Montana Professional Tow Truck Act







Montana State Seal
Montana Professional Tow Truck Act



     61-8-901. Short title. This part may be cited as the "Montana Professional Tow Truck Act".   History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 283, L. 1995.

     61-8-902. Purpose. The legislature recognizes that:
     (1) wrecked, disabled, and abandoned motor vehicles on the public roadways create hazards that imperil lives and property and require expeditious removal;
     (2) officers investigating accidents on the public roadways need immediately available towing and recovery vehicles staffed by competent operators and adequately equipped to clear the roadways and remove hazardous obstructions with minimum damage to property;
     (3) certain standards and classifications are needed for professional tow trucks and equipment used for towing and recovering wrecked, disabled, and abandoned motor vehicles or other objects creating hazards on the public roadways;
     (4) encouragement of a competitive and qualified professional towing industry requires establishment of a uniform and equitable qualification system based on the equipment and the standards provided in 61-8-905 through 61-8-907 and a system for the fair consideration of all qualified tow truck companies; and
     (5) the use of nonqualified tow truck companies or private motor vehicles to tow or recover for hire wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicles creates additional hazards and, except in limited situations, should be prohibited. However, when a person or tow truck company responds in good faith to life-threatening emergency situations, it should not be liable for civil damages for acts or omissions, other than damages occasioned by gross negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions.   History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 283, L. 1995.

     61-8-903. Definitions. As used in this part, the following definitions apply:
     (1) "Boom" means an engineered structure that is either mechanically or hydraulically operated and that is capable of lifting and supporting an overhead, vertical load.
     (2) "Commercial tow truck operator" or "operator" means an individual, partnership, corporation, or other business entity that owns or operates a commercial tow truck as defined in 61-9-416.
     (3) "Department" means the department of justice provided for in 2-15-2001.
     (4) "Letter of appointment" means a letter granted by the department pursuant to 61-8-920 that authorizes the holder to participate in the law enforcement rotation system provided for in 61-8-908.
     (5) "Local government" means a county, a municipality, or other local board or body that has authority to enact laws relating to traffic.
     (6) (a) "Qualified tow truck operator" means a commercial tow truck operator:
     (i) that has equipment that:
     (A) meets the requirements of 61-8-906, 61-8-907, and 61-9-416; and
     (B) has been classified in accordance with 61-8-905;
     (ii) that participates in the law enforcement rotation system provided for in 61-8-908;
     (iii) that meets the requirements of subsection (6)(b); and
     (iv) that has been issued a letter of appointment pursuant to 61-8-920.
     (b) (i) If the operator is a firm or other entity, at least 75% of the employees who operate a tow truck must hold a certification from a nationally recognized certification program for tow truck operators or have a minimum of 1 year of experience in the towing business for hire in Montana.
     (ii) If the operator is an individual, the individual must hold a certification from a nationally recognized certification program for tow truck operators or have a minimum of 1 year of experience in the towing business for hire in Montana.
     (7) "Rotation area" means the base area where a qualified tow truck operator is dispatched and operates.   History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 88, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 136, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 143, L. 2011.

     61-8-904. Prohibition -- exception. (1) A commercial tow truck operator may not operate for compensation upon the public roadways of this state unless the operator complies with the provisions of 61-8-906(1) and 61-8-907.
     (2) A commercial tow truck operator may not participate in the law enforcement rotation system provided for in 61-8-908 unless the operator complies with the provisions of this part.
     (3) Except as provided in 61-9-416, the provisions of 61-8-901 through 61-8-908, 61-8-910, and 61-8-920 do not apply to a commercial tow truck operator that does not operate for compensation.   History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 88, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 80, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 143, L. 2011.

     61-8-905. Classification standards. (1) Commercial tow trucks are divided into the following five classes based on the manufacturer's rating:
     (a) Class A tow truck equipment must have a minimum manufacturer's boom or combined boom rating of 4 tons and must be mounted on a truck chassis with a minimum manufacturer's rating of 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
     (b) Class B tow truck equipment must have a minimum manufacturer's boom or combined boom rating of 8 tons and must be mounted on a truck chassis with a minimum manufacturer's rating of 18,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
     (c) Class C tow truck equipment must have a minimum manufacturer's boom or combined boom rating of 16 tons and must be mounted on a chassis that has a minimum manufacturer's rating of 32,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
     (d) Class D tow truck equipment includes manufactured rollbacks and car carriers with manufacturer's gross vehicle ratings of 10,000 pounds and over. The rollbacks and car carriers must be mounted on a truck-trailer chassis that, at a minimum, is equal to the minimum gross weight of the rollback or car carrier. Class D also includes any piece of towing equipment without a boom.
     (e) Class E includes two or more tow trucks working together with a combined manufacturer's rating of a minimum of 80,000 pounds with access to supportive equipment, such as forklifts, banders, and air bags, for the recovery of rollovers and wrecked, disabled, and abandoned vehicles whose cargo requires special handling. Class E refers to tow truck companies and not to tow truck equipment.
     (2) An operator of noncommercially manufactured or modified tow truck equipment in use on October 1, 1995, that wishes to participate in the law enforcement rotation system must have its equipment classified by the department within a time period set by the department. Once the equipment is classified, further modifications may not be made.
     (3) An operator of new noncommercially manufactured or modified tow truck equipment must have its equipment independently certified before participating in the law enforcement rotation system. Once the equipment is classified, further modifications to the equipment must be recertified.   History: En. Sec. 5, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 88, L. 2003.

