By Nouman Khalil
BRAMPTON – As Brampton’s newly elected council prepared for the first official council session of the new 2014-18 term, City Hall was surrounded by tow trucks protesting against new legislation designed to reduce auto insurance.
The tow truck operators were protesting against Bill 15, Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act 2014, passed Nov. 20. Though orderly, the protest caused considerable difficulties for the commuters in the rush morning hours, prompting Peel Regional Police to advise drivers to avoid Hurontario St. in downtown Brampton, tweeting that the area was “basically shut down due to tow truck drivers’ protest.”
Tow trucks to block downtown…
Police say avoid downtown Brampton…
“This protest is against Bill 15 and the mayor of Brampton, (Linda Jeffrey) having been a Liberal member and now siding with the provincial government that rushed into something which required more time,” said Mark Terenzi, Brampton-Caledon director of NAAAP-TD (North American Auto Accident Pictures Towing Division) and manager of Motosport Towing & Recovery.
“The mayor used to sit on the (provincial) Standing Committee back in 2006 when this issue could have been addressed but she did nothing about it.”
Earlier, Jeffry told The Guardian that she supports Bill 15 and, whenever possible, she will advocate the provincial government make additional changes in the auto insurance system to reduce rates and ensure that Brampton residents have access to affordable auto insurance.
About 100 tow truckers surrounded City Hall and nearby streets and roads early Monday morning, blocking the right lane but allowing the traffic to flow through the second lane.
Mid-morning, they dispersed.
“It’s a peaceful protest to bring awareness and not to cause any problem for the citizens of Brampton,” said Terenzi. “We have already told police to let us know in case of an emergency and we will clear the way. We don’t want to block anyone’s right to travel the roadway.”
The new act is primarily aimed at reducing car insurance premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but it also puts tow trucks under the authority of Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) for the first time in the industry’s history.
The act allows people to now pay for a tow truck by credit card. It will also require tow truck operators to provide itemized billing as well as information on rates, when requested. Operators will also need proper safety training.
“Our voice is not only for tow trucker, it’s for every single insured driver that is on the road and unaware of the all the little tricks that are sneaked into the Bill stating that this is to reduce insurance rates,” said Terenzi. “Nobody knows for sure that these reductions will actually take place.
“The consumer may save about a $100 on premiums but they will spend another $300 if they have a break down or need a boost,” said Terenzi.
He said the provincial government has assured them that their voice will be heard and he said he hopes that the Wynne government will stick to that promise.
Terenzi said the tow truckers’ primary demand is to take off the working hours restriction from the legislature before implementing it. Under CVOR rules drivers will not be allowed to work more than 13 hours a day, to a maximum of 60 hours per week. The operators anticipate this will limit their ability to make money, especially during winter when a single tow can take up to four hours, reducing the amount of time available for other jobs such as boosts, lock outs, and flat tires. If profit margins shrink, companies fear they will have to raise prices and won’t be able to offer discounts, reducing their competitiveness.
The Ontario NDP also have issues with the new Bill, and voted against it.
“We voted against the Bill because it takes away the right for injured people to sue insurance companies in case of benefits denial,” said Bramalea-Gore-Malton MPP Jagmeet . “It gives a big gift to insurance companies. It sounds great, but it doesn’t guarantees anything to reduce premiums and it doesn’t really do anything to fight fraud.”
Singh said the NDP believes the aim of the new law is to give insurance companies a ‘big break’ by reducing interest rates for them and taking away people’s right to sue.
Tomorrow, more than 1,500 tow truck drivers are planning to take the protest to Queen’s Park.