call for vehicles to be towed.

According to current Orangeville Police Service (OPS) policy, the 10 companies that are part of the Dufferin Area Tow Association are in a rotation, with the police calling the next on the list when a tow is required.

But Richard Croft of TSN Towing says the police force seems to be ignoring the list and placing an inordinate number of calls to Chambers Towing, an established Orangeville company that has ample indoor storage for impounded cars.

The OPS says that while it is committed to abiding by the rotation policy, police will put Chambers ahead of other tow companies when an enclosed facility is required for an impounded vehicle.

“We do respect and use the practice of a rotating call list administered by the Dufferin Area Tow Association when and where it is appropriate to do so,” said Sgt. Scott Davis, the OPS communications officer.

“We also respect the wishes of the registered owner of a vehicle if they request a specific tow company. For example if they have coverage through CAA or other specific Roadside Assistance Plans.”

He added, however, that if a vehicle is seized by police and held in relation to an offence under the Highway Traffic Act such as Stunt Driving, Criminal Code offences such as Impaired Driving, or for expert examination to gather evidence, police use Chambers Towing because it has secure indoor storage.

Mr. Croft countered that about two months ago, when the OPS pulled over a driver and impounded his vehicle, the driver specifically asked for TSN to do the tow and was informed by the officer that he had to use Chambers.

Adding that TSN can store three vehicles indoors, Mr. Croft said he has hauled impounded vehicles for the OPP in the past and parked them outdoors in the company yard.

He has also posted three videos on YouTube showing Chambers trucks performing jobs that, according to Mr. Croft, should have been done by other companies on the rotation list.

Sgt. Davis said OPS Chief Joe Tomei and Deputy Chief Wayne Kalinski have reviewed the videos and are looking into the circumstances regarding those specific incidents.

The rotation system, implemented by the OPP and the majority of municipalities across the province, is in place for a number of reasons.

One is to discourage “chasing,” where drivers wait for calls on police band frequencies and rush to the scene. The result is often a number of trucks arriving and hindering police in the performance of their duties.

Another is to eliminate any appearance of impropriety, where an officer points to one of several trucks to do the tow and raises suspicions he or she may be doing so out of personal preference; even if it’s most likely the officer’s first desire is to get the subject vehicle and the plethora of tow trucks out of the way.

Mr. Croft, meanwhile, hinted that tow truck companies are in somewhat of a catch-22 situation when it comes to competing for the impound business.

He says a company needs expensive facilities to capture the lucrative police business, but can’t afford such facilities without the police business.

An impound call in Orangeville, said Mr. Croft, is worth between $600 and $900. Longer-term impounds could bring in as much as $2,000 or more.

“I’ve been towing for 12 years,” said Mr. Croft, “but we can’t make the profits to build the big buildings.”

A spokesperson said two of the 10 towing operators provide CAA roadside assistance.
 

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