     61-8-906. Liability insurance -- storage requirements. (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of 61-6-301, a commercial tow truck operator shall continuously provide:
     (a) insurance against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury or death or damage to property caused by the maintenance or use of a commercial tow truck, as defined in 61-9-416, or occurring on the business premises of a commercial tow truck operator in an amount not less than:
     (i) $300,000 for class A tow trucks;
     (ii) $500,000 for class B tow trucks; and
     (iii) $750,000 for class C tow trucks;
     (b) insurance in an amount not less than $20,000 to cover the damage to cargo or other property entrusted to the care of the commercial tow truck operator; and
     (c) garage keepers legal liability insurance or on-hook liability insurance in an amount not less than $50,000.
     (2) A commercial tow truck operator shall provide proof of the insurance required in subsection (1) to the department.
     (3) A qualified tow truck operator shall provide a storage facility, either a fenced lot or a building, that is:
     (a) adequate for the secure storage and safekeeping of stored vehicles;
     (b) located in a place that is reasonably convenient for public access;
     (c) available to public access between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays;
     (d) large enough to store all the vehicles towed for law enforcement agencies; and
     (e) if a fenced lot, constructed of chain link at least 6 feet high or constructed of materials and in a manner sufficient to deter trespassing or vandalism.   History: En. Sec. 6, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 88, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 116, Ch. 114, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 72, Ch. 130, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 224, L. 2009.

     61-8-907. Inspection -- fees -- decal. (1) The tow truck equipment of a commercial tow truck operator must have an annual safety inspection. A highway patrol officer, an employee of the department of transportation appointed as a peace officer in accordance with 61-12-201, or an inspector certified by the department shall conduct the inspection and require the commercial tow truck operator to provide proof of compliance with the provisions of 61-8-906.
     (2) (a) Upon satisfactory completion of the inspection and verification of the insurance requirements, a decal showing the last inspection date and the expiration date of the insurance coverage must be affixed in a prominent place on the tow truck.
     (b) If the commercial tow truck operator is participating in the law enforcement rotation system, the decal must also show the classification of the operator's tow truck equipment.
     (3) The department may establish inspection and decal fees that may not exceed the actual costs of the inspection and the decal. The fees for the inspection and decal must be deposited in the state highway account in the state special revenue fund.   History: En. Sec. 7, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 6, Ch. 88, L. 2003.

     61-8-908. State law enforcement rotation system -- letter of appointment -- local government rotation system. (1) The department shall establish and maintain an equitable rotation system among qualified tow truck operators that apply to the department in writing to be placed on the system and receive a letter of appointment under 61-8-920. The rotation system:
     (a) must be administered by the highway patrol in a manner that will give priority to public safety;
     (b) must be based on the classification of equipment as provided in 61-8-905; and
     (c) may include only qualified tow truck operators.
     (2) Each qualified tow truck operator participating in the rotation system shall have available and show upon the request of a law enforcement officer:
     (a) all Montana motor vehicle identification numbers or department of transportation numbers for the operator's tow trucks operating in the rotation system;
     (b) the operator's federal tax identification number;
     (c) the operator's company phone number and street address; and
     (d) the operator's letter of appointment as issued under 61-8-920.
     (3) The operator shall display on both sides of each tow truck the operator's business name and location and the numbers required by subsection (2)(a). The information required by this subsection must be plainly seen and able to be read at all times.
     (4) Any charges for towing service must be calculated from the operator's business location, as it is assigned on the operator's letter of appointment.
     (5) The rotation system is not applicable when the owner or driver of a wrecked or disabled vehicle obstructing a public roadway requests a tow truck operator of the owner's or driver's choice and the operator meets the insurance requirements provided in 61-8-906 and the safety inspection requirements provided in 61-8-907.
     (6) (a) (i) The law enforcement officer at the scene of the wreck shall call the qualified tow truck operator that is next on the rotation list if:
     (A) a request for a tow truck is not made by the owner or driver;
     (B) the requested tow truck cannot respond in a timely manner; or
     (C) the law enforcement officer determines that the requested tow truck is unable to handle the wrecked or disabled vehicle.
     (ii) If the qualified tow truck operator is not classified to handle the wrecked or disabled vehicle, the officer shall call the qualified tow truck operator next on the rotation list that is classified to handle the wrecked or disabled vehicle.
     (b) If a qualified tow truck operator classified to handle the wrecked or disabled vehicle is not reasonably available, the law enforcement officer may request other equipment to remove the hazard.
     (7) The department shall administer the state law enforcement rotation system. A qualified tow truck operator may examine the rotation system schedule established by the department in order to determine if the system is being administered in an equitable manner.
     (8) A qualified tow truck operator gives implied consent to a reasonable inspection during normal business hours of its premises, vehicles, and equipment by the department of transportation, highway patrol, or a local government to ensure compliance with this part.
     (9) A local law enforcement agency may adopt and administer a local law enforcement rotation system that complies with the provisions of this part. A tow truck operator desiring to be placed on the local law enforcement rotation system must be a qualified tow truck operator as provided in this part.
     (10) The highway patrol or local law enforcement shall provide upon request a record of rotation system calls for all classes of tow trucks.
     (11) Complaints about the rotation system must be referred in writing to the complaint resolution committee established in 61-8-912.   History: En. Sec. 8, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 7, Ch. 88, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 143, L. 2011.

