are tow trucks emergency vehicles?

Are Tow Trucks Emergency Vehicles? 

Everyone knows police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances are emergency vehicles, but do tow trucks fall into that category as well? The short answer is yes, but they can’t do everything those other emergency vehicles can. There are lots of rules and regulations and they can change depending on the state you’re in.

Let’s take a look at what it means for a tow truck to be an emergency vehicle. 

Emergency Vehicle Status for Tow Trucks Can Depend on State Regulations

Whether a tow truck is an emergency vehicle really depends on the regulations in each specific state, but more often than not, the answer is yes. Tow trucks are usually considered emergency vehicles because they often need to get to the site of an accident quickly. A car may need to be removed to help traffic flow, or if a crash is bad, sometimes a tow truck is the only solution to get the vehicle out.

But even if tow trucks are considered emergency vehicles in your state, that doesn’t mean they can do the exact same things as a police car, a fire truck, or an ambulance.

What Can and Can’t Tow Trucks Do as Emergency Vehicles? 

There are several guidelines and requirements that tow trucks must follow. They don’t have the same freedom as other emergency vehicles.

Tow trucks must:

  • Turn on their rotating lights when at the emergency site or an emergency response area
  • Follow the speed limit
  • Follow all traffic laws
  • Be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles

Tow trucks don’t/can’t:

  • Have the right of way and other vehicles do not have to pull over for them (this can depend on the state)
  • Turn on their rotating lights before they make it to the emergency site or emergency response area
  • Have sirens or other signaling devices

Tow Truck Lights Regulations

One of the most regulated parts of a tow truck is the lights. Some states require certain types of lights, certain colors, or certain light patterns for tow trucks specifically. But that isn’t the case everywhere. Let’s take a look at some of the more common regulations.

Tow Truck Light Color

Many states require a certain color for the lights on tow trucks. More often than not, the color is amber, but some states require yellow or even red.

Tow Truck Light Brightness

The light also needs to be bright enough to be noticed but not so bright that it blinds or distracts other drivers. Each state has its own specific brightness requirements so make sure to check that before you go out on the road.

Tow Truck Flash Pattern

The flash pattern of the lights on your tow truck may also be regulated. They may ask you to have a strobe pattern, a rotating pattern, or a steady-burning light.

Tow Truck Light Bar

Most tow trucks must also have a high-intensity light bar to warn people that they are there and to ensure they are visible to oncoming traffic.

Rear Lighting

Most states will require you to have some form of rear lighting so other motorists can see you when they’re driving behind you. This may mean you need to have lights that you’re able to put on the vehicle that you’re towing behind your tow truck.

Who Regulates Tow Truck Lighting?

If you’re worried about getting the right lights for your tow truck or wrecker, there are a few organizations you can contact including:

  • Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles: checking the state regulations on tow truck lighting is the first place you’ll want to look.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA): This agency regulates what lights can be used on tow trucks that are already in service. They especially focus on turn signals on tow truck dollies. If the turn signals are blocked by any equipment you’re using, you need to install more lighting.
  • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS): This regulates the lighting requirements on a tow truck when it’s originally built. Tow trucks must have headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signal lights, backup/reverse lights, side lights, reflectors, and clearance lights
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA): This agency governs and regulates new tow trucks and the original and replacement lights on those tow trucks

Your Minute Man Wheel Lift Tow Truck

The Minute Man Wheel Lift can make just about any heavy-duty truck into a tow truck in hours and is much more cost-effective than buying a big tow truck. When Minute Man is installed, your truck becomes a tow truck, and can follow the laws governing tow trucks in your state. 

The Minute Man Wheel lift offers all the benefits of a traditional tow truck, without the drawbacks. No high price tag, no excessive bulk or lack of maneuverability. The Minute Man can easily fit into small, awkward spaces, and is much faster to use than the traditional tow truck. 

If you have a tow truck business, your main goal is to transport cars safely and efficiently. At Minute Man, we manufacture and supply a tool you need to do that: the Minute Man XD Wheel Lift. It’s a safe, convenient, cost-effective tool that’s ideal for a variety of towing applications, including emergency response. Contact our team today to learn more. 

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on the website as a basis for making business, legal or other decisions. 


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