Administrative Rules for Tow Trucks


Montana State Seal
Administrative Rules for the Montana Tow Truck Act


     This chapter deals with the Administrative Rules that have been adopted by the State of Montana to govern the tow truck inspection program and the law enforcement rotation system. These rules interpret the Montana Codes Annotated and provide specific guidance regarding what an individual must to comply with the Codes.

23.6.101    DEFINITIONS

In addition to the definitions contained in 61-8-903, MCA, and unless the context requires otherwise, the following definitions apply to this subchapter:

(1) "Cargo" means the contents inside or on a towed or hauled vehicle or any unit attached to a towed vehicle.

(2) "Certified" means having passed the annual tow truck safety inspection administered by the Montana highway patrol pursuant to 61-8-907, MCA.

(3) "Class 'D' towing" means, for purposes for the state law enforcement rotation system, that a class "A" or "B" tow truck has been called from the rotation system, but the operator finds that the call involves only retrieving an inoperable vehicle from a roadway or its immediate vicinity, so that the use of a rollback or car carrier would be more appropriate.

(4) "Class 'E' towing" means, for purposes of the state law enforcement rotation system, that a class "A", "B", or "C" tow truck has been called from the rotation system, but the operator finds, upon inspection of the scene, that it cannot perform the recovery and towing without at least one more tow truck and access to supportive equipment.

(5) "Classified" means having been placed in one of the classes of commercial tow trucks, pursuant to 61-8-905, MCA.

(6) "Committee" means the tow truck complaint resolution committee.

(7) "CVSA" means the commercial vehicle safety alliance.

(8) "Garage keeper's legal liability or on-hook insurance" means insurance coverage for loss or damage to motor vehicles (as defined in the policy) which are in the care of the insured, an entity that keeps customers' motor vehicles for storage or repair, which loss or damage is caused by the insured's failure to exercise the degree of care required by law.

(9) "Independent classification" means a classification from an independently qualified person or entity approved by the patrol to classify tow trucks pursuant to ARM 23.6.103.

(10) "Independent rating" means the weight rating set forth on the vehicle's nomenclature plate or in a written communication from an independently qualified person or entity approved by the patrol to rate tow trucks.

(11) "Manufacturer's rating" means the weight rating set forth on the vehicle's nomenclature plate or in a written communication from the manufacturer.

(12) "Noncommercially modified tow truck equipment" means tow truck equipment that has been noncommercially modified in a way that the operational characteristics of the equipment have been affected.

(13) "Patrol" means the highway patrol division of the Montana department of justice.

(14) "State rotation system" means the state law enforcement rotation system established in 61-8-908, MCA.

History: 61-8-911, MCA; IMP, 61-8-903, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.103    CLASSIFICATION OF TOW TRUCK EQUIPMENT

(1) All operators of commercial tow truck equipment in the state of Montana who wish to participate in the state law enforcement rotation system must have their tow trucks classified.  In order to have a tow truck classified, an operator must submit a request for classification to the patrol. This request must contain the following:

(a) the operator's name, address, and telephone number;

(b) the tow truck's serial number and base of operations;

(c) appropriate proof of the tow truck's weight rating; and

(d) an affidavit of use, if required.

(2) In order to meet the requirements of (1) (c) above, all operators of commercially manufactured tow truck equipment must submit to the department proof of the manufacturer's rating of their tow truck(s). If the tow truck's nomenclature plate is not available for inspection by the patrol, the operator must obtain written documentation of the weight rating from the manufacturer and submit it to the patrol.

(3) In order to meet the requirements of (1) (c) and (d) above, all operators of noncommercially manufactured or modified tow truck equipment must:

(a) have their equipment classified by the department if the equipment was in service on or before October 1, 1995; or

(b) have their equipment independently classified if the equipment was placed in service after October 1, 1995.

(4) Any structural modification to noncommercially manufactured or modified tow truck equipment must be independently rated.

