TORONTO -- Ontario is taking further steps to crackdown on the notorious tow truck industry, including contracting specific companies to cover designated portions of Toronto-area highways.

“In recent years, we’ve seen some very concerning trends of violence and criminal activity in the industry,” Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said during a news conference held at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“Violence in the towing industry is unacceptable and we are taking steps to end it.”

In response to the ongoing violence and criminal activity crippling the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) tow truck industry, the provincial government set up a taskforce in June 2020.

The taskforce was comprised of representatives from several Ontario ministries, including the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Solicitor General, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and members of municipal police services.

After consulting with 70 industry partners, as well as members of the public, Mulroney said that taskforce has now released its findings and extensive recommendations to “increase provincial oversight of the industry and improve standards.”

Based on the recommendations, the province said the OPP will form a joint forces operation team with municipal police services.

As well, the Ontario government will launch the first phase of a pilot project that will introduce four restricted tow zones on sections of provincial highways within the GTA. A single tow truck company contracted by the province will operate in these areas.

According to the province, tow truck drivers will respond to incidents in these designated zones within 30 minutes as part of the pilot and clear the scene within 90 minutes.

“This means that no other towing company can tow vehicles within this tow zone, except by request of the OPP or MTO,” Mulroney said.

“This approach will eliminate the practice of accident chasing within the tow zones, which has been a dangerous trend in the industry. Ending the accident chasing regime means people can take comfort in knowing that a reputable tow operator will get there to help them get to a safe place.”

She added that the recommendations also include establishing an oversight model, implementing licensing for tow truck drivers and introducing clear equipment standards.

“Tow truck drivers provide a vital service to our province’s road network – ask anyone who has found themselves stuck on the side of a busy road or highway waiting for help, or anyone stuck waiting in traffic behind a collision or a breakdown.”

In response to the taskforce’s recommendations, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province is proposing legislation that would, if passed, “enhance standards and improve safety.”

She said the industry “lacks oversight” right now and has “too many criminals making their own rules.”

Controversy and criminality have clouded the industry in the Toronto area for the better part of the last two years. Officials have said an ongoing turf-war between competing businesses has seen at least one murder and a number of arsons.

In May of last year, police across the GTA laid some 200 charges, including first-degree murder, against members of “several organized crime groups working within the towing industry.”

Mark Graves, the President of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario said, "Today's announcement 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."

As well, Geoffrey Wood, the Senior Vice President of Ontario Trucking Association said, “We are thrilled to see the results of the provincial towing taskforce, 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.”

"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."