What Are the Legal Towing Requirements in California?

California law requires that every hitch or coupling device be securely mounted to the towing vehicle, that the driver uses a safety chain between the towing vehicle and towed vehicle, and that the drawbar or other connection may not exceed 15 feet in length, according to the California Vehicle Code. These towing requirements do not apply to vehicles towing a pipe or pole dolly, such as a logging truck.

California has specific laws for fifth-wheel hitches. A semi-truck or tractor-trailer’s fifth-wheel hitch must have its upper and lower halves securely mounted to the towing vehicle so that neither half shifts on the towing vehicle. Each fifth-wheel hitch must have a locking device that prevents the upper and lower halves from separating without someone activating a manual release, describes the California Vehicle Code. Each hitch must also be structurally adequate to support the weight of the towed vehicle without causing structural damage to the towing vehicle.

Tow trucks must also follow specific towing laws under the California Vehicle Code. The tow truck and the towed vehicle must be connected to each other by the primary restraining system and at least two safety chains. Drivers must securely fasten the safety chains to the tow truck’s frame. Vehicles transported on a slide-back carrier tow truck must have at least four tie-down straps or chains securing them onto the trailer, and these straps must be independent of the tow truck’s winch or towing cable, specifies the California Vehicle Code.