How To Become A Tow Truck Driver (Step-By-Step Guide)

Being a tow truck driver is more than hauling vehicles. Tow truck drivers manage accidents and breakdowns effectively and keep roadways safe for others. So if you want to know more about what toe truck drivers do, you are in the right place.

Here’s how to become a tow truck driver:

  1. Be 18 years of age
  2. Have a valid driver’s license
  3. Have a clean driving record
  4. Pass a background check and drug screening
  5. Pass physical ability test
  6. Pass vision exams
  7. Obtain Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL)
  8. Tow Truck Driving Certification
  9. Drive with an experienced driver
  10. Obtain the Towing and Recovery Association of America Certification
  11. Apply for a job
  12. Pass the job interview at a trucking company

You will need some education, physical training, licensing, and certificates to become a tow truck driver. This article will provide you with all the necessary information about tow truck drivers, including salaries, certifications, typical work hours, and more!

how to become tow truck driver

What is a Tow Truck Driver?

Tow truck drivers transport disabled vehicles to safe locations and tow illegally parked vehicles to appropriate lots. To become a tow truck driver, you must be specially trained to operate different types of tow trucks and the equipment that goes along with tow trucks.

In most cases, tow truck drivers have a commercial driver’s license or CDL. Additionally, they may also carry a tow truck driving certification.

Related article: Tow Truck Insurance

What Does a Tow Truck Driver Do?

Besides assisting other motorists and transporting unlawfully parked vehicles, tow truck drivers need to decide when and how to tow another vehicle from the road.

Here are a few types of trucks that tow truck drivers typically operate for these purposes:

Conventional Tow Trucks

Conventional tow trucks include various types of equipment, such as a crane and large mechanical arms that are used to secure and tow the disabled vehicle. Typically, this equipment wraps around the vehicle’s axles and works to lift two tires to transport the towed vehicle.

Nowadays, conventional tow trucks are used less often because they can potentially damage vehicles.

Wheel Lift Truck

Wheel lift trucks are also called full float trucks. Unlike conventional trucks, wheel lift trucks use a hydraulic lift to elevate the front or rear wheels off the ground instead of hooks and chains. This system minimizes the risk of damaging the towed vehicle.

In most cases, wheel lift trucks are used to tow smaller vehicles.

Flatbed Trucks 

Flatbed trucks are also called rollback trucks. These tow trucks use a flatbed that can be raised and lowered hydraulically. The towed vehicles are loaded onto a ramp and secured.

Flatbed trucks tow vehicles that can’t be towed by conventional cars, such as motorcycles or luxurious cars.

Heavy-Duty Tow Trucks

Usually, heavy-duty tow trucks tow large vehicles, such as buses and tractor-trailers. In order to perform heavy lifting successfully, heavy-duty tow trucks have different tools than the tow trucks we mentioned above, such as cranes and winches.

Integrated Tow Trucks

Similar to heavy-duty tow trucks, integrated tow trucks also tow large vehicles, such as trucks and buses. Their heavy lifting equipment is integrated into the body of the truck, which explains why they are called integrated tow trucks.

Related article: Tow Truck Insurance Cost

How to Become a Tow Truck Driver (Step By Step)

If you have ever thought about becoming a tow truck driver, here is a list of steps that you need to take:

1.  Appropriate Age

If you want to become a tow truck driver, you must be 18 years old.

2. Have a Valid Driver’s License

All tow truck drivers must have a state driver’s license that is valid.

3. Have a Clean Driving Record

If you want to become a tow truck driver, you need to know that employers check the background history of the potential driver. Ticket history is included.

4. Drug Screening

Besides background checks, drug screenings are also a usual segment of the tow truck driver recruitment process.

5. Physical Ability Tests

Tow truck drivers must show they are able to perform physical tasks. Some employers will require potential tow truck drivers to show their physical fitness through different physical ability tests.

6. Vision Exams

Speaking of physical ability, tow truck drivers must also have good vision to operate vehicles safely.

7. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

According to federal law, vehicles that are over 26,000 pounds must obtain a CDL. Not only does obtaining a CDL allow you to drive a large truck, but it also helps your resume become more trustworthy.

You can get a CDL through the Department of Motor Vehicles, where you can choose Class A, Class B, or Class C. Their requirements are different from state to state. For example, in some states, you must bring proof of residency or pass a medical exam.

8. Tow Truck Driving Certification

In some states, you must obtain a tow truck certification before you start driving for an employer.

9. Drive With an Experienced Driver

Don’t be surprised if you are asked to drive with another driver in the beginning to learn additional techniques. This is a usual policy that lets you know the company culture.

10. Obtain the Towing and Recovery Association of America Certification

When you gain some experience, you can obtain additional certification through the Towing and Recovering Association of America. There are three levels of certification, depending on your experience:

  • Level 1 certification: includes light towing and vehicle recovery.
  • Level 2 certification: includes medium or heavy-duty towing, such as trailer and cargo towing.
  • Level 3 certification: includes heavy-duty towing specialists, letters of recommendation and at least two years of experience as a recovery specialist. To obtain this certification, you must pass the oral and written exams.

