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Protesting tow truck drivers claim unfair treatment by police


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Tow truck operators who aren’t contracted for Ottawa police investigations claim they’re being bad-mouthed by cops at run-of-the-mill crashes where motorists are free to choose the tow company they want.

A few dozen tow operators followed each other from the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) east division in Orléans to city hall on Monday morning in protest of what they said was unfair treatment by police. They honked their horns as they lined Lisgar Street, exiting their rigs with protest placards.

“I just think it needs to be fair for everybody. We need equal opportunity. We all have families at home. Everybody needs to eat. This is the business we’ve chosen for ourselves. For us to be shut down on accident scenes and not given an opportunity to help somebody … our companies are being slandered,” said Junior Latreille of Response Towing.

“The police are starting to get pretty hard on us. Once we show up on a scene, the police wouldn’t give us an opportunity to offer a service of quality. Meanwhile, they’ll call a contract tow to come down and not even give the consumer an opportunity to contact their own towing.”



Tow truck drivers go toe-to-toe with police over “secure towing” rules

group of tow truck drivers will gather on Monday outside the Huntmar Drive police station, as well as city hall and another police detachment, for a protest. Here’s some background about what the protest is all about.

When police respond to a crash and decide to investigate, they have designated companies that they can call to provide a “secure tow” to an impound while the investigation proceeds. What drivers are protesting on Monday is the overuse of that system for crashes that are not investigated, said Nadeem Chamaa, owner and operator of Ottawa Towing and Recovery and organizer of Monday’s protest.

“They’re abusing the contract and (now they’re) stating every time they’re called to a scene… they’re calling the contract tow,” he said.

“That’s monopolizing the industry… we want to be able to earn our business.”

Two companies hold contracts for secure towing in two zones: Ottawa Metro Towing and Recovery the east zone and Metro Towing and Recovery the west.

Gervais Motors in January filed a bid-rigging lawsuit against the city, police and the two companies alleging Ottawa Metro Towing and Recovery incorporated a second company in order to secure the police contract. The claims have not been proven in court.

“What we’re trying to protest is, seeing as how Gervais is suing (the city) and the Ottawa Police, the private companies got together and said now’s the time to shine a spotlight (on the problem),” said Chamaa.

Chamaa, who is a self-described “chaser”, said he makes his business by sitting at the side of roads and waiting for a crash to happen. When he finds one, he drives there to try and secure a client.

While he acknowledges chasers are deeply unpopular in both the public eye and within the industry, he said he is not trying to break the rules and is not taking advantage of motorists.

“Chasers are never popular,” he said. “The tow trucker is always going to make money off the accident”

He said police have spread misinformation about chasers by saying they overcharge or hold vehicles ransom, but chalked cases of that up to “bad apples.” He said he follows applicable provincial and municipal rules, such as not parking within 100 metres of a collision and making clear his prices before towing.

No. Eva Sharkey, of Sharkey’s Towing, said chasers make other towing companies look bad because of their practices.

“I don’t think they should be doing what they’re doing,” she said. “They don’t follow the rules, as far as I know.”

The Ontario towing industry used to be unregulated, but in 2014 Queen’s Park amended the Consumer Protection Act to force companies to be more transparent over their rates, as well as disclose where they will tow a vehicle, whether they will receive any kickbacks for bringing it to a particular body shop and to provide an itemized invoice with a total cost.

While Chamaa complains of a police monopoly, Sharkey said his account doesn’t ring true on her end.

“That’s not really true, I’ve been called by police, by customers, to come to accidents,” she said. “The people who are involved in the accident are allowed to call whoever they want to call, unless there’s a criminal charge.”

She did agree that some police officers push to call Metro towing, she said that was because they don’t want to deal with the independent chasers. In effect, she said the drivers will protest on Monday a problem they created.

“Officers are so fed up with all these independent towers showing up. They want to clear it up, they don’t want the headache.”

We tried to contact Ottawa Police for a comment on this story but no one was available on the weekend.  One constable recently shared some tips on Twitter on how to avoid unscrupulous tow truck operators.




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