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The State of New South Wales

For not knowing what a tow truck is


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This nomination was submitted to us by a business owner. Here is what she wrote to us:

"The definition of a tow truck is different in NSW to other states/territories. In NSW, if you have a motor vehicle that is equipped with a lifting device, you are classified as a tow truck not allowed to pick-up most items in NSW unless you are a registered tow truck Operator and have a licensed tow truck driver - regardless of whether you attend motor vehicle collisions or not.


My business operates throughout Australia, towing and/or carrying items such as caravans, camper vans, motorhomes, and boats (on or off trailers). Head office is in NSW, and our main customers are manufacturers & dealers of new items as described, and they are located mostly on the eastern seaboard of Australia.


Having taken into account the safety of our drivers and/or contractors, we determined that using winches to load & unload these items onto the tray of the trucks would reduce musculoskeletal disorders, falling from heights (operators do not need to be on the tray of the truck as long or as often), and multiple other safety features.

The items that my business transports means that we can:

• Pick up in Wodonga VIC, but not from Albury, NSW

• Pick up in Coolangatta, but not from Tweed Heads

• Drive through NSW loaded

• Deliver in NSW

• Unload in NSW, but then cannot reload the same item on the same, or a different, truck in NSW.


When transporting items to shows for customers based in NSW, we must use licensed tow truck operators & drivers, or flat tow the items to the show. If my business was to become a licensed tow truck company, all trucks must then become tow trucks driven by tow truck drivers, not just the ones used in NSW. Other states/territories identify the difference between trucks used for collisions, and any other type of truck."

Thank you to the business owner who submitted this for bringing our attention to this piece of ridiculousness. COSBOA has looked into this and here is what we found. We do hope you enjoy lawyer speak.

In NSW, this is the official definition of a tow truck:

"A tow truck means any of the following motor vehicles that are used or operated for the purposes of towing motor vehicles:

(a) a motor vehicle that is equipped with a lifting device,

(b) a motor vehicle that is equipped with a trailer, towing attachment or other similar device,

(c) a motor vehicle that is fitted with a tilt table-top,or with a tilt table-top and winch,

(d) a motor vehicle that is fitted with a self-loading table-top that is capable of being detached from the motor vehicle for the purpose of loading or unloading another vehicle,

(e) any other motor vehicle prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition."

The same document makes it clear that "a person must not carry on business as a tow truck operator unless the person holds a tow truck operators licence," and that a "tow truck operator" is "a person who conducts a business involving the operation of any tow truck for the purposes of towing motor vehicles."

Dumb, right?

Here is what we found for Victoria:

"The Victorian towing industry is divided into accident towing and trade towing.


Accident towing

Towing a vehicle damaged in an accident. This may only be done by a licensed tow truck...

Trade towing

Non-accident towing undertaken for hire or reward, eg. breakdown towing. This may be done by anyone with a vehicle capable of performing the towing function, including tow trucks licensed to attend accident scenes."

Amazing. Why can't NSW do the same? It's a mystery.


Vic roads 2017, Information for the towing industry.

NSW Government 2017, Approved summary of the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998, page 4.

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