Operator licence

If you want to operate a tow truck business, you must hold a tow truck operator licence issued by Fair Trading.

There are some situations where you may not be required to hold a license or drivers certificate. These exemptions include:

  • an exemption from the requirement to hold a drivers certificate for a mechanic in the course of repairing a tow truck
  • the towing of recreational vehicles when being transported to or from a trade show, suppliers, manufacturers, dealers or repairers within the state
  • the towing, salvage or storage of a forklift truck, a golf-buggy, a ride-on mower, an excavator or a cherry picker
  • the list of exempt motor vehicles contained in schedule 1 of the regulation.

Apply for an operator licence

How to apply

You now apply for or renew your tow truck licence directly through NSW Fair Trading. Post your application, supporting documents and payment (cheque, money order or credit card details) to:

NSW Fair Trading
PO Box 972
Parramatta NSW 2124

More information about applying for or renewing a tow truck licence is on the form.

Service NSW centres will continue to provide all other services, such as collecting or returning vehicle registration plates.

This change is designed to make it faster and simpler to get your licence. You will now also receive a notification via SMS or email about the status of your licence application, so you know what step it is up to in the process.

If you have any questions or feedback, contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

What you need

To apply for a tow truck operator licence, you must complete the application form (PDF, 318.37 KB).

You will need:

  • original interstate/overseas criminal history and traffic record if applicable

You will also need to prove that:

  • your business is registered or incorporated
  • your business premises and holding yard have the required council approvals
  • all tow trucks used in the business are registered
  • you have the correct insurance cover for your business and for your tow trucks

You must also provide details in your application of any person who has an interest in your business (including any other name they may have used in the past).

Fees

For information on operator licence fees for 2020/2021 visit Fair Trading Tow Truck fees.

Assessment process

Once we have your completed application form (PDF, 318.37 KB), supporting documents, and fee payment, we will assess your application. This can take up to 4 weeks.

If your application is approved, we will send you a licence.

Sometimes we do not approve applications. Reasons for this can include:

  • you have not met the qualification requirements
  • you have been convicted or found guilty of a prescribed offence in the last 10 years
  • you have been disqualified from holding an operator licence

You will be notified in writing if your application is refused. We will also let you know of any rights you may have to appeal against a decision.

Suitability checks

Fair Trading examines all applications to decide whether a person is suitable to hold a licence. As part of this process, we check to see whether you have an adverse criminal history. Your application will not be accepted if you do not give permission to obtain this information.

Business and holding yard premises

To operate a tow truck business, your primary business premises and holding yard(s) must be approved by your local council. Your application will need to show that you have council approval for your business premises (including a home business), as well as council approval for your holding yard(s) to store accident damaged vehicles. You will also need to provide proof of ownership for your holding yard(s).

Requirement to have a holding yard

If you are a tow truck operator authorised to conduct Category A accident towing (holders of four-digit tow truck number plates), you must maintain a holding yard for the storage of accident damaged vehicles.

  • The holding yard must be within 10 km of your registered place of business, unless an exemption has been approved by Fair Trading.

    The holding yard requirements are contained within the Regulation.

    The holding yard must be capable of storing any motor vehicle towed under the authority of the licence and it must be accessible at all times by each licensed tow truck operated by the licensee.

    When operating a holding yard, tow truck operators must ensure that any holding yard of the licensee is:
  • enclosed by a security fence that is at least 2 metres high
  • has flood lighting installed
  • has a closed circuit television system or a monitored security alarm system installed.

A tow truck operator must maintain a holding yard register for each holding yard including information about:

  • the time and date on which each motor vehicle is towed
  • the name of the tow truck driver
  • the name and contact details of the person who authorised the release of the motor vehicle from the holding yard,
  • moving of the motor vehicle between approved holding yards of the licensee
  • the make, model, type and colour of the motor vehicle and identification details (registration number, VIN or chassis number)
  • the serial number of the towing authorisation
  • a copy of a written authorisation for the release of a motor vehicle from the holding yard

The tow truck operator must update the holding yard register with the above information within 24 hours of a motor vehicle being towed into or out of a holding yard.

Exemptions from the requirement to have a holding yard

Only tow truck operators who use tow trucks to attend motor vehicle accident scenes need to have a holding yard.

If you only operate tow trucks which have a GCM of at least 20 tonnes, you are not required to maintain a holding yard.

You are also exempt from the requirement if you operate tow trucks only for the purposes of metal recycling or vehicle demolishing or dismantling by a vehicle-wrecker.

Adding a new holding yard to your licence

Tow truck operators must notify Fair Trading as soon as possible of their intention to change holding yards, or add a new holding yard to their licence.

Using a holding yard which is not listed on your licence is an offence and you cannot charge any fees for using an unauthorised holding yard. You can have more than one holding yard and can amend your licence by either adding or removing a holding yard.

Once we receive your application to add or change a holding yard with the supporting documentation, we will contact you. If we are satisfied that the holding yard meets the requirements of the policy, you will be advised whether an inspection of the holding yard will be required.

