Ontario Provincial Police say they are launching a new program for towing companies in a bid to combat criminality in the industry.
In a news release issued Tuesday, police said the OPP Tow Program includes “significant changes” to the way the OPP interacts with towing companies and introduces requirements that operators must meet before they can provide services for police-requested tows.
These include tows for things like vehicle impoundment or evidence collection, as well as those requested by the OPP on behalf of members of the public.
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OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said an officer can only use the same approved tow operator once per shift unless permitted by a supervisor.
Operators must submit an application every year to provide services to the OPP and will have to include a variety of details. A signed release that allows the OPP to conduct a criminal background check will also be required, the news release said.
Applications are due on Nov. 1 this year and the OPP said successful applicants will remain on the OPP’s towing list for one year and are subject to suspension or removal “in certain circumstances.” The program takes effect in January.
The OPP noted that the new program will be exempt in areas where the Ministry of Transportation will be implementing its Tow Zone Pilot.
That consists of defined sections of 400-series highways within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
Provincial Tow Zone Pilot ‘updated’
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation recently told Global News that the Tow Zone Pilot program start date was “updated” and is now expected to begin in the winter.
Natasha Tremblay, press secretary for Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, said that the approach for the project has also been changed.
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As opposed to there being one approved tow truck operator for designated sections of the highways, there will now be multiple operators.
The initial program resulted in “a non-award due to technical reasons,” Tremblay said.
“We have carefully reviewed and updated the approach for the Tow Zone Pilot to a restricted roster, which is a list of authorized towing services providers in each restricted towing zone,” Tremblay said.
“The restricted roster will provide greater operational flexibility to the province and the ability to effectively review and make adjustments during the pilot on an ongoing basis. After an initial launch period, the ministry will consider expanding the restricted roster list to include more towing companies who meet the requirements through an open competitive process.”
Tremblay said “significant challenges” exist in the towing industry, including “risky first-to-the-scene chasing and exploitation of customers.”
“Together, the Tow Zone Pilot and other towing related initiatives will enhance safety, improve customer protection, curb unethical practices, remove bad actors and provide more long-term opportunities to legitimate towing companies,” Tremblay said.
Officials have previously attributed violence involving the towing industry, including shootings and arsons, to “turf wars.”
Earlier this year, several OPP officers were also charged and others were suspended following allegations the accused officers provided preferential treatment to towing companies within the Greater Toronto Area.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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