PTAO president Mark Graves on uniting the aftermarket behind a common purpose

It has been a productive—if difficult— year for the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario’s president, Mark Graves.

For one thing, press coverage of the towing industry in Ontario has paid special attention to the actions of a small group of criminals tenuously connected to the collision sector. While this might not sound like fertile ground for improving the towing industry’s relationship with the general public, members of the organization— himself included—had accomplished something rather impressive.

In each major story covering incidents related to this story, PTAO members had managed to share one key point with listeners—that these crimes victimized the vast majority of members of the towing profession—more so than any other group.

For another, tow professional Todd Burgess was killed just outside Oshawa, Ontario, while performing a roadside recovery operation. While the incident, naturally, struck close to home for many PTAO members, the accident also struck a chord with the general public. Unlike in many other situations, the news media began to cover the issue as if a person—rather than a member of a high risk profession—had died.

Graves recently sat down with Canadian Towing Professional to discuss how the towing industry could work more effectively with other sectors of the automotive aftermarket .

Canadian Towing Professional: Tow operators have found themselves painted in a bad light and the result of the malpractice of a few bad eggs. The coverage of these bad actors often has a rippling effect for the industries. What are the biggest public misconceptions about tow operators?

Mark Graves: Well, the only thing that is ever put out through the news is always the bad stuff. So there is a lot of fear and worry about what happens when you break down on the road.

The vast majority of towers are good company and good people. They are in this business to helpt he public. They want to help you, even if a few bad stories can make that hard to believe!

CTP: As we begin a new decade, what would you say was the biggest change that has faced tow professionals—in relation to their work with other businesses in the automotive aftermarket?

MG: I don’t know that there has been any change one way or another. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between garages, towing companies and auto bodyshops. They have worked together for years, and I think we can build on that to make the roads safer for everyone.

CTP: Could each of these sectors work a little more effectively with one another?

MG: I find that all of the industries are very siloed.

We could get a better working relationship and solve common problems collectively. We see each group as fighting their own battles right now, but if we worked together and fought collectively, we might have more success.

If the organizations and associations related to towing, collision repair and auto garages could manage to get groups to come together., we could get a better working relationship. That would be in order to solve common problems.

CTP: What would you say was the biggest of those shared problems?

MG: I’m not really sure. It is something that we have to sit down and discuss. We should sit down and figure out the issues collision shops are having. We know we all have issues with insurance companies–what they want to pay, and how they want to pay.

Each company wants its own type of billing and infrastructure to be the one that gets followed.

If we could work with the bodyshops to come up with some cohesiveness in the billing structure that works with the insurance companies, it would mean we all would get paid faster.

CTP: What is PTAO focusing on for 2020?

MG: We are working with a lot of different groups and organizations, working on developing ways that everything can be standardized—practices and safety procedures.

Our priority is always our operators. We’re really focused on keeping tow truck operators safe on Ontario’s roads. That’s the overall goal.

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