LONDON, ONT. -- A wildly inconsistent towing industry, troubled by so-called ‘chaser’ trucks, is described in a new report prepared by London police.

The report to the London Police Services Board (LPSB) recommends renewing its contract with Ross’ Towing until Dec. 31, 2021. A Request For Proposals (RFP) bidding process would then be launched for the next contract.

The current contract sees Ross’ called for all police-related towing requests at accident scenes and when vehicles are seized. Previously, calls were rotated between operators.

But other tow truck operators in London have argued against extending the contract, saying it created a ‘monopoly’ and motivated some companies to chase accidents.

So-called ‘chaser' tow trucks listen to radio scanners, race to collisions, and use high-pressure sales tactics on drivers involved in an accident.

'Upcharges' boosting tow bills

“Often the driver never sees the actual tow bill as it is added to the body shop repair bill,” reads the LPSB report.

As an example, the report includes a bill from an unidentified local tow company for $2,791, which includes added charges for cleanup, wait time and mileage.

The contract with Ross’ Towing includes upfront, standardized pricing advertised on their website.

Number of 'chasers' growing

According to collision reports, at least 38 tow truck companies were operating in London last year. Prior to 2015 there were just 13 towing companies.

When a vehicle does not need to be impounded by police, drivers involved in an accident can use any tow truck company that they wish.

But reputable companies in London say they have been unfairly impacted by the actions of a few bad apples.

According to police records, at accidents attended by police in 2019, 51 per cent (1,779) of vehicles were towed by Ross’ and 49 per cent (1,706) were towed other companies.

Business licensing partial solution

The report also makes several references to city council’s ongoing discussion of business licensing rules for tow truck operators.

The goal would be to improve safety and consumer protection.

Civic administration is drafting possible rules, including a minimum 200 metre setback distance for ‘chaser' tow trucks not invited to an accident scene.

The report to the police board says most other large cities in Ontario have similar rules in place, “but chasing still takes place.” The buffer is, however, another tool to “crack down” on the behaviour.

The London Police Services Board will discuss the report on the local towing industry on May 21.