Blue Lights for Tow Trucks - Automotive Retailers Association

Blue Lights for Tow Trucks

ARA Position Paper 2018-01-02

Allow Tow Truck Operators in BC the Option to Equip Tow Trucks with Blue and White Flashing Lamps in Addition to Amber

The Issue:
Towing and recovery is a high risk industry sector characterized by a unique combination of workplace hazards. Statistically in North America one towing operator dies every six days while on the job. Many of those who have lost their lives were struck by a vehicle while performing their duties.
On June 1, 2009, a new regulation in B.C. took effect to enhance the safety of emergency workers by requiring drivers to slow down and move over when passing parked emergency vehicles (including tow trucks) with flashing lights(1). The origins of BC’s Slow Down Move Over law began as a result of a tragic accident involving a Vernon tow truck operator who had been struck by a cube van while attending to a disabled motorist. As critical as this new regulation is, however, it has not had the desired effect of increasing safety for roadside workers. Drivers still fail to slow down and move over, putting the safety of emergency and roadside workers at unnecessary risk. Even more concerning, there has been inadequate enforcement and insufficient public awareness and education of the law.
Towing and recovery operators are primary responders to the scene of an accident or distressed motorist and they often operate in conditions different from other roadside work zones. Unlike other roadside work zones (e.g. construction, landscaping, etc.) towing and recovery operators are called to assist stranded motorists at all times of the day and night, and in all weather conditions. Roadside assistance is typically considered brief and emergent work under the provincial Traffic Management Manual TMM guidelines and as such the operator is relying on passing motorist to adhere to Slow Down Move Over(2). Long or short term recovery operations that utilize added control measures such as traffic cones or traffic control persons may still place an operator at risk depending upon position of disabled vehicle, visibility, and other road and environmental conditions.

The Impact:
In B.C., between 2005 and 2014, 15 workers were killed and another 223 injured from being hit by a motor vehicle while working on or beside the road. Specifically for towing and recovery, within this same period 14 operators have been seriously injured and one death when they were hit by a motor vehicle while working on or beside the road in a defined work zone(3). Since 2014, there have been 5 other high profile incidents and numerous other near miss incidents as a result of the failure of motorists to drive with due care and attention when approaching a designated work zone(4) .
In March 2017, a Saskatchewan tow truck operator was killed while assisting a stranded motorist. The incident occurred at night in blizzard conditions. In response to the incident and after hearing the testimonies of 100s operators across the province the Saskatchewan legislature passed Bill 65 – The Traffic Safety Amendment Act 2017 – to allow tow truck operators to display flashing blue lights at the scene in addition to amber. The Bill passed all three readings on April 6th, 2017(5).
In Alberta, on December 12th, Bill 215 – Tow Truck Safety Act – was introduced that would allow for a tow truck to be equipped with one or more flashing amber lights and may be equipped with blue and/or white flashing lamps visible from all directions. The Bill has passed its first reading(6).

ARA Position:
The ARA advocates for an amendment to Division 4:28 Flashing Lamps of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations to allow tow trucks to be equipped with blue, white, or both, flashing lamps visible from all directions in addition to amber. Allowing tow trucks to display a unique combination of flashing lamps will contribute significantly to operator safety as well as maintain workplace consistency across the country.
The ARA actively supports safety initiatives for the towing and recovery industry. The ARA represents the towing and recovery industry as active participants in B.C.s Work Zone Safety Alliance – Cone Zone and Slow Down Move Over media campaigns. We have also partnered with other safety organizations including WorksafeBC for purposes of developing and communicating roadside safety management practices and guidelines. While all these initiatives are purposeful and help to reduce roadside incidents we continue to hear from operators of the near miss encounters they experience each and every day while performing their jobs. Having an added control measure such as flashing lamps with a lighting combination unique to the towing and recovery work zone will help remind motorists to slow down and move over as well as offer advanced warning that a recovery operation is being performed ahead.

 


(1) In Dec, 2014 a new regulatory amendment was made in order to simplify the Slow Down Move Over requirement so that it includes all vehicles displaying a flashing red, blue or yellow light.
(2) The TMM defines brief and emergent work to be of duration of less than 15 minutes on the scene. Cones and/or other traffic devices are not a requirement for brief and emergent.
(3) 2014 Cone Zone campaign and Care around Roadside Worker initiative: Using WorkSafeBC’s BIA Data Mart and ODW Snapshot all SLF claims in which first payment was made between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2013 were identified where a worker was hit by a motor vehicle.
(4) Five serious incidents since 2014 involving tow truck drivers being struck by motorists were reported by CTV, CBC, and Global News.
(5) Saskatchewan Hansard April 6, 2017. According to WorksafeBC, MVIs account for approximately 10% of all time loss injuries.
(6) Alberta Hansard Dec 12, 2017

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