Driver Knowledge Tests

How to become a tow truck driver or operator

Tow truck driver vs tow truck operator

First decide whether you want to be a tow truck operator (a person that conducts a tow truck business), or just a tow truck driver (a person that works for a tow truck operator).

A tow truck driver needs a driver’s certificate whereas a tow truck operator needs a tow truck operator’s licence.

Any driver that uses a tow truck to tow a motor vehicle as part of their business needs a tow truck operator’s licence from Roads and Maritime. It doesn’t matter how frequently you tow a vehicle or what you tow, if you don’t have a licence the maximum fine is $11000 and/or twelve months in prison. The definition of a tow truck driver is covered under s.3 of the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 and the Tow Truck Industry Regulation 2008.

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

The definition of a tow truck is defined 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.

What do you need to be a tow truck driver?

To legally drive a tow truck you must hold a current tow truck driver’s certificate issued by Roads and Maritime Services. If you drive without a certificate you risk a maximum fine of $5500, six months in prison, or both.

How do you get a tow truck licence?

The certificate is only granted by Roads and Maritime to people of suitable character. It ensures that a driver knows their responsibilities and can conduct themselves appropriately. The certificate allows members of the public to identify an authorised tow truck driver.

Requirements for a driver’s certificate

You must:

  • pass fit and proper person checks – Roads and Maritime will check your background and whether you have a criminal record. This document outlines reasons your application could be refused.
  • satisfy Road and Maritime that you are a responsible person
  • hold an unrestricted driver’s licence from New South Wales or from a border area of New South Wales

Applying for a driver’s certificate

The following process is from the Roads and Maritime guide:

In order to submit an application, you must have:

  • Read and understood the criteria, conditions and procedures for certification as outlined in this fact sheet and the application form
  • Completed the application form
  • Signed the application form declaring that you:
    • Answered all the questions truthfully, and
    • Have an understanding of, and will abide by, the conditions and requirements for being certified as a tow truck driver.

Supporting documents

Once you have completed the application form, you must attach the following documents to your application:

  • A photocopy of the your driver licence
  • Two photographs (passport size) of your head and neck without a hat or sunglasses on a pale background, and that is not more than six months old
  • Interstate or overseas criminal history and traffic record (if applicable)
  • Correct payment of the application fee

Criminal history checks

If you reside outside NSW your criminal history check and traffic history check must be dated within six weeks of your application being lodged.

Roads and Maritime does not accept criminal history checks provided by private companies or brokers. Criminal history checks must be issued by the police in your state of residence.

Payment

Before proceeding with any application Roads and Maritime must receive correct payment in the form of a credit card, cheque or money order, payable to ‘Roads and Maritime Services’. Payments by cash or EFTPOS can also be made over the counter at some registries and service centres. These are shown on the application form. Please do not send cash in the post.

See fees for the current fees applicable. Part of this fee is an administrative payment for assessing your application and is not refundable (even if the application is unsuccessful).

Once you have held your tow truck certificate for five years you can apply to renew it every three years rather than every year.

How to get a job as a tow truck driver

  • Make a list of the tow truck companies you would like to work for.
  • Prepare a CV and get it checked for spelling and grammar. Think about how you benefit the company, not just that you need a job. Why are you unique? Why would you be a good employee?
  • Check local papers and online for job listings.
  • Call the companies and introduce yourself – not all jobs are advertised, and by making an introduction you might get a head-start on a job that’s about to become available. In fact, companies welcome proactive approaches and there’s every chance you’ll be given the job if you sound good enough because it saves the company time having to wade through everyone else’s CV and start the interview process.

Currently there is no mandatory training for being a tow truck driver, however there is a voluntary program which is expected to become mandatory eventually. Taking a training course may improve your chances of getting a job. The training assists with:

  • Improving standards and quality assurance
  • Increasing industry professionalism
  • Implementation of a industry Code of Practice
  • Creation of formal industry training structure
  • Enhancing industry sustainability
  • Protection of consumers and industry operatives.

There are several approved training providers in New South Wales and prices run from around $500 for a driver with experience through to $1500 for a driver with zero experience.

How do you get a tow truck operator’s licence?

This is from the Roads and Maritime guide:

In order to submit an application, you must have:

  • Read and understood the criteria, conditions and procedures for licensing as outlined in this fact sheet and the application form
  • Completed the application form
  • Signed the application form declaring that you:
    • Answered all the questions truthfully, and
    • Have an understanding of, and will abide by, the conditions for being licensed as a tow truck operator.

Supporting documents

Once you have completed the application form you must attach the following documents to your application:

  • For all applications:
    • Certificate of currency for public liability insurance (place of business and holding yard/s)
    • Certificate of currency for on hook insurance for each vehicle operated
    • Copy of current Roads and Maritime Certificate of Registration for each vehicle operated
    • Latest annual company statement with shareholder and director details (for Pty Ltd companies)
    • Printout of interstate/overseas criminal record(s) if applicable
    • Proof of ownership for holding yard/s (rate notice or lease agreement)
    • Copy of lease agreement for any vehicles not owned by the applicant
  • For new applications (whether a new licence or a renewal after a lapse):
    • Certificate of Incorporation (for Pty Ltd companies)
    • Registration of business name for trading name(s).

Applications with no supporting documents, or with incomplete application forms, will not be accepted and will be returned to the applicant.

Payment

Before proceeding with any application, Roads and Maritime must receive correct payment in the form of a credit card, cheque or money order, payable to ‘Roads and Maritime Services’. Payments by cash or EFTPOS can also be made over the counter at some registries Service NSW service centres. These are shown on the application form. Please do not send cash in the post.

See fees for the current licence fees applicable per vehicle for metropolitan and country areas. Part of this fee is an administrative payment for assessing your application and is not refundable (even if the application is unsuccessful).

This document outlines reasons you might be refused an operator’s licence.

How to start a tow truck business

To run a tow truck business you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your business is incorporated registered
  • Your business premises and holding yard have council approval
  • The vehicles used in the business are registered
  • You have the required insurance policies in place for the premises and vehicles
  • You and the people you employ as tow truck operators have the correct licences and are ‘fit and proper’ persons of good repute.

Equipment required

You will need a truck, safety equipment and general business administration equipment (office computer).

Get some legal advice and read through the Australian Governments Plan and Start section if you have never run a business before. It will help you set realistic goals.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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