Car towing laws

Written by roger thorne
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Car towing laws
State laws govern the use of tow trucks. (truck image by Goran Bogicevic from

Cars break down--it's a fact of life. Quite often, these cars, or those that are parked illegally or otherwise acting as a nuisance, must be towed. Each state, and many local municipalities, has set up laws that govern how cars can be towed and how tow truck operators can operate. Though these laws differ from state to state, there are areas in which these laws generally are the same.


Some states, like California, limit how tow truck drivers can operate. Restrictions on how operators can solicit business commonly include rules against stopping at the scene of an accident without prior request. Being asked to stop by a civilian or law enforcement or other government official is usually OK. Violations of these rules can result in the driver or operator being charged with a misdemeanour.

Unauthorised Towing

Tow truck operators are under restrictions on what kinds of cars they can move, and under what circumstances. Even if a tow truck operator notices a vehicle that is obstructing traffic, or has been involved in an accident, he may not be allowed to tow the vehicle away if he is operating as a private operator unless requested to remove the vehicle by a public official or law enforcement agent. Violations can result in criminal charges, fines, revocations of licenses or other regulatory penalties depending on the state.

License Requirements

Many states require that tow truck operators be licensed. The licensing process can involve registering with the state, submitting applications and criminal background information, as well as paying licensing fees or renewal fees. Some states classify tow truck operator licenses into different classes by the weight of the vehicle, and different classes may require different fees or certification processes.

Safety Regulations

Many states also have regulations governing the safe operation of tow trucks and their operators. These regulations can include maintaining driver logs for a set period of time; maintaining maintenance records and driver history records; and drivers complying with drug and alcohol testing requirements imposed by the state.


Tow truck operators are often responsible for transporting valuable cars and trucks, and as such they must often carry liability insurance. Utah, for example, requires operators to carry at least £487,500, and in some cases at least £650,000 in liability insurance.

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