2011 was once again a very busy and interesting year.
For those that are unaware of the need to relocate the office we have moved from 15 Keith Road in Bracebridge to just down the street to 65 Keith Road. This move was necessary due to the sale of the building we were in. There is some painting and cleaning up in the conference room required and this will take place over the next few months. The conference room is about 20% larger and will be a little more comfortable than the previous room. Doug was able to negotiate a one year lease at the same cost as the previous location.
2011 was a very busy year for Doug and Judy in the office and for the Board as there was a very busy meeting schedule with the MTO, OPP, Queens Park and numerous other political functions. The PTAO and ORG are definitely recognized as the Towing Associations to consult with on all towing matters. The office phones and e-mail have been busy and we have answered hundreds of phone calls from the tow operators, the public, law firms and government agencies and is proof the establishment of the office has been a worthwhile investment. For obvious reasons we must continue our work to improve the industry as a whole.
Charity Golf Tournament
In 2011 we once again held a charity golf tournament with the SickKids Foundation as the beneficiary. The golf tournament has held at Cardinal Golf and Country Club in Newmarket on June 6th and was well attended. The weather was great and we certainly thank all the participants and sponsors that helped with making this worthy event a success. We are very proud to tell you we were able make a $5,000 donation to the hospital.
In early December of 2010 the Shell Station in Apsley, Ontario owned by Mark Kemp and his brother burned to the ground. Two weeks after the fire Mark was on a police tow call on Sunday evening Dec. 12 around 6:24 p.m., on Highway 28. Mark was standing by his truck trying to get a van out of a ditch when he was struck by a vehicle heading north. He was taken to the Peterborough Regional Health Centre and later transferred to St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto with serious and life-threatening injuries.
During the families time of need the PTAO sent a cheque for $2,000 from the benevolent fund to assist them. We are pleased to report Mark has been recovering from his injuries very well.
Well once again our Bill got left on the shelf when the Legislature prorogued in June with no further action planned at this time. We are obviously disappointed with this turn of events but it is a typical situation when dealing with the government. This has been a very large undertaking but we are confident that we will be successful or a least tame the fires of full government regulation. We will develop a plan of action once the election is over and the house sits for the next session. You plead your case and wait and wait for some results.
Move Over Law
The ‘Move Over Law’ is not as simple to enact as some people may think and a lot of work is required prior to introducing it again. The ‘Move Over Bill’ introduced last year is in the same position as the regulation Bill. It received first reading and was also left on the shelf. We will again get more active on this once we have a government back in place.
Protection from Liability when working for the Police
Protection from liability for towing services when working for the police was finally placed into the highway traffic act and passed through the legislative process however is has yet to be proclaimed into law. We expect this to happen in the next session.
Payment for Services
We have continued and will not let up on the issue of being paid for our services when working for the police. The highway maintenance contractors are paid for their services and we must too. It is simply not right that we respond to the police and provide towing and recovery services and not get paid. It is also a travesty that we must engage in the conflicts that we do with the insurance companies when trying to get paid. This is an issue that must be fixed and we will continue to work hard on this.
OPP – RFP
No doubt that the OPP – RFP released in June for the impoundment program was written without any consideration for the towing industry whatsoever. I am sure everyone must have been just as disappointed as we were.
The official position of the PTAO regarding the OPP – RFP as written is NOT consistent to proper business management and just another example of this industry being abused.
I will expand on each point:
- Areas of Responsibility – In most cases the area of responsibility is far too large to service within the time allocated to arrive on scene. The additional problem with the size of the areas is it will add to the cost of the call very dramatically. A 200 to 300 kilometer tow call is not cheap and may push the owner over the edge in re-claiming the vehicle while leaving the contractor with the expense of both tows. This also leaves the contractor vulnerable to the officer’s decision to use an un-contracted company who may or may not use their possession of the vehicle and related pricing to retaliate against a competitor or simply make a quick buck. The “Areas of Responsibility” should equal the detachment area and even AOR’s within the detachment area to provide adequate service. If a company can provide service in multiple areas they are free to tender multiple areas.