(5) Upon receipt of an operator's request for classification of his or her equipment, the patrol shall set and inform the operator of a time for inspecting and classifying the equipment.

(6) Upon completion of the classification inspection, the patrol shall inform the operator in writing of the results of the classification; in addition, the patrol shall inform the operator that the operator disputes the classification of its equipment.

History: 61-8-905, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.105    TOW TRUCK COMPLAINT RESOLUTION COMMITTEE - ESTABLISHMENT

(1) Pursuant to 61-8-912, MCA, there is a tow truck complaint resolution committee, consisting of six members.

(2) The attorney general shall appoint the members of the committee.  Applications for appointment to the committee from the patrol shall come from the colonel of the patrol.  Applications from the tow truck industry, the commercial motor carrier industry, and the insurance industry may be made by anyone involved in those industries.  Applications from the public may come from any interested person wishing to serve on the committee.

(3) The deadline and procedure for appointment to the committee shall be established by the attorney general and posted on the department of justice's website.  The attorney general will provide reasonable notice of the deadline and application procedure.

(4) All applications must be in writing and must be in accordance with the procedure established by the attorney general.

(5) The terms of the members of the committee shall be three years, starting in the month of the year of the member's appointment.  The attorney general shall stagger the terms and shall appoint the successor to any committee member unable to complete his or her term.

(6) The committee shall hold an annual meeting in December of each year.  At its annual meeting, the committee shall elect a chair to preside over its meetings and hearings.  The committee shall also elect a vice chair to preside in the chair's absence.  A quorum of the committee shall consist of at least four members, one of whom must be from the tow truck industry.  A majority vote of a quorum is necessary for the committee to take any official action.

History: 61-8-912, MCA; IMP, 61-8-908, 61-8-912, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.106    TOW TRUCK COMPLAINT RESOLUTION COMMITTEE - JURISDICTION AND PROCEDURE

(1) Pursuant to 61-8-912, MCA, the committee shall review and resolve complaints about tow truck issues, including towing charges.

(2) The committee shall have the authority to act as a hearing examiner in contested cases with the powers set forth in 2-4-611, MCA.

(3) Complaints must be signed and submitted in writing to the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) in the Attorney General's Office, 2225 Eleventh Avenue, P.O. Box 200151, Helena, MT 59620-0151, or a member of the committee. The complaint must identify the tow truck operator against whom it is filed and include a description of the underlying facts giving rise to the complaint.

(4) After receiving a written complaint, the OCP shall forward a copy of the complaint to the tow truck operator complained of, who has 20 days to respond in writing to the OCP. If the tow truck operator fails to respond within 20 days, beginning on the 21st day, the tow truck operator shall be suspended from participating in the state and local rotation system for a period of 30 days. The tow truck operator shall remain suspended from participating in the state and local rotation system until the tow truck operator responds to the OCP.

(5) The OCP will forward the complaint(s) to the full committee if:

(a) the tow truck operator fails to respond to the complaint;

(b) the tow truck operator lacks the proper registration, licensing, endorsements, equipment, or any other requirement provided by law;

(c) the OCP is unable to resolve the complaint; or

(d) the OCP believes it to be in the best interests of the public.

(6) If the complaint is forwarded to the committee, the committee will:

(a) give all parties to the dispute reasonable notice of the date, time, and location at which the committee will hear the complaint;

(b) request notification by any party of its desire to call witnesses, and the proposed subject of the witnesses' testimony;

(c) provide the complaining party an opportunity to address the committee regarding his or her complaint;

(d) provide the responding party an opportunity to answer the complaining party;

(e) provide any other party an opportunity to address the committee regarding the complaint;

(f) provide any witness the committee deems relevant an opportunity to address the committee; and

(g) keep a tape recording of the hearing that may be copied or transcribed at the request of any person who pays the cost thereof. 

(7) With a majority vote, the committee may:

(a) dismiss the complaint; or

(b) treat the matter as a contested case under 2-4-611, MCA.

