The cost of dealing with abandoned vehicles, RVs, boats, campers and trailers leave local tow truck companies on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
“When the police call us to tow a vehicle, we don’t have a choice,” explained Dave LeQuesne, owner of Westshore Towing. “We don’t get paid to tow abandoned vehicles, but try to do it on a good neighbour basis. That’s resulted in a loss exceeding $100,000 last year.”
Don Affleck, the owner of Peninsula Towing, said although abandoned items requiring towing has always been an issue, the problem is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. “They take up unpaid space in our yards and we’re stuck with disposing of them if they’re not claimed. This is unretrievable debt.”
Affleck and his wife, Meghan, peg the cost at around $100, 000 a year for their company as well.
“We have to pay the drivers and cover our costs and the salvage value has plummeted due to the global economic downturn,” Meghan noted.
LeQuesne cited as an example 10 vehicles he recently took to Schnitzer Steel for scrap metal that netted only $664.61.
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Totem Towing owner Dan Bird said it’s getting to the point where they don’t want to tow abandoned motor homes because of the costs involved in stripping them down for disposal, which exacerbates the cost of storage and loss of space in their yard.
LeQuesne currently has three vehicles taking up space in the yard right now from people who left the province for other ventures.
Many of the abandoned vehicles pose environmental hazards to the community, especially when they are left in environmentally sensitive areas, Meghan Affleck added.
A boat dumped in a vacant field near a townhouse complex in Sooke a few years ago – and was recently set on fire – underscores the problem.
Affleck and LeQuesne, along with the owners of Tiger Towing in Duncan, and Georgia Straight Towing in Courtenay met at the BC Legislature on Nov. 26, 2019 with Premier John Horgan, Attorney-General David Eby and Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth to try and find solutions to the problem.
The tow operators proposed adding a levy similar to what’s charged on batteries, computers, refrigerators, pop cans, small appliances and other items to help recoup the losses. That would also provide some incentive not to abandon vehicles and would be helpful in recovering costs from ICBC on uninsured vehicles, Don Affleck said.
“If there was a fee for getting rid of these, it would act as an incentive for people to dispose of their property correctly,” LeQuesene said.
Although they said the government seemed open to exploring solutions at the time, there has been no response since the meeting.
“It seems to have fallen on the back burner like a lot of things because of COVID,” LeQuesne said.
LeQuesne and the Afflecks believe it should be an election issue that all of the parties take a serious look at.
“That way maybe we can get something done after the election,” LeQuesne said. “It’s a province-wide issue, and it’s getting more expensive all the time.”
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