London city councillors consider bylaw to regulate tow truck drivers

The meeting will take place at London City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. 980 CFPL/File Photo

A public meeting will be held on Tuesday at London City Hall as councillors consider how best to deal with so-called “chaser” tow trucks.

The city is mulling a bylaw to regulate tow truck drivers, using an “anti-solicitation” policy to protect drivers from predatory tow truck operators who show up at the scenes of car crashes and pressure customers to use their services.

Waterloo, Hamilton and Mississauga are among the 17 other cities with similar bylaws already in place, requiring tow truck operators to remain a minimum distance away from collision scenes.

Desmond McSweeney from 519 Tow says he supports the idea of licensing tow trucks.

“I don’t see a problem with licensing the tow trucks and creating plates for each truck, making sure background checks and businesses are in place,” McSweeney said. “I think creating these regulations is a good thing.”

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McSweeney says he’s aware of the issue and understands that it can put a motorist in a tough position moments after they have been in a collision. He says it’s not uncommon for tow trucks to get to the scene even before emergency crews.

He says it’s on the tow truck operator to present themselves in a professional and non-threatening manner, however McSweeney adds that a bylaw in Toronto preventing tow truck operators from parking within 200 metres of a crash site has been ineffective.

“There’s supposed to be a bylaw in Toronto, but everyone [tow truck operators] continues to chase collisions the same way,” he said.

Coun. Shawn Lewis is also behind the push for tighter regulations.

“Obviously, that was something that I brought up after an experience with the quote, unquote ‘tow truck chasers’ who hang around accident scenes looking for work,” he explained.

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“The staff report is supportive of moving on to the next step, which is we’re going to now schedule a public participation meeting to get the public’s input on a draft bylaw that’s going to more tightly regulate the towing industry in London.”

However, Lewis says not all tow truck operators support the proposed bylaw.

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“We’ve had mixed feedback from people working in the towing industry,” he said.

“There are those who say: ‘Yes, absolutely, we’re fine with this.’ There are those who say: ‘Oh, you’re taking away our business,’ which is not the case. Not all towing business is accident-related. There’s still pieces of the pie out there for independent operators to go after.”

Some smaller companies worry they could lose business and say they are given a bad name by the more aggressive tow truck drivers in the city.

The issue will be discussed at Tuesday’s community and protective services committee meeting at 6:30 p.m.

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