Tow Truck Light Rules In Ohio

Tow trucks must have visible emergency lights but no siren.

The department of public safety director establishes the specifications and standards for tow trucks in the state of Ohio. Daily inspections for defects and a commercial driver’s license are required. Federal motor carrier safety regulations also govern record keeping, drug and alcohol testing, repairs and hours of service for towing companies. Traffic laws apply to tow trucks at all times due to the lack of a siren.


A tow truck or wrecker is a specialized vehicle featuring flashing lights on the rooftop and/or the mast of the body. Equipment includes safety striping, a push bumper and front grille guards with pads.

There are two basic models of tow trucks. One lifts vehicles by the front or rear and tows it. The other, commonly called a flatbed, has mechanical or hydraulic equipment that lifts the vehicle onto the wrecker. The vehicle is carried instead of towed behind.

Tow trucks retrieve mechanically disabled or crashed vehicles. They also are used by Ohio law enforcement to lawfully seize vehicles.

Auxiliary Lights

Ohio tow truck drivers must direct any spotlight with more than 300 candle power to strike the roadway at less than 75 feet from the truck. The driver must avoid aiming into oncoming traffic.

No more than five spotlights or auxiliary lights can be lit at one time, according to Ohio state regulations.

Emergency Lights

A tow truck driver arriving at the scene, providing service or towing a vehicle must display an oscillating, flashing or rotating amber light. No other color may be used. Red, blue and white lights are reserved for law enforcement, fire and ambulances. The emergency light must be discernible from the front and back of the truck for at least 500 feet.

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Ohio law requires a minimum of three flares, red reflectors or lanterns be placed around the vehicle when working along the roadway, Lanterns must be in sight at 500 feet.