Tow operators resolve outstanding issues

Norfolk drops bylaw regulating industry

Norfolk County, the Norfolk OPP and Norfolk towing companies have resolved a number of issues that emerged as irritants in recent months.   

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Recent issues surrounding the local towing industry have been resolved to the satisfaction of operators.

The eight companies that serve Norfolk have set up a dispatch system that meets the Norfolk OPP’s need for one-number dialling anywhere in the county.

As well, Norfolk County will delete the section of its business licensing bylaw that regulates local operators.

Greg Stackhouse of Queensway Tire in Simcoe spoke to Norfolk council about the bylaw March 10.

Stackhouse said Norfolk’s licensing requirements duplicate provincial law while doing little to protect consumers. Market conditions, he said, discipline operators and force them to be self-policing.

“Why do we have a towing bylaw in Norfolk?” Stackhouse said. “We have no complaints or issues. The current bylaw serves no purpose. We have to follow everything through Ontario Bill 15 (the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014).

“None of our surrounding communities have a bylaw, not even the City of Brantford. Norfolk is not a high volume area for towing (with) only a handful of companies. Being a small area, word gets around fast if a company is over-charging. You won’t be in business long.”

Norfolk’s towing bylaw forces operators to purchase a county licence. It also forces operators to meet a number of requirements.

These include providing the municipality with detailed information about an operator’s fleet, field activity, customer complaints and insurance coverage. The bylaw orders operators to provide customers with a rate card and tells them how to interact with the public.

“Each driver shall behave courteously,” says the bylaw, which was adopted in 2018.

At the end of Stackhouse’s presentation, deputy-clerk Stephanie Godby informed council that her department recommends the elimination of the towing provisions in the licensing bylaw. This prompted Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin, chair of the meeting, to quip that Stackhouse’s deputation was “very effective.”

While the county is easing up on local operators, Godby said consumer protection bylaws have their place. She said they protect consumers and industries from the predations of “bad apples.”

“This is an area of limited-to-no complaints,” Godby said. “And there is a thoroughness of provincial regulation and a lack of local enforcement capacity.”

Local tow operators were thrown into turmoil earlier this year when the Norfolk OPP gave Len’s Automotive of Jarvis a share of the Simcoe territory. In exchange, Len’s Automotive agrees to provide heavy-towing services in Norfolk.

Queensway Tire used to provide this service for police but no longer does so. Queensway Tire continues to provide heavy towing at the request of customers.

Following the arrival of Len’s Automotive, other Norfolk operators complained their call volume was down. As well, they pointed out that the Haldimand OPP do not extend similar access to Norfolk-based towing companies.

At a meeting Feb. 26 in Simcoe involving county officials and Norfolk OPP, local towing companies agreed to hire an answering service that will allocate work involving crashes and police investigations.

This satisfied the Norfolk OPP’s desire to have a single number to call when help is needed to clear an accident scene or cart off an impounded vehicle.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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