(8) If after a hearing the committee finds the complaint to have merit, the committee may:

(a) issue a warning;

(b) suspend the operator from participating in the state rotation system for six months;

(c) permanently suspend the operator from participating in the state rotation system; or

(d) issue some other sanction that a majority of the committee agrees is appropriate.

(9) The committee's decision is subject to judicial review under 2-4-702, MCA.

History: 61-8-912, MCA; IMP, 61-8-908, 61-8-912, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03; AMD, 2008 MAR p. 2054, Eff. 9/26/08.

23.6.108    VEHICLE TOW AND STORAGE REQUIREMENTS - INSURANCE

(1) For purposes of compliance with the insurance standards of 61-8-906, MCA, an operator's storage facility is deemed to be part of its business premises.

(2) A representative of the patrol or of a local law enforcement agency may request that a qualified operator in the state rotation system improve its storage facility so as to comply with 61-8-906, MCA.  If the operator wishes to contest the request, he or she may file a written complaint with the committee.

(3) Pursuant to 69-12-102, MCA, each and every commercial tow truck operator shall cause proof of insurance coverage to be filed with the Montana public service commission in accordance with ARM 38.3.712, notwithstanding the fact that any individual operator may be a subsidiary of another operator and may be covered by the parent operator's insurance.

(4) For each satellite operation, the tow truck operator must be able to provide proof of current insurance for that location to an inspector upon request.

(5) If the patrol is advised at any time by the public service commission that an operator's insurance is expired or cancelled, the operator will be given 48 hours to correct the problem, then he or she will be removed from the rotation list.

(6) If the operator provides proof of insurance at a later date and is currently certified, the operator will be placed back on the rotation list; such placement is not retroactive.

(7) At the time of the annual safety inspection the operator must provide proof of current insurance to the inspector.  Such proof must be carried in the tow truck at all times.

History: 61-8-911, MCA; IMP, 61-8-906, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.109    SAFETY INSPECTION PROCESS

(1) All operators of commercial tow truck equipment in the state of Montana must have an annual safety inspection as set forth in (2), (3), and (4).

(2) The department hereby adopts by reference the CVSA level 1 inspection, 49 CFR Chapter III, Subchapter B, Appendix G, as standards for the chassis portion of the safety inspections required by 61-8-907, MCA. Copies of these regulations may be obtained from the Montana Highway Patrol, 2550 Prospect Avenue, Helena, Montana 59620.  Compliance with the CVSA level 1 standards must be determined before the tow truck is placed in the state rotation system.  The inspector need not complete the CVSA level 1 form unless the tow truck operator requests CVSA certification, but all applicable standards must be met.

(3) Standards for the safety inspection of the towing and recovery equipment that is mounted on the chasses are set forth in ARM 23.6.110.

(4) Standards for the safety inspection of the equipment that a commercial tow truck must carry are set forth in 61-9-411 and 61-9-416, MCA.

(5) All safety inspectors must have a CVSA level 1 inspector's certification before being qualified to inspect tow trucks.

(6) A patrol-approved inspection form will be completed by the inspector.  If minimum standards are met, a patrol-approved decal will be affixed to the lower right hand corner of the windshield indicating passage of the inspection.  The decal will indicate the date of the inspection, the expiration date of the tow truck's insurance, and the class and license plate number of the tow truck.

(7) The safety certification is effective for one year, beginning October 1 of each year. There will be a 60-day grace period at the expiration of the certification to allow for the scheduling of and inspection of the tow truck.

(8) It is the responsibility of the tow truck operator to contact the Montana highway patrol and request the inspection.  The inspection site must be relatively flat and of a hard surface to allow for movement of the inspector under the tow truck.

(9) The department may inspect any tow truck when questions or concerns arise as to the safety or serviceability of the tow truck and there are reasonable grounds for those concerns.  The operator must be given advance written notice of such an inspection, and the notice must specify the alleged defects.

