Pennsylvania bills would revise towing rules for large trucks

December 6, 2017

Keith Goble


Pennsylvania state lawmakers are pursuing rule changes that would apply to towing tractor-trailers.

One new bill offered by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, R-Bucks, would revise towing requirements in an effort to enhance road safety for tow truck operators and other motorists.

Pennsylvania law requires tow truck operators to tow disabled tractor-trailers to the nearest place of repairs or place of safety.

In a memo to his fellow state lawmakers, Tomlinson said because the terms are “so vague, there is little consistency as to where the tow truck operator will be ordered to go.”

“If they are directed to the nearest place of safety, the broken down tractor-trailer remains on or by the road for a longer period of time jeopardizing the safety of the motorists as well as the tow truck operator.”

In these instances, Tomlinson wrote that tow truck operators often must stand along busy roadways coupling and uncoupling the tractor and trailer in order to get it to the intended place of repair.

“In most cases, there is no need to add this extra step.”

He notes that tow trucks now are equipped to handle larger loads and should be able to do so in a safe and efficient manner.

Tomlinson assured legislators that his bill would follow the intent of the law, while clarifying the provisions with parameters for how tow trucks can operate. Specifically, towing affected vehicles would be limited to within 75 miles of the point of disability.

Towing length restrictions for affected tows would also be limited to 150 feet.

For instances when the tow truck operator is unable to meet the requirements set in the bill, they would be required to report the incident. An emergency plan would then be implemented to remove the disabled vehicle within 24 hours of the initial report.

He adds that the changes would also make the Keystone State more consistent with other states.

The bill, SB968, awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

A related House bill addresses the maximum weight of heavy-duty tow trucks on the state’s roadways.

Pennsylvania law prohibits vehicles from exceeding a maximum gross weight of 80,000 pounds if traveling on state highways. Tow trucks transporting a disabled vehicle for repair or other location are permitted to exceed the maximum gross weight restriction.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Upper Chichester, the bill would set a maximum weight for large tow trucks and additional safety requirements when towing a disabled vehicle. Heavy-duty tow trucks in combination with a disabled vehicle would be permitted to exceed the axle, dimensional, and maximum gross weight limits up to a combined weight of 150,000 pounds.

The distance of travel for a heavy-duty tow truck with a disabled vehicle would be limited to 75 miles within the point of pick-up. Towing length restrictions for affected tows would also be limited to 150 feet.

Barrar wrote in a memo to fellow legislators that he believes the changes can be made and still ensure the safe operations of heavy-duty tow trucks on the state’s roadways.

The bill, HB1678, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.