- Response Times – In nearly all cases the response times are impossible to meet and proof the “Areas of Responsibility” are too large. This will prove to be unworkable and damaging.
- Financial Burden – The financial burden placed on the successful proponent is the main hurdle facing the industry and is totally unreasonable. There are many challenges to be addressed. The first being the out of pocket expenses for removing a vehicle from an un-contracted towing company when requested by the police. The second is the expense of the call when required to tow a vehicle 200 or 300 kilometers and the vehicle is abandoned. The additional cost for long tows will in itself add to the number of abandoned vehicles as it will likely push the value of the tow call and storage beyond the value of the vehicle. The RFP calls for the contents of the vehicle to be released. I realize this is now in the HTA but I fail to understand how one regulation can override another, i.e. the “Repair and Storage Lien Act”. I also fail to understand why that was put in there in the first place. I and my colleagues certainly understand the need to release personal and identification documents, medicines, all items relating to children and groceries and perishable goods etc. but when it comes down to a skill saw or box of tools this may be the only opportunity we get to have the tow paid for. It is clearly an abuse if the police expect us to take possession of and store any items and not get paid. My final comment here is that the MTO at least paid the operators for all out of pocket expenses but the real issue I have is that the total invoice should really be paid by the perpetrator and it could easily be added to their drivers licence. A tow company should not have to bare any of this cost.
- The Financial Implications of Providing Police Towing: We all hear about the high cost of towing and the abuse to the public and insurance companies but the fact is that the industry is continuously being victimized and this RFP adds to the pain. Case in point, over 20% of the collision tows provided to the police already go unpaid. An example is the number of tows encountered where there is no collision coverage or the driver is charged with impaired driving (no insurance coverage if charged with impaired driving) and/or it is an out of province vehicle. To dispose of these vehicles once they have been stored for 60 days, an operator must spend an additional $20.00 for a used vehicle package at the MTO. This is required to search for and to inform any lien holders of an impending sale. An operator however is still unable to notify the owner as no one “not even the police” will provide the owners address. Consequently, if the regulations within the Repair and Storage Lien Act are not followed an operator can be held responsible for disposing of the vehicle. If the owner suddenly reappears once the vehicle is disposed of and wants the vehicle returned the piece of junk just turned into a vehicle worth thousands. I can provide actual court cases to prove this. An additional implication of the RFP is when a vehicle or vehicles are involved in a collision and the local tow operator is called to provide a recovery and tow (this could involve cars or transport trucks) and the driver or drivers are charged with impaired driving. Once charged with impaired the vehicle is to be impounded triggering a huge invoice which could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars in the case of a transport truck. The invoice then becomes the responsibility of the contractor and there is no guarantee of payment.
I must tell you the industry as a whole is very dissatisfied with the RFP as written. No doubt there are many operators who completed the application however my recommendation to the industry was to simply disregard the RFP. Any contract should be fair and balanced for both parties. Originally, I believe the goal of the police is to remove and store seized vehicles in a rapid and efficient manner but little consideration was given to the ramifications to the industry as a whole. Pricing of the tow and storage and security of the vehicle and contents are extremely important and must be reasonable in the circumstance. I do not believe this RFP as written will meet the needs of police or the industry. From an industry stand point the RFP is not consistent with proper business management as one would be left with no choice but to increase the cost of towing to cover the potential losses. This is next to impossible if a company has a signed contract with an auto-club and very unfair to the consumer.
A contract must be beneficial to all parties and in my opinion this one just doesn’t meet the test of appropriate business management or even fairness.
For obvious reasons our recommendation was to ignore the RFP however due to the competition and lack of organization within the industry it would be difficult for many people to toss it, although many did.
We are unaware of any contracts being signed at this date but it will likely happen.