There is no charge for an inspection however, any re-inspection of the premises may attract a fee at the rate of $50 per hour.

Once we are satisfied that the premises are satisfactory, the addition of the holding yard will be approved and your tow truck operator licence will be amended and reissued to you.

If the holding yard does not comply with the policy, and you don't take any action to ensure compliance, the holding yard will not be added to the licence. You will be notified in writing if your holding yard has not been approved.

Sharing a holding yard

Some tow truck operators share a holding yard with another operator. When you apply to use a holding yard which is already in use by another operator, an inspection will be carried out to ensure that the capacity of the yard is sufficient for the operations of both licensees, and to verify that specific areas have been set aside for each operator.

Vehicles and insurance

Any vehicles operated under your licence, business and holding yard premises must have adequate insurance cover, including public liability insurance and on hook insurance. You will be required to show proof of this whenever you apply, renew, or restore a tow truck licence.

Operator licence duration

All new operator licences will be issued for a period of 1 year.

Visit Fair Trading to see applicable fees.
2019/2020 Fees
2020/2021 Fees

3-year or 5-year operator licence

Terms for 3-year and 5-year operator licences were introduced to reduce administrative costs for businesses and individuals.

To be eligible for a 3-year or 5-year operator licence, you must have held a licence for a continuous period of at least 3 years at the time you lodge your application (during that period, the licence was not suspended, revoked or did not lapse).

If you're eligible for a 3-year or 5-year licence, it will be shown on the renewal/application form provided before your operator licence expires.

What happens if I am subject to any disciplinary action after I am granted a licence?

If your operator licence is suspended, once the suspension ends your licence will continue until the original expiry date however, you will be unable to apply for a 3 or 5 year licence at renewal for a period of 3 years.

Renewing your licence

A renewal from will be sent to you before your current licence expires. This will also state if you are eligible for a 3 or 5 year licence.

If an application for renewal is not made by the expiry date, your licence expires. There is a uniform period of 3 months in which you can apply to have your expired licence restored.

View restoration details 

Updating licence details

You need to notify Fair Trading in writing of any changes to the information listed on your operator licence a minimum of seven business days before the change occurs.

You can do this by sending an email with a signed and dated letter including a copy of updated drivers licence to towtrucks@customerservice.nsw.gov.au or by mail addressed to: Tow Truck Processing Team, PO Box 972, PARRAMATTA NSW 2124

Refusal, variation, suspension or cancellation

You may apply to us for a review if you disagree with the decision by completing the internal review application form (PDF, 30.26 KB). The review will be done by someone who was not involved in the original decision .

If you still disagree with the decision following that review, you may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 28 days of being notified.

Compliance and enforcement

As the regulator of the tow truck industry in NSW, Fair Trading undertakes compliance and enforcement activities in the sector as part of its oversight function and to ensure compliance with the legislation. The requirements in the Act and Regulation regarding licensing of operators and certification of tow truck drivers play an important role in ensuring minimum standards of professionalism and behaviour in the industry, while also protecting consumers often at a time of vulnerability and stress.

Fair Trading employs an intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to compliance and enforcement as part of its overall commitment to delivering improved and more efficient government services. This ensures the agency's resources are directed to areas where they can best address non-compliant conduct or where they can deliver the greatest overall benefit for consumers and compliant businesses.

Download the Statement of Compliance Approach (PDF, 171.3 KB) to read more about Fair Trading’s risk-based compliance and enforcement approach.

Non-accident towing records

Each time a licensed tow truck is used by a tow truck driver for any towing work other than accident towing work, a licensee must record:

  • the time and date the motor vehicle is towed
  • details of where the vehicle is towed from and the destination of the tow
  • the make, model and colour of the motor vehicle
  • the registration number of the vehicle, or, if there is no registration number, the VIN, or chassis number or the engine number (if any)
  • the name and contact details of the person who arranged for the vehicle to be towed
  • the name and contact details of any person who takes possession of the vehicle at the destination of the tow
  • details of any charges made by the licensee in relation to the tow.

You must record all non-accident tow details and keep them at your approved business premises. You may use computerised records as the primary record keeping method, provided a hard copy of the records are also printed and stored at least weekly.

If you do not use a computerised system, appropriate data collection could include a simple spreadsheet or log book that captures the required information. The records and any associated invoices, receipts or documents must be stored at your approved place of business.

Visit the Tow truck forms and policies page to download forms to assist in recording non-accident towing movements.

Mutual recognition

Mutual recognition legislation applies only to individuals who hold a current registration in an equivalent occupation. Applications cannot be made by a company or partnership.

Application forms for a Mutual Recognition, Tow Truck Operator can be found on the Tow truck forms and policies page.

An interstate tow truck that is authorised to carry out towing work in NSW will have a registration plate issued in the home state and two Fair Trading interstate tow truck signs in the window of the tow truck.

Vehicle towing charges

For information on what you can charge, please see the vehicle towing page.

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