(10) Any additional tow truck placed into service by an operator must be qualified and classified prior to answering any calls from the law enforcement rotation system.

(11) If any commercial tow truck is sold, the tow truck is not qualified until it is reinspected by the department.  In addition, the seller must remove the tow truck's certification decal.

(12) This rule is subject to the following qualifications:

(a) if the inspection identifies a defect of any type the operator is entitled to request a second inspection by another inspector;

(b) if the inspection identifies a non-safety-related defect or deficiency, the operator will be informed of the defect or deficiency and requested to correct it;

(c) if the inspection identifies a safety-related defect or deficiency the tow truck will be immediately taken out of service.  The tow truck cannot be used in the state rotation system until the reinspection confirms that the defect or deficiency has been corrected; and

(d) if either the inspection form or certification decal is lost, removed, rendered unreadable, or destroyed, the operator must immediately notify the nearest patrol office that can provide a copy of the inspection report from its files and/or reissue a certification decal.

(13) Once a successful inspection is completed, the inspector will provide a copy of the approved inspection report to the tow truck operator and affix the certification decal to the windshield. A copy of the safety certification must be carried in the tow truck at all times.

History: 61-8-911, MCA; IMP, 61-8-907, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.110    GENERAL TOW TRUCK EQUIPMENT SAFETY STANDARDS

(1) All towing and recovery equipment mounted on the chassis of a commercial tow truck must meet the following standards:

(a) chain or cable capable of safely handling loads equal to the minimum manufacturer's ratings established in 61-8-905, MCA;

(b) drums capable of fully extending and retracting the cable;

(c) winch equipment capable of safely handling loads equal to the minimum manufacturer's ratings established in 61-8-905, MCA;

(d) a boom as defined by 61-8-903, MCA and which is capable of safely handling loads equal to the minimum manufacturer's ratings established in 61-8-905, MCA.

(2) Any structural modifications to towing and recovery equipment must be independently rated.

History: 61-8-911, MCA; IMP, 61-8-907, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.

23.6.113    STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT ROTATION SYSTEM - ADMISSION AND SUSPENSION

(1) The state law enforcement rotation system consists of lists of the names and telephone numbers of qualified class "A", "B", and "C" tow truck operators in different parts of the state.  Operators are called as needed from the rotation lists for different classes of tow trucks in succession, subject to considerations of public safety and (5) .

(2) Class D and class E towing operations are not part of the state law enforcement rotation system. Pursuant to the definitions of the two classes given in ARM 23.6.101, they are subsumed under class "A", "B", or "C", depending on the weight rating of the tow truck needed.

(3) An operator seeking to participate in the state law enforcement rotation program must submit a written request to the patrol which includes:

(a) the name of the operator's insurance company;

(b) the class of the operator's tow truck(s) ;

(c) that the operator possesses a unique business name and telephone number.

(4) In administering the state rotation system, the department:

(a) is subject to all requirements of 61-8-908, MCA; and

(b) shall reexamine the rotation system as needed to ensure compliance with the statute.

(5) In order to be eligible to participate in the state rotation system an operator must meets the safety standards of the patrol, as set forth in ARM 23.6.109 and 23.6.110.

(6) An operatorparticipating in the state rotation system must respond to or decline any call from the rotation area; he or she may not authorize any other operator or satellite operation to respond to that call.  Violation of this rule may result in suspension (permanent or temporary) from the rotation system. An operator responding under this section must respond to the call with the class of equipment requested by the patrol.

(7) Section (6) does not apply to a qualified operator who, with the approval of the officer at the scene, subcontracts with another operator for temporary assistance in theinterest of public safety.

History: 61-8-911, MCA; IMP, 61-8-908, MCA; NEW, 1996 MAR p. 3134, Eff. 12/6/96; AMD, 2003 MAR p. 2628, Eff. 11/27/03.