Emergency Signage and Flagging


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Click here to download the MUTCD handbook in PDF format.
Click here to download a PDF of known errors in the MUTCD.

     In cooperation with the Montana Department of Transportation, the Montana Tow Truck Association has adopted standardized signs. Warning signs must bear the words "HAZARD AHEAD," "LANE CLOSED AHEAD," "ROAD CLOSED AHEAD," "WRECK AHEAD," "TOW TRUCK AHEAD or "WRECKER AHEAD." It is highly recommended that Montana tow truck operators follow the wrecker signing guidelines provided in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

State and national minimum standards for acceptable signs are:
  • color of warning sign orange with black legend and border
  • shape of warning sign diamond
  • minimum size 36" by 36 with five-inch lettering on interstate, primary, secondary, and urban routes
  • reflectivity must meet MUTCD guidelines for visibility both day and night
  • placement signs must be placed right of the roadway a minimum of 450' in advance of an accident site when tow trucks are operating (Incidents that require total lane closures cannot be safely diverted without following a DOT-approved sign plan involving significant traffic control measures.)

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all streets and highways. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F.

For more information, visit the Federal Highway Administration's website (off-site link).

Click here for an HTML version of the MUTCD (off-site link).

FHWA Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to assure consistency between the PDF and HTML files posted on the MUTCD Web site, it is possible that the HTML files may not be totally identical in content to the PDF files. The PDF files constitute the official version of the MUTCD and always take precedence over any potentially conflicting MUTCD text or figures that may occur in the HTML files.

Montana State Seal
Montana Code Annotated ~ Wreckers and/or Tow Vehicle Requirements


18.8.519    WRECKERS AND/OR TOW VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS

(1) The following regulations apply to wreckers and/or tow vehicles:

(a) When proceeding to an emergency, the wrecker or tow vehicle must enter an open weigh station except if the emergency creates highway blockage and/or serious threat to life and property. If this condition exists, the wrecker or tow vehicle must have top lights flashing and may pass by the open weigh station.

(b) The wrecker or tow vehicle may tow the vehicles or vehicle combination from the emergency scene to its place of business or operator's yard if it is within 100 miles of the emergency scene provided the licensed gross weight or actual gross weight of the power unit does not exceed 26,000 pounds. If the licensed gross weight or actual gross weight of the power unit exceeds 26,000 pounds, the disabled vehicle combination may be removed from the emergency scene to the first place where the disabled vehicle combination can be safely reduced to a single unit.

(c) Double and triple saddle mount configurations may be towed from the emergency scene to its place of business or operator's yard if it is within 100 miles of the emergency scene, and if the operator agrees to travel not more than 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. If a move exceeds 100 miles, the disabled vehicles may be removed from the emergency scene to the first place where the saddle mount configuration can be safely reduced to a single unit.

(d) When returning from an emergency, the wrecker or tow vehicle and load which exceeds the weight limits in 61-10-141, MCA, must enter an open weigh station.

(e) Permit requirements for tow vehicles operating under emergency conditions:

(i) If a tow vehicle or the vehicle being towed exceeds statutory limits, special permits are required and must be carried in the tow vehicle when responding to an emergency. An emergency response does not exempt the tow truck operator from special permit requirements.

(ii) A special permit is valid for both the towing vehicle and the disabled vehicle and load.

(iii) Special permits for overweight are valid for both divisible and nondivisible loads.

(iv) An emergency response exempts the tow truck operation from restricted hours of operation within 100 miles of the emergency scene.

(v) All flag vehicles, lights, and signing regulations apply to wreckers and/or tow vehicles responding to an emergency.

History: 61-10-155, MCA; IMP, 61-10-121, 61-10-122, 61-10-124, 61-10-125, 61-10-141, MCA; NEW, 1988 MAR p. 1704, Eff. 7/29/88; AMD, 1994 MAR p. 1148, Eff. 4/29/94; AMD, 1996 MAR p. 2980, Eff. 7/19/96; AMD, 2000 MAR p. 1075, Eff. 4/28/00.



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