Tow trucks

Information about the requirements to hold a tow truck operator licence or drivers certificate in NSW.

Government response to IPART report into tow trucks

The NSW Government welcomes IPART’s review into tow truck fees and licensing in NSW.

IPART has made 107 recommendations. TfNSW and RMS have considered the recommendations, including the rationale for proposed changes.

The Government’s response outlines which of the recommendations have been supported, but implementation of any changes will be staged and industry will be consulted.

IPART’s recommended maximum fees for light vehicle accident and recovery towing services will take effect from 1 July 2016, adjusted in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Do I need to be licensed as a tow truck operator or driver?

Roads and Maritime Services is responsible for the licensing and regulation of tow truck operations in NSW.

The Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 (the Act) requires any person who undertakes the towing of a motor vehicle using a tow truck in the course of their business to hold a tow truck operators licence.

If you use a tow truck to tow a motor vehicle as part of a business you are required to hold a tow truck operators licence. It does not matter what type of business is conducted or what type of motor vehicle is towed, or the frequency with which motor vehicles are towed.

Only certified drivers can drive and/or operate licensed tow trucks. The maximum penalty is $5500 and/or six months imprisonment. Roads and Maritime or police may issue a penalty notice for $1100.

Refer to driver certificates and operator licences for information about how to apply for a these types of authorisations.

If you carry vehicles solely for the purpose of transporting them to metal recycling facilities you can apply for a scrap metal exemption authority.

Roads and Maritime regularly conducts operations with Roads and Maritime Vehicle Inspectors and the police for the purpose of detecting unlicensed operators and to ensure that licensed operators are complying with the Act. The maximum penalty for operating without a licence is $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. Roads and Maritime or the police may issue a penalty notice for $2200.

Legislation

The tow truck industry is regulated by the:

Extracts from the legislation that relate to the requirement to be licensed are provided below:

Under s.3 of the Act:

Motor vehicle means a motor vehicle (other than a light rail vehicle) or trailer within the meaning of the Road Transport Act 2013.

Tow truck operator means a person who conducts a business involving the operation of any tow truck for the purposes of towing motor vehicles.

Tow includes:

  1. Lift and tow, or lift and carry, and
  2. Lift for the purpose of towing or carrying, and
  3. Carry on a trailer, and
  4. Place onto a trailer for the purpose of carrying, and
  5. Any other action prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition,

Under s.4 of the Act:

A tow truck means any of the following motor vehicles that are used or operated for the purposes of towing motor vehicles:

  1. A motor vehicle that is equipped with a lifting device
  2. A motor vehicle that is equipped with a trailer, towing attachment or other similar device
  3. A motor vehicle that is fitted with a tilt table-top, or with a tilt table-top and winch
  4. A motor vehicle that is fitted with a self-loading table-top that is capable of being detached from the motor vehicle for the purpose of loading or unloading another vehicle
  5. Any other motor vehicle prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition.

Under cl.4 of the Regulation - meaning of “tow” and “tow truck”

  1. In accordance with paragraph (e) of the definition of tow in section 3 of the Act, tow includes tow by use of a rigid frame, rigid bar or similar device
  2. In accordance with section 4(2) of the Act, car carriers are declared not to be tow trucks for the purposes of the Act
  3. In subclause (2):
    Car carrier
    means a motor vehicle combination that is designed or adapted for use for the transport of motor vehicles, being a combination:
    1. That is not equipped or fitted with any lifting equipment (whether portable or fixed) to load the motor vehicles to be transported, and
    2. Onto which the motor vehicles to be transported are loaded by travelling along a ramp under their own propulsion.

Under s.15 of the Act - requirement for tow truck operators to be licensed

A person must not carry on business as a tow truck operator unless the person holds a tow truck operators licence that authorises the kind of towing work carried on by the person in the course of that business.

Under s.23 of the Act - requirement for tow truck drivers to hold drivers certificates

A person must not:

  1. Drive or stand a licensed tow truck on a road or road related area at any time, or
  2. Use or operate, or assist in the use or operation of, a licensed tow truck on a road or road related area at any time, or
  3. Drive or stand a tow truck (other than a licensed tow truck) on a road or road related area at any time for the purposes of towing a motor vehicle for fee or reward

Unless the person holds a drivers certificate.

Licence conditions

The Act provides for licensed tow truck operators to comply with certain standards in relation to the keeping of records, the use of approved premises as a holding yard and place of business, the use of registered tow trucks, and other matters.

Roads and Maritime can apply further conditions to a licensed tow truck operator if it sees fit.

Licensees who carry out towing from accident scenes are also required to comply with maximum charges for towing and salvage which are regulated by the Act and can be found in Part 4A of the Regulation - fees for towing, salvage, storage and related services.

Applicants should consider whether they will be eligible for an operators licence or drivers certificate. The grounds for refusal of an application for a drivers certificate and operators licence are set out in:

More information

If you have any questions about tow truck licensing or if you need help in understanding any of the requirements, please contact Roads and Maritime on 1300 131 134.

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