Are Tow Trucks Considered Emergency Vehicles?

Emergency vehicles are legally authorized by the government to respond to emergency situations. As such, emergency vehicles are permitted—or even required—to use specific visual and auditory warning tools in order to arrive safely and quickly on scene.

So what exactly counts as an emergency vehicle? Police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances quickly come to mind, but did you know that many states have laws that classify tow trucks and wreckers as emergency vehicles? These laws are especially crucial in the tow truck industry, where fatalities and injuries are unfortunately common. In this article, we break down the specifics on tow trucks and their classification as emergency vehicles.

State Laws Regarding Tow Trucks

Many states classify tow trucks as emergency vehicles, but with certain stipulations. For example, in Wyoming, wreckers are authorized emergency vehicles—they’re permitted to flash white and amber lights, as well as red and blue lights at the scene of an emergency. In Missouri, tow trucks are only classified as emergency vehicles if they’re performing an emergency service. In Colorado, the designation is a little bit different: tow trucks are considered “authorized service vehicles,” but they’re still permitted to use “flashing, oscillating, or rotating yellow lights.” As always, it’s important to check your state’s local laws to make sure you’re following the correct statutes.

The Move Over Law

The Move Over Law was created to protect first responders and emergency vehicles on the way to, or at the scene of, an emergency. Many states include tow trucks, wreckers, and utility vehicles as part of their Move Over Laws, although these statutes may differ slightly. If you’re not sure how to respond to tow truck drivers, check out this article to learn more about your state’s Move Over Law.

Which Colored Lights Can Tow Trucks Use?

The most popularly-used color on tow trucks and wreckers is amber. However, some states will permit additional colors, such as white LED warning lights, or in rarer cases, red or blue lights (like in Wyoming). States may require that your tow truck lights provide 360-degrees of coverage and to be visible from a minimum distance (ex. no less than 500 feet). Other states may also restrict the number of lights that you can use.

So what’s the verdict? In most cases, states may classify tow trucks as emergency vehicles, or, at the very least, as authorized service vehicles. But states also have specific exemptions and requirements, so be sure to check the laws in your state and stay informed!