Eagle Wing Towing – 24 HR Towing Service Aurora, CO

Are Tow Trucks Considered Emergency Vehicles?

Are Tow Trucks Considered Emergency Vehicles?

Wondering if tow trucks are considered emergency vehicles in your state? It’s not always a clear-cut answer. This varies from state to state and depends on local laws and what tow trucks are allowed to do. Knowing whether tow trucks are emergency vehicles is important because it influences how they operate and how you should react when you see one on the road.

Let’s take a closer look at how different states view tow trucks. We’ll explore what rules apply to them, from the lights they use to whether they’re treated like first responders. This guide will help you understand the special roles tow trucks may play, including any exceptions that allow them to use sirens or speed in emergencies. Join us as we uncover the essential facts about tow trucks and their place on our roads.

Emergency Vehicle Designation: Criteria and Capabilities

Tow trucks can sometimes be considered emergency vehicles, but this depends on the state and specific conditions. Let’s simplify how this works:

Operational Context and Light Usage

Tow trucks often use flashing emergency lights during tasks like vehicle recovery or loading to warn other drivers. In some states, they can use red, blue, and amber lights at emergency scenes, making them officially emergency vehicles for that duration.

Limited Privileges Compared to Traditional Emergency Vehicles

Unlike police cars or fire trucks, tow trucks can’t speed or bypass traffic signals. They’re allowed to use their emergency lights only during actual emergency services or near an emergency.

Under the “Move Over Law,” drivers must slow down and move over when they see stopped emergency vehicles, including tow trucks. Ignoring this law can result in fines and points on your driving record.

Regulated Special Purpose Vehicles (RSPV) in California

This category includes special vehicles like privately owned ambulances and armored vehicles, which need to meet specific criteria and pass regular inspections. Authorized Emergency Vehicles (AEV), such as those used for emergency roadside responses, are part of this group.

Criteria for Emergency Vehicle Designation in California

California defines its emergency vehicles in the Vehicle Code, Section 165, which covers vehicles used by the government or Indian tribes for emergencies. This definition is updated by the state legislature as needed.

By understanding these guidelines, you can better grasp why tow trucks might be classified as emergency vehicles and the rules that apply to them and other drivers during emergencies.

State-Specific Legislation and Tow Trucks

In various states, legislation concerning tow trucks varies significantly, especially regarding their designation as emergency vehicles and the use of warning lights. Here’s a breakdown of state-specific regulations:

Tow Truck Light Regulations Across States

  1. California and “Move Over” Law: Drivers must move over or slow down for tow trucks with amber flashing lights.
  2. Amber Light Permissibility: States like Ohio, Florida, and California allow amber warning lights on tow trucks.
  3. Connecticut: Tow trucks can use yellow or amber steady or flashing lights.
  4. Delaware: Requires amber rotating or strobe lights for tow trucks.
  5. Maine: Tow trucks must have flashing amber lights; green lights are permissible under specific conditions.
  6. Maryland: Allows yellow or amber lights; flashing amber lights are permissible at accident scenes or during towing.
  7. Massachusetts: Tow trucks may use flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber lights.
  8. New Hampshire: At least one rotating or flashing amber light is mandatory.
  9. New Jersey: Flashing amber lights are allowed under certain conditions.
  10. New York: Requires amber lights and allows blue lights for rear projection but only in conjunction with amber lights.
  11. Pennsylvania: Tow trucks may use yellow, white, and/or blue lights but only in specific circumstances.
  12. Rhode Island: Forward viewing or rotating amber lights are allowed; flashing amber lights can be used under certain conditions.
  13. Vermont: Amber signal lamps meeting visibility requirements are required.

Oklahoma’s Enhanced Protections for Tow Trucks

Senate Bill 89: Road Safety Measures

This law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down when nearing stationary vehicles with flashing lights. It applies to emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and Turnpike Authority vehicles, aiming to improve roadside safety.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Regulations

DPS is responsible for the oversight of wrecker vehicles and towing services. This includes setting standards for vehicle storage, towing equipment, and operator liability insurance.

Wrecker Service Regulations

Regulations include mandatory rotation logs for tows, defined rates for vehicle storage, and operational guidelines for wrecker services.

These rules underscore the vital role of state-specific laws in setting operational and safety standards for tow trucks, highlighting the legal diversity across jurisdictions.