Smart Corridor Concept of Operations
Transport Canada, in partnership with the MTO and MTO Quebec:
Transport Canada, in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and the Ministère des Transports du Québec, has initiated the development of a Smart Corridor Concept of Operations for Ontario and Québec, focusing on the region from Windsor to Québec City, and south to the Canada/U.S. border.
The primary objective of the Smart Corridor is to support the integration and interoperability of Intelligent Transportation Systems along the corridor, taking into consideration intermodal connections and other essential transportation infrastructure components.
A key aspect of the development effort is the engagement of, and coalition building among, public and private sector stakeholders such as you. Over the duration of the project, we have been invited to several ‘hands-on’ workshops used to present materials and advance the Concept of Operations.
We have been invited to participate in this workshop as representative of the towing industry.
One of the issues in focus is to reduce the delays and grid lock issues on the 401 and QEW. For obvious reasons the towing industry plays a key part in this and the rapid clearance of incident vehicles will be part of the considerations.
Risk Management & Liability Issues: We all know that the number of vehicles using the roads is increasing dramatically and traffic management is becoming the number one issue on the roads and highways. There have been a number of incidents where untrained tow operators are engaging in traffic management in an incorrect manner. The Ontario Health and Safety Act clearly states, it is the employers responsibility to ensure an employee is trained to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker;
Diverting traffic, parking in a live lane, incorrect cone placement is rapidly becoming a huge liability. There are drivers getting hit by vehicles and tow companies are being sued. Not being trained for traffic management and actually interfering with traffic is unlawful and a huge liability that can cost your companies dearly.
We contracted with a traffic management company to provide this training last year and this year at a discount price but very disappointed with the number of registrations. Let this be your warning that this is a critically important issue.
All government manuals are reviewed and renewed from time to time. Book 7 (the Ontario Traffic Management Manual) is up for renewal. The PTAO and the ORG have been invited to take part in this review and we are now part of the committee to review book 7 and assist in the new version.
EXCERPT FROM THE ONTARIO OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
Duties of employers (Excerpt from OHSA Regulations)
25. (1) An employer shall ensure that,
(a) the equipment, materials and protective devices as prescribed are provided;
(b) the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition;
(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace. Any land, premises, location or thing at, upon, in or near which a worker works ;
(d) the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are used as prescribed; and
(a) provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker;
67. (1) In this section,
“barricade” means a device that provides a visual indicator of the path a motorist is supposed to take;
“barrier” means a device that provides a physical limitation through which a vehicle would not normally pass, and includes a concrete barrier;
“mobile operation” means work, including a paving operation, that is done on a highway or the shoulder of a highway and moves along at speeds of less than 30 kilometres per hour. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.
(2) If a worker at a project on a highway may be endangered by vehicular traffic unrelated to the project, the project shall make use of as many of the following measures as is necessary to adequately protect the worker:
4. Lane control devices.
5. Warning signs.
6. Flashing lights.
8. Traffic control devices.
9. Blocker trucks.
10. Crash trucks.
11. Sign trucks.
12. Speed control devices.
13. Longitudinal buffer areas. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.
(3) In addition to the measures listed in subsection (2) but subject to section 68, a worker may be used to direct traffic. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.
(4) Every employer shall develop in writing and implement a traffic protection plan for the employers’ workers at a project if any of them may be exposed to a hazard from vehicular traffic. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.
(5) The traffic protection plan,
(a) shall specify the vehicular traffic hazards and the measures described in subsection (2) to be used to protect workers; and
(b) shall be kept at the project and made available to an inspector or a worker on request. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.
(6) A worker who is required to set up or remove measures described in subsection (2) on a roadway or a shoulder of a roadway,
(a) shall be a competent worker;
(b) shall not perform any other work while setting up or removing the measures; and
(c) shall be given adequate written and oral instructions, in a language that he or she understands, with respect to setting up or removing the measures. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 21.