Getting towed: Your rights when dealing with tow-truck operators
Legal requirements for tow-truck operators
There are some legal requirements that tow-truck operators have to meet:
- anyone carrying on a tow-truck business must have a special licence to do this (the land transport laws call a towing business a “vehicle recovery service”).
- Displaying name and details
- the name and contact details of the tow-truck operator must be clearly displayed both outside and inside the truck
- the driver’s driver identification card must also be clearly displayed.
- Their behaviour
- the tow-truck driver must behave in an orderly and civil manner
- if the driver has someone else with them (other than another licensed tow-truck driver or the owner of the towing business), the driver is responsible for making sure the other person doesn’t behave in a threatening or improper way. In other words, they can’t bring along someone just to intimidate vehicle owners
- the driver can’t have a dog or other animal with them
- the owner of the tow-truck business is responsible for the behaviour of their drivers and other employees.
- Authority for each tow
- the driver can’t tow a vehicle unless they have a specific “tow authority” for it – this is an official form that has all the relevant details, including where your vehicle is being towed to and the driver’s name, address and signature
- in particular, your vehicle usually can’t be towed unless the tow authority is signed by the person who authorised the tow, which must be either: you, or someone representing you; or a police officer or traffic warden (for example, if you were parked on a public road but blocking an entrance, or if you were in a crash); or the landowner, if you’re being towed from private property, like a carpark. If the tow-truck driver can’t get the signature of the person who authorised the tow, the driver must record that person’s name and contact details.
- Obeying police and emergency workers
- at a crash scene, tow-truck drivers have to obey any instructions given by police officers, traffic wardens, firefighters or ambulance officers to move their truck away.
- Keeping records of tows and complaints
- tow-truck operators must keep a register that records, in date order, all the tows carried out by the business
- towing businesses also have to keep a register of all written complaints they’ve received (see below, “Complaining about a tow-truck operator”).