11. Job Application

When you look for a tow trucking job, you need to find all the available job posting channels, including job search sites, organizations, and social media groups. Don’t forget to network with other drivers, your friends, and family.

12. Job Interview

Once you are invited for a job interview, ensure you are dressed appropriately and professionally. Also, make sure you bring several copies of your resume and be prepared to discuss your past employment.

And don’t forget that job interviews are a two-way street: the recruiters are there to ask you questions about your skill, but you should also ask them questions about the company. It will show that you are really interested in the position!

Related article: Commercial Truck Insurance Cost

Tow Truck License Requirements

Besides having a valid state driver’s license, according to the United States Department of Transportation, you must hold a commercial driver’s license or CDL to become a tow truck driver.

In other words, a regular license is not enough to become a tow truck driver.

In some states, tow truck drivers must have a commercial license, too, no matter how much they tow. A commercial license can be obtained through training and passing a written test.

And if you want to make your resume really stand out, you should invest some time in obtaining more certifications as you gain more experience.

Tow Truck Licenses

For those who have experience in towing vehicles, the certification program through the Towing and Recovery Association of America is the great next step in boosting your CV.

The certification can be conducted in person or online. As we explained above, there are three levels of certification, depending on your current skills. East Insurance Group advises all tow truck drivers to obtain this certification.

Having the TRAA certification is valuable as this institution sets national standards for tow truck drivers. Their training includes various aspects of tow truck driving, including customer service, safety, incident management, and managing different tools and equipment.

Do You Need CDL to Drive Tow Truck?

Yes. Having a regular driver’s license is not enough to drive a tow truck. You need to obtain a CDL to become a tow truck driver.

What Does a Tow Truck Driver Make?

The average salary of a tow truck driver is $18 per hour or $39,000 per year.

There are a few factors that influence how much a tow truck driver makes, including:

  • Their experience: the more years of experience they have, the more money they can earn.
  • Location: Tow truck drivers in big cities can earn more money.
  • Additional hours: Tow truck drivers who are willing to work on holidays and overnight can also earn more money.
  • Certification: Additional certifications mean that the tow truck driver is willing to invest in their knowledge. That said, those with more certifications can ask for higher salaries.

What Tow Truck Driving Skills Are Required?

There are several skills each tow truck driver should possess to have more success at a job interview:

  • Mechanical skills: This one doesn’t need much explanation as tow truck drivers work with heavy equipment and different types of vehicles every day.
  • Communication skills: Tow truck drivers talk to a lot of people during the day. That said, they must communicate effectively—from customers and operators to law enforcement, good tow truck drivers know how to pass important information.
  • Organizational skills: Because their days are hectic, tow truck drivers must be productive and organize their schedules well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Become a Tow Truck Driver If I’ve Had an Accident?

If you had an accident, your potential employer will probably decide if you are a good fit for the tow truck driver position depending on the accident’s severity. Minor accidents usually won’t affect your employment as a tow truck driver. However, if you had a serious accident while working as a tow truck driver, your managers will decide if you can continue driving. The worst-case scenario is losing your CDL license and getting disqualified from your job. 

What Are the Typical Work Hours For a Truck Driver?

In most cases, tow truck drivers work long hours. These long shifts exist because you never know when a vehicle needs to be towed. After all, it is disabled, or it could be blocking the road. That said, tow truck businesses usually work 24 hours a day. It might sound difficult, but these long hours also provide a chance for additional income. 

Where Do Tow Truck Drivers Work?

Usually, tow truck drivers work for towing companies. While these businesses have their offices, tow truck drivers are very often on the road. Tow truck drivers who work for themselves also spend the most hours in their trucks and then report to a home office. 

Where Do Tow Truck Drivers Get Paid the Most?

The US states that have the highest annual tow truck driver salaries are Washington ($52,947), Alaska ($49,698), and Minnesota ($46,274). In the US, hourly rates for tow truck drivers range between $13 and $24 an hour. 

Do People Tip Tow Truck Drivers?

In most cases, people tip tow truck drivers between 15% and 20% for their services. If you helped a client get their car out of the mud or you decided to give them a bill discount, there is a good chance you will get a bigger discount. 

The Bottom Line

So there you have it! Now you know how to become a tow truck driver. In this complete guide, we showed you all the steps you need to take, and hopefully, you understand that investing in certificates is always a good idea as it allows you to become a well-rounded tow truck driver.

And finally, if you wondered: “Can I drive a tow truck with a regular license?” the answer is: no. You must obtain a CDL to become a tow truck driver, besides having a valid driver’s license.

Are you still confused about the requirements to be a tow truck driver, or do you need some help with getting a quote for your business? Contact us today and get all the information you need fast and for free!