     61-8-909. Good faith immunity. A person who renders assistance in an emergency that is life-threatening to the occupant of a wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicle or that is creating an immediate hazard on a public roadway or who renders emergency assistance as directed by a law enforcement officer or other emergency responder at the scene of a motor vehicle accident is immune from damages arising from acts or omissions related to the rendering of assistance unless the damages are occasioned by the gross negligence or by the willful or wanton acts or omissions of the person rendering the assistance.
  History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 283, L. 1995.

     61-8-909. Good faith immunity. A person who renders assistance in an emergency that is life-threatening to the occupant of a wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicle or that is creating an immediate hazard on a public roadway or who renders emergency assistance as directed by a law enforcement officer or other emergency responder at the scene of a motor vehicle accident is immune from damages arising from acts or omissions related to the rendering of assistance unless the damages are occasioned by the gross negligence or by the willful or wanton acts or omissions of the person rendering the assistance.   History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 283, L. 1995.

     61-8-910. Violation -- penalty. A commercial tow truck operator that violates a provision of this part is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to the penalty provided in 61-8-711.   History: En. Sec. 10, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 8, Ch. 88, L. 2003.

     61-8-911. Rulemaking authority. The department shall adopt reasonable and necessary rules to administer the provisions of this part.   History: En. Sec. 11, Ch. 283, L. 1995.

     61-8-912. Tow truck complaint resolution committee -- membership -- responsibilities. (1) The department shall establish a tow truck complaint resolution committee, and the attorney general shall appoint the members. Committee members serve 3-year terms, may serve more than one term, and must include:
     (a) two representatives of the tow truck industry, one from the eastern half of the state and one from the western half of the state;
     (b) a representative of the commercial motor carrier industry;
     (c) a member of the public;
     (d) a representative of the insurance industry; and
     (e) a representative of the highway patrol.
     (2) The committee shall meet as often as necessary, either in person or by teleconference, to review and resolve complaints about tow truck issues, including towing charges, that are submitted in writing to a committee member and to review information submitted to it as provided in this part.

     (3) The department shall establish rules to govern the committee's procedure for reviewing and resolving complaints.   History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 88, L. 2003.

     61-8-912. Tow truck complaint resolution committee -- membership -- responsibilities. (1) The department shall establish a tow truck complaint resolution committee, and the attorney general shall appoint the members. Committee members serve 3-year terms, may serve more than one term, and must include:
     (a) two representatives of the tow truck industry, one from the eastern half of the state and one from the western half of the state;
     (b) a representative of the commercial motor carrier industry;
     (c) a member of the public;
     (d) a representative of the insurance industry; and
     (e) a representative of the highway patrol.
     (2) The committee shall meet as often as necessary, either in person or by teleconference, to review and resolve complaints about tow truck issues, including towing charges, that are submitted in writing to a committee member and to review information submitted to it as provided in this part.
     (3) The department shall establish rules to govern the committee's procedure for reviewing and resolving complaints.   History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 88, L. 2003.

