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Let the Light Shine!

The Provincial Towing Association of Ontario held its 2018 annual tow show in late August.

This year’s Tow Show, hosted by the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario (PTAO,) was located at the Markham Fairgrounds on August 24 and 25 2018. The show featured a full weekend of events, competitions, exhibitor displays, and of course, tow trucks, all showcasing the best of the industry. The introduction of new head-to-head competitions, the change in the annual Friday night light show, and the introduction of the
Hero’s of the Industry awards were just some of the new highlights.

Friday night light show

The all-new annual light show was reimagined this year. Previously, it had been a competition to determine who had the best-looking lights—a gathering of comrades and their prized equipment. This year it was a tribute to those in the towing industry who have been injured or killed in the line of duty. Approximately 50 tow trucks participated in the event.

Tow operators and their families gathered together in the centre of the field and observed a moment of silence. When signalled, operators from around the province “let their light shine.” It was absolutely amazing to see so many come together in support of their industry brethren. They not only lit up the night sky, but also made their voices heard through the honking of every truck’s horn.

Meet the stars of Heavy Rescue 401

Back by popular demand, the stars of hit reality series Heavy Rescue 401 drew an amazing crowd. Fans flocked to the booth and waited patiently to have free posters signed by their favourite TV stars. Photo ops were also made available. The PTAO would like to thank Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police for taking the time to come out and take part in this great opportunity for the fans. Towers from as far as Nova Scotia attended the event.

Industry awards

A regular feature of the PTAO Tow Show is the annual industry awards presentations. This year the all-new “Hero of the Industry” award was created to recognize Ontario towers who have, through an unselfish act, rescued a person or assisted a person in a stressful or precarious situation, and demonstrated their commitment to improving and supporting the community in which they live. Two such awards were presented for 2018: Al Pinheiro, from Active Towing, and Eric MacKenzie, from Ross Towing.

Al Pinheiro was about to finish his shift on October 13, 2015 when he encountered multiple police cars and officers on foot near a car that had been pulled over. One of the officers was engaged in gunfire with the driver that had been stopped. Pinheiro recognized the officer as an acquaintance. Without hesitation, Pinheiro drove his truck into the front of the pulled over car, hoping it might distract and confuse the driver long enough for the police to gain control of the situation.

“I knew exactly what I had to do,” said Pinheiro. “I had to make sure that it came to an end without anybody getting hurt or killed.” His courageous action worked and police were able to apprehend the suspect.

Eric MacKenzie responded to an OPP call on Highway 401 just east of Veterans Memorial Parkway in London on February 12, 2017. A car had skidded off the road and flipped over into a deep pool of cold water, trapping the driver. As timing was critical, Ross Towing’s dispatcher directed MacKenzie to the scene within seven minutes.

He was able to right the car and pull it out of the water, which aided in the recovery of the trapped driver.

“The first thing on my mind [was] there’s somebody in [the car],” said MacKenzie, “and we need to get it out of the water so fire can get her out.”

MacKenzie’s quick response and experience was instrumental in saving Ashlyn Krell’s life. She had no vital signs at the scene. But in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, her heart was restarted and she was able to make a full recovery.

These heroes were each presented with a symbolic ring that they can be proud to wear.

The Towman of the Year award was presented to Bill Spicer, Spicer’s Towing Service, Woodstock Ontario.

Bill Spicer started his towing career in 1959 at the age of 16, driving tow trucks for his father. In 1979, Spicer ventured out on his own and started Spicer’s Towing. Spicer supported many community organizations including Big Brothers, St. John’s Ambulance, youth sports teams and the Santa Claus Parade. He was head of the Oxford County Towing Association for many years and was respected by his local OPP for his expertise in incident management. Spicer was a proud supporter and member of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario and the Ontario Recovery Group. His love of the industry and unwavering commitment to making the industry better is truly something we can all learn from. We wish him and his family all the best in retirement.

Joey Gagne, President of the ProvincialTowing Association presented Scot Wood, of Sykes Roadside Assistance, with the all-new annual Scot Wood Partnership award. Wood’s dedication to the towing industry through Sykes has been unparalleled and Sykes is the first roadside company to work with the association. With guidance from Wood, Sykes has supported the PTAO through sponsorship and support of the tow show for many years. To honour Wood’s dedication to the towing industry Gagne felt he wanted to create an award recognizing this commitment. Thank you, Scot for your years of dedication and support.


This year the competitions were not just about quality, performance, and time to complete a task, they were also redesigned to put a little more pressure on the competitors. With the operators having to complete a series of challenges working side-by-side, the added stress was evident for some. Each competitor had to complete a roll-over recovery, a tire change, and a blind back-up challenge. Kieran Shepherd proved to be the best operator to complete these tasks in a safe and professional manner making him the grand champion for a second year in a row. Congratulation Kieran.

The tow show committee would like to thank all the vendors, sponsors and volunteers that helped to make the 2018 tow show a success.

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