Licensing and Insurance

In New York City, tow truck companies must be licensed, at least 18 years old, and of good moral character. They are also required to have liability insurance that covers significant sums for personal injury, death, and property damage.

Operational Compliance

Tow trucks undergo regular inspections to ensure compliance with vehicle and traffic laws. The commissioner can refuse, suspend, or revoke a tow truck license for reasons such as law violations or gross negligence.

Tow Truck Lighting and Visibility

Tow trucks can use flashing amber warning lamps under specific circumstances, such as posing an unusual traffic hazard. Some wreckers are allowed to use red, blue, or combined flashing lights at emergency scenes.

Visibility Requirements

The amber lights on Class AA wreckers must be visible from at least 500 feet, ensuring they are noticeable to other drivers.

Towing Regulations and Fees

Zoning and Building Compliance

A towing license will not be issued if the business premises do not meet zoning and building codes in New York City. Operating without a license is prohibited.

Fee Structure

The fee for a biennial towing license is $600 for the first tow truck and each additional truck. Tow truck operators must also pay $20 for their licenses and display their rates and license information on each truck.

Tow Truck Lighting and Visibility Requirements

Regulations and Requirements

State-specific rules govern the brightness, flash pattern, and color of tow truck lights, ensuring they meet safety standards. Tow trucks are equipped with high-intensity LED lights to improve visibility.

Light Package Components

Tow trucks typically feature a comprehensive set of lighting equipment, including various types of LEDs and light bars, which help enhance visibility and safety on the roads.

Warning Light Bars

Tow trucks are equipped with warning light bars that use high-intensity amber and white-flashing LEDs, visible from both inside and outside the vehicle. The regulated light colors include white, red, and amber to ensure clear visibility and prevent confusion on the road.

This overview helps illustrate how tow trucks are equipped and regulated to ensure they perform their essential functions safely and effectively on public roads.

Are Tow Trucks Considered Emergency Vehicles – Summed Up

Tow trucks have many safety features, like bright lights and warning bars, but they are not always considered emergency vehicles in every state. They must pass regular checks to make sure they follow traffic laws. Each state has different rules about whether tow trucks can act like emergency vehicles, such as using special lights or skipping some traffic rules. This is important for tow truck drivers and other drivers to know, as it affects how they should behave on the road. Knowing your state’s rules can help you understand how to interact with tow trucks safely.


Are tow trucks considered emergency vehicles in Colorado?

In Colorado, tow trucks are not classified as emergency vehicles in the same way that police, fire, and EMS vehicles are. Tow truck operators in Colorado must adhere to general traffic laws unless specifically directed otherwise by law enforcement at a scene.

Is a tow truck classified as an emergency vehicle in Missouri?

In Missouri, tow trucks can operate with red and flashing blue lights under certain conditions as per statute 304.022. 4 (4). They are considered emergency vehicles when owned and operated by a public utility or service corporation and are actively providing emergency services. A siren must accompany the use of emergency lights.

Do tow trucks have the status of emergency vehicles in Texas?

Texas Transportation Code Section 547.305 includes tow trucks under the category of vehicles permitted to have emergency or warning lights. According to Section 541.201, they are recognized as “authorized emergency vehicles” alongside other vehicles used for road and utility construction and maintenance.

What is the designation of tow trucks in relation to emergency vehicles in Georgia?

 In Georgia, tow trucks are allowed to use amber emergency lights as per state statute 40-8-92. Although they are privately owned and not for use in law enforcement, fire, or medical emergencies, an application for amber light usage is required along with a $2.00 fee.

Are tow trucks considered emergency vehicles in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma law, specifically the “Move Over” law, mandates that drivers must slow down and move over for stationary emergency vehicles, including tow trucks. This implies that tow trucks are recognized in situations where they are stationary and providing assistance.

Are tow trucks allowed to speed?

Tow trucks are generally not allowed to speed. They must adhere to the posted speed limits and other traffic regulations, just like any other vehicle on the road. However, in emergency situations where tow trucks are responding to accidents or roadside emergencies, they might be granted some leeway depending on local laws, but this typically does not include exceeding speed limits.

What states allow tow trucks to have sirens?

Most states do not typically allow tow trucks to use sirens, as this privilege is reserved for vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, and police vehicles, which are classified as emergency vehicles under the law. However, tow trucks may be permitted to use other audible warning devices, such as horns or alarms, especially when maneuvering or to alert other drivers when they are stopped on or near roadways.

Go to top