Who is in charge here anyway?

The towing industry is a critical link in the chain of road safety and traffic management. So who is in charge of the chain?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), plays a key role at the federal level along with several other federal and state bodies.  Who Does the FMCSA Regulate?

Department of Transportation (DOT) falls under the FMCSA’s regulations. 

One of the fundamental requirements for towing companies is to obtain a USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) number. This unique identifier helps authorities monitor and regulate companies’ safety information, including compliance audits, crash investigations, and inspection reports. 

The FMCSA monitors and ensures compliance with regulations governing both safety (all carriers) and commerce (for-hire carriers). Companies may find they are subject to both registration requirements (USDOT Number and MC Number) or either one separately. 

It’s important to note that the FMCSA’s mandate mainly involves companies involved in interstate commerce. This means businesses that transport goods or passengers across state lines, which includes many towing companies. However, tow truck operations that strictly operate within a single state are typically governed by that state’s specific laws and regulations, although these often mirror federal standards.

Commercial drivers, including tow truck operators, must also have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Depending on the weight and type of the tow truck, drivers might require a specific CDL class and endorsements. To obtain a CDL, drivers must pass a rigorous set of tests demonstrating their ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely.

For more information https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration

Hours of Service

One of the most crucial FMCSA regulations that directly impact the towing industry is the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. These regulations limit the maximum amount of time drivers can operate their vehicles to ensure they aren’t working under fatigue, a significant cause of accidents in the industry. Tow Adz featured an article in a past blog detailing the importance of vehicle maintenance and the dangers of fatigue. https://www.towadz.com/blog-posts/preventingautoaccidents In general, these rules limit drivers to a maximum of 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Maintenance and Safety Standards

The FMCSA imposes strict regulations on vehicle maintenance and safety standards for commercial vehicles, including tow trucks. These cover everything from lighting and reflector requirements to standards for tires, brakes, and towing apparatus. Regular inspections and compliance with maintenance schedules are necessary to maintain a USDOT number.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

The FMCSA also mandates regular drug and alcohol testing for commercial drivers, including random testing, pre-employment testing, and post-accident testing. Towing companies must maintain a strict drug and alcohol policy and testing program to ensure public safety and regulatory compliance.

Bottom Line

While FMCSA regulations may seem daunting for towing businesses, they are designed to protect both the public and industry workers. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, suspension, or even revocation of the right to operate. Businesses in the towing industry need to stay up-to-date with these regulations and implement rigorous training and compliance programs to ensure safe and successful operations.

Additional Towing Resources:

  • Fmcs.dot.gov