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Abandoned RVs A Problem For B.C. Town Towing Company

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Sooke Towing received a call in late July about an RV that had been completely destroyed and left in an active road between Victoria and Port Renfrew. They were eventually able to locate the owner, but they had not been licensed and did not have insurance, a report said.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), refused to pay the removal of the RV. Instead, the RV remained on the road and required highway flaggers for traffic direction until the decision could be made.

“Sooke Towing declined to pay because it was impossible to say who would pay for the cleanup,” stated Dave LeQuesne (owner/operator) of Westshore Towing. “Mark from Sooke Towing called me and informed me of the situation. I then told Dave that I would not be going out there unless someone paid for it.”

Dave drove out to take photographs the next day. Dave is part of the Vancouver Island Professional Towing Association. He also has several other towing companies. They have been trying to get in touch with Premier John Horgan, Mike Farnsworth, and the minister of public safety, the solicitor general of B.C. about abandoned vehicles. Dave thought that the photos would be a good way to illustrate the issue, the report said.

The RV was left to burn for nearly 24 hours before it was finally taken into ownership. This caused traffic disruption and cost flaggers fees. The environment was impacted by fluids from the RV and the septic tank that had escaped the vehicle before it was finally recovered.

Dave explained that the owner of the vehicle did not have insurance so ICBC could not tell Dave if they would cover anyone to take it to be picked up. Finally, Emcon, the contractor of the Ministry of Highway and Infrastructure said that they would pick up the bill and go out to clean it up.

Westshore Towing was able to take over the task. They drove up to the site, covered it with tarps, then loaded it onto a truck and made arrangements to have it shipped to Schnitzer Steel that morning. It was possible to dispose of it right away because it had been reduced to its chassis. Peninsula Towing’s the owner/operator Don Affleck stated that the vehicle was lucky to be so badly damaged.

“If it isn’t certain if it is a total loss, we must store it for police. This is where we run into trouble. We could be held responsible for flaggers, clean-up, and any hazmat. However, we don’t know the contents or the contents of the items.”

Tow operators are not always lucky. The vehicle that is left behind is often in such bad shape that it needs to be cleaned up before it can be recycled. Don stated that it’s not about who pays for the tow. It’s about how to store the vehicle, clean it out, deal with the environmental effects, and finally, dispose of it. This can be expensive, depending on what material.

Dave said, “I have one in the Walmart parking lot right currently, and nobody wants it to be taken away. They keep calling me to have it removed because it’s not insured. I keep saying, ‘No, we’re not towing it unless someone pays to dispose of it.’” Don explained that the towing industry is facing both a financial burden and potential health risks.

Dave and Don say that the situation has only gotten worse since the pandemic. Dave asked, “A lot of people lost their homes or jobs. Where else can you live?” People are turning to RVs to find somewhere to live if they don’t have a place. Talk to towers across B.C. and you’ll see that this trend isn’t limited to Vancouver Island. It’s spread throughout the province.

Don and Dave have not met Premier Horgan or Minister Farnsworth in nearly two years. Dave stated that they did indeed meet with Premier Horgan and his dignitaries, and offered a solution. We haven’t been in a position to meet again with them because of COVID. The problem has only gotten worse since then. There is more homelessness. People are buying motorhomes that have been sitting for years and putting them on their roads, sometimes without proper insurance and mechanical repairs. They leave them on the side of the road, or in a lot. The tower then has to clean it up.

A levy could be added to all RVs, travel vans, boats, and other vehicles to pay the disposal costs at the end of their useful life. This would be similar to what is charged for electronics, technology, batteries, and plastic bottles. To pay for tow operators to recover, tow, store, and dispose of these vehicles, the money raised by the levy could be used.

Dave stated that the premier believed it was a good idea, and he left it there with his dignitaries. “But then COVID struck and we haven’t been able to get back to them to talk. Every time we send them an email, they don’t respond because there are so many other fires in the province right now.”

“We are trying to stop a protest because some towers want to gather all the RVs in their yards and tow them down towards the parliament buildings. But that’s not how we deal with it. If we can get towers all over B.C. We can start to hammer the government with our concerns. Then maybe we can get something done.”

Dave and Don and other members from the Vancouver Island Professional Towing Association are refusing the tow of abandoned vehicles. When they do, they refuse to take possession of them, which would leave them with the responsibility to dispose of them.

Don stated, “We’ve made it clear that we will tow anyplace to comply with our obligation to police,” and that I would do it for no cost locally. Dave stated, “But I will never take possession of them and won’t be responsible to dispose of them. That includes everything: the towing, storage, biohazard clean-up, black/grey tank pump-outs, and any garbage in the vehicle. Sometimes it can be so bad that you need to hire someone to do it.”

Unfortunately, this temporary solution leads to another problem, as Don explained. “Now we have this terrible scene because guys are like, ‘tow truck guys don’t clean this up and what’s wrong with them.’ But we’re not actually getting paid for this. Guys don’t slow down or move on, so we are now out there not being paid, almost getting hurt, and handling hazardous materials, for what?”

“If we can just get one authority to say that we need to have an RV, boat, or travel trailer disposal fee, people wouldn’t be leaving anything in the forest. There might even be towers out there to get them clean up the environment.”

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