Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Ontario’s Towing and Storage Regulations as of 2024. In this blog, we delve into the latest rules and regulations governing Ontario’s towing and storage industry. Whether you’re a driver who’s experienced a breakdown, a tow truck operator, or someone involved in the vehicle storage sector, our blog offers valuable insights and updates to help you navigate these new regulations effectively.
What is Ontario’s Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act?
The Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act, 2021 is a piece of legislation in the province of Ontario that came into effect on January 1, 2024. The Act aims to regulate the towing and vehicle storage industry to ensure safety, transparency, and fair practices for consumers. The main objectives of this act include consumer protection, licencing and certification, safety standards, and enforcement.
Towing and storage operators play a crucial role in Ontario’s transportation system, offering essential services like towing for various reasons such as breakdowns, illegal parking, or accidents. The Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act (TSSEA) establishes a provincial regulatory system for the towing and vehicle storage industry. Under this legislation, tow operators, tow truck drivers, and vehicle storage operators must possess a provincial certificate to conduct their operations.
The introduction of regulations will continue to unfold over the coming months, with the anticipation that the last phase of regulations will commence as of July 2024.
Consumer Protection Requirements
The Act seeks to protect consumers by establishing clear rules and standards for towing services and vehicle storage operators. It addresses issues such as pricing transparency, storage fees, and the rights of vehicle owners.
Certain consumer protection standards that will be mandatory for all towing services include:
- Customers possess the authority to choose who can tow their vehicle and where it should be taken (except when directed by the police).
- Tow truck drivers must secure consent prior to towing a customer’s vehicle. Without a signed agreement (permission to tow form), the tow operator cannot impose fees for their towing services.
- Customers must receive an invoice prior to requesting payment and a receipt after making payment.
- Charges cannot exceed the maximum rates published by the Ministry of Transportation.
- Various payment methods, including cash, cheque, credit card, and debit, must be accepted.
- Referrals to a business, facility, or individual can only be provided upon request.
- Tow truck drivers cannot tow a vehicle to a repair business unless the customer has agreed to it.
- Customers must be allowed to retrieve personal property from their towed vehicles without incurring any fees.
Code of Conduct
According to Ontario’s towing and vehicle storage requirements, all tow operators, tow truck drivers, and vehicle storage operators must:
- act with professionalism, integrity, courtesy, good faith and fairness toward the public and each other
- meet the standards of learning, competence and conduct that are appropriate for the services they provide and only undertake work that they are competent to perform by virtue of their knowledge and experience
- regard their duty to public safety as paramount
- comply with all applicable laws where they provide their services
- honestly and accurately represent and advertise their services
- follow this code and advise Ontario’s Director of Towing and Vehicle Storage Standards of any act or omission of anyone that they believe to be contrary to this code
Tow Truck Driver Requirements
Towing companies and their operators must adhere to specific licensing and certification requirements to ensure that they are qualified and competent to provide their services. This includes driver training and licensing requirements, such as having the proper class of driver’s licence for the tow truck they are driving.
Tow truck operators must possess a certificate to provide their services within the province of Ontario. They must carry both the tow operator’s certificate (as of January 1, 2024) and their own tow driver’s certificate (as of July 1, 2024) when operating the tow truck. Tow truck drivers must show their TSSEA certificate to customers if requested.
Tow truck drivers must:
- Give customers their rights before requesting consent.
- Provide the maximum rate schedule when seeking consent.
- Document consent properly (except when directed by police), or no charges can be imposed.
- Take photos of the vehicle during recovery.
- Take the most direct route to the specified location.
- Disclose any personal interest when referring customers.
- Maintain records and provide them within 24 hours.
- Share vehicle information with storage facility operators when applicable.
- Adhere to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) laws for tow trucks, including speed, obeying police, and avoiding unauthorized towing in restricted zones.
Tow truck drivers are prohibited from:
- Allowing unrelated passengers for sales purposes.
- Towing without customer consent.
- Getting benefits for referrals.
- Referring to legal or health services.
- Engaging in prohibited practices like false advertising or overcharging.
Tow Operator Requirements
Tow operators are required to adhere to the code of conduct and meet several additional obligations, including:
- Taking precautions to prevent any loss or damage to towed vehicles.
- Maintaining their tow trucks and equipment in good working condition.
- Complying with TSSEA and regulations.
- Displaying their name and certificate on all tow trucks.
- Displaying their contract information and certificate copy on any premises accessible to the public, websites or social media platforms.
- Disclosing any personal interest they may have when referring customers.
- Sharing any vehicle and owner details with the storage facility.
- Maintaining detailed records of their towing business activities.
- Accept various payment methods.
Tow operators must not:
- Demand payment without first issuing valid invoices.
- Exceed their published rates.
- Receive compensation for referrals leading to additional services.
- Refer individuals to legal or healthcare services.
- Engage in prohibited practices, like false advertising, overcharging, soliciting unsolicited services, or misusing customer information.
Vehicle Storage Operator Requirements
Vehicle storage services must adhere to the following requirements in addition to the code of conduct:
- Safeguard stored vehicles from loss or damage.
- Monitor and maintain their email addresses.
- Inform vehicle owners about storage locations.
- Display legal and operating names, contact info, and rates on facilities and online platforms.
- Allow individuals free access to their vehicles during business hours.
- Promptly release vehicles upon request.
- Disclose personal interests when making referrals.
- Maintain records of their vehicle storage business.
- Accept various payment methods.
Vehicle storage operators must not:
- Deny access to authorized persons.
- Demand payment before providing an invoice.
- Exceed published rates.
- Receive benefits for referrals.
- Refer to legal or healthcare services.
- Engage in prohibited practices like false advertising, overcharging, unsolicited services, or misuse of customer information.
FAQs for Ontario Towing & Storage Requirements
Can a towing company keep your car in Ontario?
Yes, vehicle storage operators can keep your car in Ontario, but there are regulations in place to protect your rights as a vehicle owner. For example, the storage operator is legally entitled to request payment before returning your vehicle because they hold a lien on your vehicle.
Can I have a vehicle towed from my property in Ontario?
Yes, you can have an unauthorized vehicle towed from your property in Ontario.
Do home trailers get towed in Ontario?
Yes, home trailers can be towed in Ontario if necessary, but specific rules and guidelines apply.
Who pays for towing and storage after an accident in Ontario?
After an accident in Ontario, the responsible party’s insurance typically covers towing and storage costs, but it may depend on the circumstances and insurance policies.
What regulations would apply if I owned a towing company?
If you own a towing company in Ontario, you must adhere to the regulations outlined in the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act (TSSEA) and its associated rules and requirements.