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Police release towing report, as board delays decision on extending contract with Ross Towing

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London's Police Services Board voted Thursday to delay a decision about whether to extend its contract with Ross Towing by a year, which makes the company the exclusive provider of all police-initiated tows. 

 

Ross's three-year contract with LPS began in January 2018 with an optional fourth year at the discretion of the board. Unless the optional year is approved, the contract will end on Dec. 31, 2020. 

 

The contract has been a sore point with small towing companies, who've claimed it's unfair for one company to get all the police-requested tows. 

 

However, an 18-page report submitted by Deputy Chief Trish McIntyre to Thursday's meeting lays out some of the reasons police entered the contract.

 

Ross is a large company with 45 drivers and two sizeable impound lots with 24-hour access for police.  

 

The report drew a distinction between the service capabilities of Ross versus those of other, smaller companies. 

 

The attributes of the contract with Ross Towing, as laid out in the police report, include:

 

  • 24-hour police access to two vehicle storage compounds. 
  • Around-the-clock dispatch. 
  • 2 licensed mechanics on staff.
  • Set towing fees, listed on the police website. 
  • Security clearance checks on all employees. 
  • 20-minute response time.
  • Large fleet of vehicles for all manner of tows, including heavy vehicles.
  • Uniformed employees. 
  • A policy of zero blood-alcohol level for employees on the job. 
  •  

The report points out that anyone who needs a tow can request service from another company. The report also claims that about half of all tows at collisions in London went to Ross, the rest to smaller companies. 

 

The report says a total of 38 different companies performed tows at London accident scenes in 2019. 

Of those: 

 

  • 11 had a website.
  • 1 listed tow prices. 
  • 17 did not list a business address. 
  • 14 had a Facebook, Yellow Book or Google page. 
  •  

The report says some tow truck operators are affiliated with body shops while others appear to operate out of private residences. 

 

Ross was originally awarded the contract after a request for proposal process. 

 

A controversial clause in the contract says that  if a driver doesn't specify a preferred company to tow their car, police officers should recommend Ross. 

 

"I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the policy as drafted in terms of that section," said board vice-chair Susan Toth. "I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that in our policy we are required to recommend one towing company over others, if someone doesn't make an initial choice. It looks like we are preferring one over someone else." 

 

Mayor Ed Holder said if companies meet criteria set by the police board, they should be able to have a crack at the business. 

 

"That to me is free enterprise, if people have made investments in ensuring their operation's quality," said Holder. "If organizations can't meet that standard, then they're off the list. I think it's as simple and clear as that." 

 

Deputy Chief Trish McIntyre said she believes smaller towing companies are interested in forming an organization with set standards to ensure customers get fair service. McIntye said she's not opposed to sharing the work out to other companies that meet the standard.

 

"There is some criteria that they need to establish ... and then I think we open it up to them," she said. 

 

"When the police are at the roadside they need to know that they're not sending someone off with someone who could put them at risk, that there's not going to be price gouging," she said. 

 

The motion to delay for one-month the decision to add another year to the contract passed three to two with Toth, Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer and Mayor Ed Holder voting in favour. Voting in opposition were Coun. Maureen Cassidy and board member Jeff Lang. 

 

The extension will be voted on at a future meeting of the London Police Services Board. 

 

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