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December 13 starts restricted towing zones pilot, only authorized towing companies to be used

Map: Ontario Ministry of Transportation

On December 13th, Ontario will launch its pilot project to introduce “restricted towing zones” on sections of provincial highways in an effort to clear incidents such as collisions or vehicle breakdowns more safely and quickly.

“The ongoing violence in the towing industry is unacceptable, which is why our government is taking action to make the towing industry safer through strengthened oversight and standards,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Ontario’s towing industry is a vital service on our roads and highways every day, and these actions will help to improve safety for all drivers.”

“People should have confidence that when they need a tow, a reliable operator will answer their call and serve them fairly. But over the last several years, this simply hasn’t been the case. We’ve seen towing companies race dangerously to the scene of an accident. And too many customers have been subject to price gouging and pressure tactics by bad actors in the industry,” Mulroney wrote on November 26.

The restricted towing zones” are defined sections of provincial highways where only authorized towing companies that are contracted for each towing zone will be authorized to remove vehicles that require a tow. This means no other towing company can solicit towing of vehicles within a restricted towing zone. In a restricted towing zone, consumers must use an authorized towing company.

Drivers may be able to use their existing roadside assistance membership, such as CAA, if police or Ministry of Transportation staff determine it is safe for them to do so.

Although the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) website does not explicitly refer to commercial vehicles including transport trucks, Road Warrior News (RWN) contacted Ministry staff to confirm the Restricted towing zones do in fact include commercial vehicles.

Here are the questions asked and information supplied by MTO:

 Is there a separate or special website for commercial drivers regarding the restricted towing zones?  

The information provided on the Tow Zone Pilot program website applies to both personal vehicles, as well as commercial vehicles.

(Information about the Tow Zone Pilot can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/tow-zone-pilot-program.)

If a large commercial vehicle breaks down in a restricted zone and the firm already has a business account with a towing company, are they allowed to call that company? 

In a restricted towing zone, commercial vehicles must use the authorized towing company and are not permitted to use their business account towing company.  Towing of breakdowns and impoundments is base on a flat rate that includes towing for a 10-kilometre distance.

Is the “call 511/call 911” instruction the same for commercial truck drivers as it is for passenger vehicles? 

Yes, this applies to both personal vehicles, as well as commercial vehicles.

If you have a breakdown or are in a collision in a restricted towing zone:

  • stay calm and take note of your vehicle’s location
  • call 911 if it is an emergency or if you are in a travelled lane and cannot safely move your vehicle to a safe location
  • call 511 if you are in a safe location in a restricted towing zone and you need a tow (select the option for the Tow Zone Pilot)

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Detailed information: Four restricted zones in Phase One of the pilot

During the first phase of the pilot, four restricted towing zones will be designated on sections of highways in the Greater Toronto Area.

Each pilot location has been chosen based on factors including traffic volume and collision data. Additional restricted tow zones outside the Greater Toronto Area may be identified as part of a future phase of the pilot.

The locations of the pilot are:

  • Restricted Towing Zone 1: Highway 401 from Highway 400 east to Morningside Avenue
  • Restricted Towing Zone 2:
    • Highway 401 from Highway 400 west to Regional Road 25
    • Highway 427 from QEW to Highway 409
    • Highway 409 from Highway 427 to Highway 401
  • Restricted Towing Zone 3: Highway 400 from Highway 401 to Highway 9
  • Restricted Towing Zone 4: QEW from Highway 427 to Brant Street

If you need assistance in a restricted towing zone:

  • Call 911 if it is an emergency
  • Call 511 if you need a tow and select the option for the Tow Zone Pilot

If your vehicle breaks down in a restricted towing zone and it is not a commercial vehicle, the OPP or the Ministry of Transportation may permit you to use your roadside assistance membership (like CAA) if you are in a safe location on the shoulder and safety concerns are not identified.

The pilot project will run for up to four years, and is supported by the Ontario Trucking Association and the Towing Association of Ontario, as noted in these quotes from the launch press release:

“We are thrilled to see the results of the provincial towing task force, including the introduction of a tow zone pilot that will provide faster and safer towing services to truck drivers travelling on some of Ontario’s busiest highways,” said Geoffrey Wood, Senior Vice President, Ontario Trucking Association. “With the introduction of this tow zone pilot, truck drivers in the Greater Toronto Area will see benefits such as faster service and standard rates for towing services.”

“We commend the Ontario government for developing a plan to increase safety and oversight for the towing industry that responds to the needs of the industry,” said Mark Graves, President of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario, who says the pilot “is a positive step towards consistent oversight and improved safety for Ontario’s tow truck drivers who work hard every day to provide professional service to drivers on roads and highways across the province.”