Ontario introduces new rules in response to violence in tow truck industry

·2 min read
An image from a tow truck bust in May 2020. Ontario is introducing new tow truck regulations, including restricted tow zones, after years of violence and fraud in the industry. (York Regional Police - image credit)
An image from a tow truck bust in May 2020. Ontario is introducing new tow truck regulations, including restricted tow zones, after years of violence and fraud in the industry. (York Regional Police - image credit)

The Ontario government is implementing new rules for towing in the province, including a pilot project that introduces restricted towing zones on highways and a joint team to address violence and fraud in the industry.

Starting summer 2021, four sections of highways in the GTA will become restricted tow zones. Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney says the new tow zones will allow only a single company to operate within the areas, cutting down on dangerous practices like so-called "accident chasing."

She says additional tow companies will only be able to operate within the zones with permission of provincial police or the government. The pilot project will run for two years with the potential for one-year extensions after that time.

Mulroney says the government is also drafting legislation to further regulate the sector, including exploring licensing tow truck drivers.

Meanwhile, the government is forming a "Joint Forces Operation" team run by the Ontario Provincial Police and local police services to target criminal activity in the industry, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said.

In May 2020, Ontario police made 19 arrests after finding that towing companies had been defrauding insurance companies and using violence and property damage to seize territory and control of the industry. Four drivers were killed as a result of the turf war and at least 30 trucks had been burned, police said at the time.

The Ontario government established a task force in June 2020 in response, which found that there was a "patchwork of requirements'' across the province and insufficient government oversight. Its recommendations included restricted tow zones, new legislation to provide oversight, a required licence to operate a commercial tow truck and a joint police task force to investigate criminal activity.

A map released by the province, showing new restricted towing zones on highways in the GTA.
A map released by the province, showing new restricted towing zones on highways in the GTA.(Government of Ontario)

The four restricted towing zones will be:

  • Restricted Tow Zone 1: Highway 401 from Highway 400 E. to Morningside Avenue

  • Restricted Tow Zone 2:

    • Highway 401 from Highway 400 W. to Regional Road 25

    • Highway 427 from QEW to Highway 409

    • Highway 409 from Highway 427 to Highway 401

  • Restricted Tow Zone 3: Highway 400 from Highway 401 to Highway 9

  • Restricted Tow Zone 4: QEW from Highway 427 to Brant Street