Making sure the roads are safe takes a lot of skill. Car accidents and breakdowns happen all the time on the highway. Fortunately, road officials like tow truck drivers know how to manage these incidents in an effective and diligent manner. They make sure non-operational vehicles are safely recover from off the road using the vehicle towing equipment and haulthe vehicle to a repair shop. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss what requirements you must meet in order to become a Tow Truck Driver. You’ll be on the road in no time.
What Is a Tow Truck Driver?
Typically, Tow Truck drivers are trained drivers who basically “clean up a mess” on the road in the case of a car accident. They use several different types of tow trucks, making sure they’re ready for any kind of situation. Whether it be a rescue and recovery instance or a fatal accident, they haul away all destroyed vehicles off to safety. If you’re seriously considering becoming a Tow Truck Driver, you have to be ready to handle anything on the road.
What Does a Tow Truck Driver Do?
Though, in order to start towing, you’ll have to know all the ins and outs of the job. In greater detail, tow truck drivers respond to calls from drivers or facilities that are experiencing a little car trouble. More importantly, they handle situations that involve abandoned cars, breakdowns, accidents, illegal parking, impoundment and roadside assistance. Tow drivers also must know how to drive on everything from backcountry rural roads, busy city streets and the mountains.
What You Need to Become a Tow Truck Driver
The regulations for a Tow Truck Driver are pretty standard throughout the U.S. However, the requirements for being a tow truck driver differ slightly from state to state. While some may not request that you meet tow truck license requirements and pass a series of tests, most states will. Once you’ve passed all your tests, you’ll be well on your way to tow truck driving. Be sure to use the U.S. Department of Transportation as a point of contact to familiarize yourself with your state’s rules and regulations. You’ll want to stay compliant with DOT regulations for Tow Truck drivers. Let’s take a closer look at the requirements potential tow truck drivers must follow:
- Appropriate Age:One of the most basic requirements to qualify as a certified tow driver is that you’re at least 18 years old. Though, most companies don’t want someone who’s still wet behind the ears. In fact, they’d prefer a driver that’s between 21 to 25-years-old and has a little bit more experience.
- Physical Fitness:Additionally, you’ll need to be in good physical health. You don’t have to worry about working out to the extreme like the celebrities who star in Marvel and DC films. Though, you do need to have enough strength to shovel a car out of the snow in a snowstorm. Towing also involves lifting and operating heavy machinery. Additionally, you must have great vision and hearing in order to stay vigilant of your surroundings at the accident site.
Though, you also need thick skin to work as a tow truck driver. Working in this line of work can be stressful for the most part. You’ll spend the better half of your days working on busy highways, battling severe rainstorms and trying to pacify angry drivers. During times like these, you must know to remain calm, be patient and stay strong.
- Driver’s License:Whenever you operate a vehicle, you must always have your driver’s license on hand. You especially need one to drive a tow truck. Not only that, but you need a squeaky clean driver’s record too. It’s important that you’re a licensed driver and a safe one at that.
- Background checks: In addition to a clean driving record, your background check must also be clean. A company is entrusting you with the responsibility of transporting another person’s valuable possessions. It’s only right that they ensure their drivers don’t have a criminal background and can pass a drug test with flying colors.
- Proper Training: You’ll also need at least a high school diploma or GED to help you meet the basic requirements for a tow truck job. Interested drivers can also become an apprentice and take up jobs shadowing experienced drivers. Taking on these tasks alone will help you learn the policies and safety procedures for tow trucking.
Additionally, you talk with your co-workers to find out which companies offer training programs. However, you’ll have to start your search from scratch once you move from one towing business to another. The new company will train you as a new employee, to help you learn their policies and guidelines. Even after you obtain your certification and licensing, you can still keep your mind fresh with information by participating in various training classes.
- Licensing and Certification: The last step will be to obtain the licensing and certification needed to operate a tow truck. As mentioned before, you must obtain a CDL before getting behind the wheel of a tow truck. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you’re a certified tow truck driver. In order to do so, go through the Towing and Recovery Association of America. The organization sets national standards that all truck drivers must meet.
Afterward, you can start the certification process. By completing the three levels of certification, you’ll stand out from the rest of the candidates. The three levels of certification include:
- Level 1: Light-Duty – This first level requires that you meet all state driving requirements for light-duty training. You also have to pass an exam and have 90 days of tow truck driving knowledge in the last five years.
- Level 2: Medium/Heavy Duty– At the mid-level, you have to jump through a few hoops. You must have spent one year working as a medium to heavy-duty tow truck driver and a recovery operator. Additionally, you must obtain a CDL, finish level one and pass another exam.
- Level 3: Heavy Recovery – At the end of your certification journey, you’ll be cleared for heavy-duty tow truck driving. However, you must complete the level two certification, have a CDL with endorsements, and spend two years working as a tow truck driver professionally.
How to Become a Tow Truck Operator
Once you’ve met all the requirements and completed the certifications, you’re ready to start towing. You’re probably wondering ‘What do I need to start working as a tow truck driver today?’ The first step is applying to tow companies, service stations and auto salvage businesses near you. You can even look to state employment services, newspaper ads and internet job search engines to find a tow trucking company that’s hiring.
If you’re more of an entrepreneur and want to start your own towing business, you’ll have to consider a lot of aspects. For instance, starting your own business involves filling out the required paperwork for your state. You’ll also have to consider how you plan to grow your product inventory and how many drivers you want working for you. Most importantly, you’ll need the right equipment to work as a tow truck operator.
Starting with having the right tow trucks on your fleet can go a long way. Three of the most common tow trucks include a conventional, flatbed and wheel lift truck.
In short, a conventional tow truck lifts the vehicle’s two tires off the ground and hauls it away. Additionally, the truck wraps its large mechanical arms and chains around the axles and frame of the towed vehicle. However, these trucks tend to cause a lot of damage to towed vehicles.
On the other hand, a Flatbed Truck offers poses as a safer towing option for the vehicle. The flatbed itself is raised on a ramp to help load up vehicles. A flatbed truck is especially useful to tow expensive cars or ones with non-operational wheels.
Lastly, a Wheel Lift Truck or a “full float truck,” uses hydraulics rather than hooks and chains to eliminate any chance of damaging your vehicle. Moreover, the truck lifts two tires off the ground and takes the vehicle away. At the end of the day, taking these steps will help you run your own company and become a tow truck operator.
Staying Ahead of the Game
In conclusion, understanding these tow truck requirements will make you all the more qualified for a job as a tow truck driver. Trucking companies are always looking to hire fresh new faces. Tow truck drivers are especially needed in the industry. By learning what it takes to become a tow truck driver, you’ll stay ahead of the game.