     61-8-913. Notice to owner -- payment of removal and storage costs -- request for reissuance of certificate of title. (1) Within 15 days after the date that a wrecked or disabled vehicle is removed from a public roadway by a qualified tow truck operator at the request of a law enforcement officer under 61-8-908, the qualified tow truck operator shall send a certified letter to the vehicle owner or lienholder, as shown in the department's records, notifying the owner or lienholder that the vehicle has been towed and is being stored by the qualified tow truck operator. The certified letter must be sent return receipt requested and postage prepaid to the owner or lienholder at the latest address shown in the department's records.
     (2) The owner or lienholder of the vehicle may not reclaim the vehicle until the owner, the lienholder, or the owner's or lienholder's insurance provider has paid the costs incurred by the qualified tow truck operator in removing and storing the vehicle.
     (3) If the removal and storage costs have not been paid within 60 days after the date that the notice provided for in subsection (1) was postmarked, the qualified tow truck operator may request, on a form provided by the department, that the department cancel the vehicle's certificate of title, remove any perfected security interest, and reissue the certificate of title to the qualified tow truck operator. In the request, the qualified tow truck operator shall certify that the notice required in subsection (1) was sent and that the owner or lienholder has not made payment as required in subsection (2). A copy of the notice required in subsection (1) must be attached to the request.
     (4) Upon receipt of a valid request as provided in subsection (3), the department shall cancel the certificate of title to the vehicle and reissue the certificate of title to the qualified tow truck operator. The qualified tow truck operator shall pay all required fees on the vehicle. After the department has reissued the certificate of title, the former owner or lienholder has no further right, title, claim, or interest in or to the vehicle.   History: En. Sec. 5, Ch. 176, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 73, Ch. 130, L. 2005.


Montana State Seal
Commercial Tow Truck Definition


     61-9-416. Commercial tow truck definition -- requirements. (1) "Commercial tow truck" means a motor vehicle operating for compensation that is equipped with specialized equipment designed and intended for towing or the recovery of wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicles or other objects creating a hazard on the public roadways. If a tow truck owner or operator's business profits or benefits in any way from towing a vehicle, the tow truck must be considered a commercial tow truck for the purposes of Title 61, chapter 8, and this chapter.
     (2) A commercial tow truck must be equipped with:
     (a) not less than two red flares, two red lanterns, or two warning lights or reflectors. The reflectors must be of a type approved by the department.
     (b) at least two highway warning signs as provided in 61-9-431.
     (c) a dry chemical fire extinguisher of at least 5 pound capacity or an equivalent alternative type of fire extinguisher, approved by the department;
     (d) a lamp emitting a flashing red or amber light meeting the requirements of 61-9-402(7), or both a red and amber light, mounted on top of the cab of the tow truck or on the top of the crane or hoist if the light can be seen from the front of the tow truck. The light from the lamp must be visible for a distance of 1,000 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and must be mounted so that it can be securely fastened with the lens of the lamp facing the rear of the tow truck upon which it is mounted. When standing at the location from which the disabled vehicle is to be towed, the operator of the tow truck may unfasten the red light and place it in a position considered advisable to warn approaching drivers. When the disabled vehicle is ready for towing, the red light must be turned to the rear of the tow truck upon which it is mounted and securely locked in this position. Additional red or amber lights of an approved type may be displayed at either side or both sides of the tow truck during the period of preparation at the location from which the disabled vehicle is to be towed.
     (e) one or more brooms, and the operator of the tow truck engaged to remove a disabled vehicle from the scene of an accident shall remove all glass and debris deposited upon the roadway by the disabled vehicle that is to be towed;
     (f) a shovel, and whenever practical, the tow truck operator engaged to remove a disabled vehicle shall spread dirt upon that portion of the roadway where oil or grease has been deposited by the disabled vehicle; and
     (g) a portable electrical extension cord or other device for use in displaying stop, turn, and taillamps on the rear of the disabled vehicle. The length of the extension cord may not be less than the length of the combined vehicles. When a disabled vehicle is towed, the tow truck operator shall provide for the rear light that is capable of displaying a stop signal, turn signal, and taillamps by means of the extension cord or other device referred to in this subsection.
     (3) The operator of a commercial tow truck used for the purpose of rendering assistance to other vehicles shall, when the rendering of assistance necessitates the obstruction of a portion of the roadway, place a highway warning sign as required in 61-9-431.
     (4) The owner or operator of a commercial tow truck who complies with the requirements of 61-8-906 and 61-8-907 and this section may stop or park the tow truck upon a highway for the purpose of rendering assistance to a disabled vehicle, notwithstanding other provisions of this code.
     (5) A commercial tow truck company that is in compliance with 61-9-431 and that is operating an emergency service vehicle and using signal equipment in rendering assistance at a highway crash scene or in response to any other hazard on the roadway that presents an immediate hazard or an emergency or life-threatening situation is not liable, except for willful misconduct, bad faith, or gross negligence, for injuries, costs, damages, expenses, or other liabilities resulting from a motorist operating a vehicle in violation of 61-9-402(5).   History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 201, L. 1959; R.C.M. 1947, 32-21-161; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 503, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 27, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 14, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 35, Ch. 431, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 6, Ch. 520, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 47, Ch. 352, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 80, L. 2011.