Australia: Tow truck operators in Queensland: What is the go?

Last Updated: 2 June 2017
Article by Terry Batch and Gillian Bristow

After various media reports of tow truck operators engaging in unscrupulous practices, the Queensland government has announced a three-month inquiry into the tow truck industry to be headed by retired District Court Judge Michael Forde.The investigation will advise the Minister for Main Roads and Road Safety on various matters, including whether:

  • fees and charges for towing and storage should be regulated and in what manner; and
  • existing licensing and accreditation schemes could be expanded to cover the practice of removing parked vehicles from private car parks and private roads accessible to the public.

In light of this development, we explore the current legislative requirements with which Queensland tow truck operators must comply.

What legislation regulates the tow industry in Queensland?

In Queensland the tow industry is regulated by the Tow Truck Act 1973 (Qld), the Tow Truck Regulation 2009 (Qld), the Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Vehicle Standards and Safety) Regulation 2010 and the Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2010.

The Tow Truck Act 1973 provides that certain tow truck operators must hold an appropriate licence and driver's certificate and keep prescribed records.

The licensing scheme applies across most of south-east Queensland, and in major coastal cities.

Does this legislation apply to operations on private property?

Towing from private property is not covered by the current Tow Truck Act. This is because the definition of 'tow truck' under the Act is limited to vehicles that are used for towing vehicles damaged in an incident or seized by a police officer.

What are the obligations of a licence holder under the Tow Truck Act?

A licenced operator is subject to a significant number of conditions including the following:

  1. Any tow truck and associated equipment must comply with relevant legislation including legislation that limits hours of driving.
  2. Tow trucks must be inspected as required under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.
  3. A tow truck cannot tow a damaged vehicle or seize a vehicle on a road without the consent of the owner.
  4. A tow truck driver cannot obtain or attempt to obtain a signature on a towing authority form unless the name and address of the business or place the vehicle is being taken to is on that form.
  5. All reasonable precautions must be taken by the licence holder to prevent loss from, or damage to, a damaged or seized motor vehicle while being towed.
  6. An inventory of movable property (including any radio or sound production device) in any damaged or seized vehicle must be prepared.
  7. The licence holder may not refuse a request to deliver the motor vehicle to the registered owner once they have paid reasonable charges for the towing and storing of the motor vehicle.
  8. A tow truck driver cannot unnecessarily permit the tow truck to stand upon a road so as to cause an obstruction or to stand at the scene for a period longer than would reasonably be required to obtain a towing.

In addition, section 12(2) of the Act provides that the licence holder must not 'charge a sum other than a reasonable sum for the towing, salvage or storage of a motor vehicle'. The Tow Truck Regulation prescribes certain maximum fees for standard towing operations associated with vehicles involved in incidents.

What other behaviour is forbidden under the Act?

Section 20 of the Tow Truck Regulation provides that a licensed operator must not, at any scene:

  1. cause or threaten wilful injury to a person;
  2. cause or threaten wilful damage to a person's property;
  3. intimidate or harass a person;
  4. abuse or insult a person;
  5. prejudice the delivery of first aid or medical treatment to a person who is receiving, or needs to receive, first aid or medical treatment; or
  6. obtain, or attempt to obtain, the signature of an owner of a motor vehicle involved in the incident, or the owner's agent, on a towing authority, if the owner or agent appears unable to make an informed decision about whether or not to sign the towing authority.

Under the Tow Truck Regulation:

  1. the most direct route must be used to tow a motor vehicle from a scene to the holding area;
  2. no charge can be imposed on an owner of a stored vehicle for viewing that vehicle in business hours; and
  3. no charge for storage of a motor vehicle can be imposed unless the owner of the motor is given written notice.

When can a licence be revoked?

Section 21A of the Tow Truck Act provides for the cancellation or suspension of a licence in certain circumstances, including if the licensee:

  1. is convicted of an offence against the Act;
  2. is charged with or convicted of certain offences;
  3. has given false or misleading information to an authorised officer; or
  4. in the opinion of the Chief Executive, is no longer an appropriate person to hold a licence.

May a tow truck operator refuse to release a vehicle unless and until it has been paid towing fees?

Currently, neither the Tow Truck Act nor the regulations make any provision for a lien or statutory right to refuse to release a vehicle until towing charges have been paid.

Section 35 of the Tow Truck Regulation provides that:

  1. Subsection (3) applies if—
    1. a motor vehicle is stored in the holding yard of the holder of a licence or towing permit; and
    2. the owner of the motor vehicle, or the owner's agent, asks the holder to release the motor vehicle.
  1. The holder must release the motor vehicle as soon as is practicable but no longer than 4 business hours after the request by towing or moving the motor vehicle to an accessible position at the entrance of the holding yard.

There is no Queensland case that specifically deals with any common law right of a tow truck operator to retain possession of a vehicle until its towing charges are paid. In 2009, the NSW Court of Appeal in Stapley v Towing Masters Pty Ltd [2009] NSWCA 382 found that a tow truck operator:

  1. did not have a 'repairer's lien' or 'workman's lien' over a vehicle it had towed; and
  2. was not a common carrier and therefore did not have a particular lien at common law on this basis.

Therefore, a Queensland tow truck operator may not be entitled to refuse to release a vehicle on the basis that it has not been paid its towing fees.

© Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers

Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in Brisbane.

This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions