When is a Tow Truck Considered As An Emergency Vehicle?

Posted by Extreme Tactical Dynamics on Nov 18th 2019

Whether you drive a wrecker or another vehicle, it is good to know when they can be considered as an emergency vehicle. A question that many wonder as it differs from traditional law enforcement or emergency services (police cars, fire trucks, etc.), it is good to understand what LED Strobe Lights they require – as well as which states permit them.

Amber is perhaps the most frequent color of emergency light that you’ll see in the U.S. Seen on vehicles that assist with road clearance, cars that have broken down, refuse vehicles, the HMRC and maintenance vehicles, they may only switch them on when they are either towing a vehicle or need to get to an accident.

Throughout this post, you can discover exactly when you can use amber lights, if wreckers have the right of way on the road, state laws and regulations and the light packages we have to offer.

What counts as an emergency?

To put it simply, it is when they are performing a recovery or loading along the roadway. To signify it is an emergency, they will have to turn the rotating emergency vehicle lights on. Alerting other drivers to caution, they are bright and can be seen from a good distance.

Requiring a high-intensity light, it catches the attention of others. This is especially important for those who are easily distracted whilst they are driving – for example by a mobile phone. Ensuring that everyone remains safe, a tow truck light bar can truly be a lifesaver.

Do they require any other lights?

Along with amber emergency vehicle lights, breakdown vehicles such as wreckers can also carry white lamps – but these must only be used when they have to illuminate a breakdown or accident site. Directed so that they do not cause inconvenience to other road users, they are usually available in an amber light bar.

Although some have seen blue lights on these types of vehicles, by law, they should only be on law enforcement vehicles. If you purchase blue lights for your wrecker, you might find yourself in legal trouble – so stick to the amber (or yellow or red) warning lights that sit within your specific state laws.

Do wreckers have the right of way?

Unlike police and other law enforcement, tow trucks do not have the right of way. The tow truck lights do serve as a caution, but they are not required to yield priority over other vehicles. Tow trucks are also not required to have sirens or other signaling devices.

If you’re a wrecker driver, it is vital that you are aware of these requirements – so that you are aligning with the law. Traveling cautiously to the scene of an accident or breakdown, you can assist people without having to overtake or have others pull over so that you can get past.

Is there any legislation surrounding emergency lights?

If you’re planning on fitting LED Strobe Lights onto your wrecker, it is good to be aware of the legislation surrounding it. The way to approach this, is by looking into the three main governing bodies – the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (also known as the FMVSS), The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA – which governs new tow trucks).

What state laws exist around this topic?

When it comes to state laws, it is clear that different states have different regulations when it comes to amber lights. If you want to discover more about each specific state, then you should take a look at our in-depth State Statutes section which sits within our Knowledge Base page.

Within this detailed list, we’ve collected the state laws regarding amber lights and the specific situations in which you can use them. Of course, this is not a complete list, so it is a good idea to do thorough research before equipping your truck.

For most of the states, as long as the wrecker is registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, they are legally allowed to use an amber light – therefore they are considered as an ‘emergency vehicle’.

However, certain states implement permits (such as Rhode Island that requires an application to be filled out at the division of motor vehicles, that costs $25) or specific rules regarding the distances/conditions in which the LED Strobe Lights can be seen (Alabama state law requires it to be seen at a distance of 500 feet).

Usually, amber flashing lights are also regulated for towing vehicles that don’t exceed a speed of 25mp on dual carriageways. With certain rules also stating the suitable positions in which to place the lights – for example, they can either be fitted on the top of the vehicle, on the trailer or at the side, so that they can be visible from any direction.

Is there any requirements regarding replacement LED Strobe Lights?

Both the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are specifically designed to inform wrecker drivers on the requirements for replacement LED Strobe Lights. Designed to reduce the number of traffic accidents that occur due to lack of illumination, the laws are essential.

When you’re driving a wrecker, you need to ensure that it is fully illuminated (albeit not dazzling to the other drivers) so that your vehicle is seen – whether it is on a dual carriageway or another type of public road. This is especially important at night or when there is poor weather conditions – such as fog or snow.

What color do I choose for my wrecker?

Although amber is the common color chosen for wreckers or tow trucks, not all states require this. Some states, such as Alaska requires the emergency warning light to be yellow. Colors which are tightly regulated by both local agencies and state, it is important to be aware of the specific color that you need in the area that you’re operating in.

As well as aligning with state law, you also want to ensure that you’re not confusing other drivers on the road by using incorrect lighting or placement. You want everyone around you to know the exact purpose of your vehicle and to have caution when you’re on the road.

Are there any light packages available?

If you’re looking for a light package for your wrecker, then look no further than Extreme Tactical Dynamics. We know that wrecker drivers need bright lights so that they can be seen. That’s why our selection are only of the best quality, that will fit within any budget.

From surface mount LEDS to mini light bars, visor lights, traffic advisors and hideaways, we’re your first port of call when you’re looking for amber emergency lights in the U.S. To find out more, simply discover our LED strobe lights section of our website today. No matter what LED emergency light you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.

Find out more today

Do you have any questions regarding wrecker lighting? Whether it is to do with the specific state that you’re in or you require advice as to what type of LED light to buy, don’t hesitate to get in contact with our customer service team fo find out about our light bars for sale.

Happy to make suggestions that meet your specific vehicle’s needs, we have years of experience in the industry. Using our in-depth knowledge and expertise, we can determine what amber lights are appropriate for your vehicle – as well as ensuring that they are a price that suits you.