Tow Truck Operator Kaitaraiwa Taraka

Tow truck operators drive and operate trucks to tow vehicles that have broken down, been damaged or illegally parked.

Tow truck operators may do some or all of the following:

  • tow vehicles, such as those that are stolen, broken down or illegally parked, to places such as the towing company yard
  • remove vehicles from crash sites for the police
  • unlock vehicles (without keys)
  • jumpstart vehicles
  • keep records of vehicles that have been towed
  • deal with customers and take payments
  • maintain their tow truck.

Physical Requirements

Tow truck operators need to be reasonably fit, as the job involves stretching, bending, lifting and climbing, especially in difficult salvage situations.

Tow truck operators must pass a medical test every five years.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for tow truck operators includes:

  • any work with vehicles
  • work as a truck driver or other driving experience
  • work with cranes or forklifts
  • mechanical work
  • customer service experience.

Personal Qualities

Tow truck operators need to be:

  • honest and reliable
  • calm, helpful and diplomatic when dealing with customers
  • good at record-keeping
  • efficient and able to work well under pressure.


Tow truck operators need to have:

  • the ability to operate a tow truck safely and tow vehicles without damaging them
  • an understanding of the locking mechanisms of different types of vehicles
  • basic mechanical skills to fix minor mechanical problems or release handbrakes
  • knowledge of their local area.

If tow truck operators tow heavy vehicles, they need to know about the New Zealand Transport Agency's overweight and over-dimension vehicle policies and permits.


Tow truck operators:

  • usually do shift work, including nights or weekends, and are not allowed to work for more than 13 hours in one day or 70 hours in one week
  • work from their truck and depot, and outside on roadsides and in parking lots
  • work in conditions that can be hazardous, such as accident scenes and busy roads.

Tow Truck Operators can earn around $23-$25 per hour.

Pay for tow truck operators varies depending on experience.

  • Tow truck operators with less than two years' experience usually earn between $23 and $25 an hour.
  • Experienced tow truck operators and/or those with extra licences, such as heavy haulage, may earn up to $35 an hour.

Most towing companies pay an hourly rate, but some pay a flat rate for each call-out.

Some tow truck operators have their own trucks, and contract their services to a towing company. They are usually paid a fee for each vehicle they tow, and can earn $100,000 or more a year (before tax and truck costs).

Source: ACE Towing, 2018; Auto Salvage, 2018; and Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission research, 2018.

Tow truck operators may progress into management roles or set up their own tow truck business.

They may also move into other transport-related jobs, such as heavy truck driving.

Years Of Training

<1 year of training required.

To become a tow truck operator you need to have held a Class 1 (full) licence for two years before getting a vehicle recovery (V) endorsement.

Depending on the size of the tow truck you are driving and the vehicles you are towing, you may need a heavy vehicle licence.

If you want to set up your own tow truck business, you'll need a vehicle recovery service licence.

Tow Truck Operator