Ramp Trucks, Tow Trucks, Trailers & Tow Dollies

Commercial Plate:  The vehicle must meet all local, state and DOT requirements.  A tow- truck displaying a “commercial” registration plate cannot tow an unregistered vehicle if any of the towed vehicle’s wheels are in contact with the road.  A “Dealer” plate may be attached to the towed-vehicle if that vehicle is owned by the dealer to whom the Dealer plate was issued. An “Owner-Contractor” plate may be attached to the towed-vehicle if that vehicle is owned by the Owner-Contractor to whom the plate was issued and the vehicle qualifies to display an Owner-Contractor plate. A “Repair” plate may be attached to the towed-vehicle if that towed-vehicle is owned by the Repairer to whom the plate was issued, or if the towed-vehicle is owned by a customer of the Repairer, or if the towing vehicle is owned by the Repairer whose plate is affixed to the towed-vehicle.  A “Transporter” plate may be attached to the towed-vehicle if the plate was issued to the Transporter and the transportation of the towed-vehicle has been arranged by the Transporter. See, generally, Regulations at 540 CMR Section 18.04 (Display and Use of Plates).

Repair Plate:  A Repairer who is operating a vehicle owned by the repairer which is designed to draw, tow or transport motor vehicles and displays a compliance decal issued in accordance  with 540 CMR 18.03 may tow or transport an unregistered motor vehicle pursuant to M.G.L. c. 90, § 9, if the towing vehicle is properly registered, displays the valid repair plate, maintains insurance which also provides coverage for the motor vehicle being towed and displays a valid compliance decal.  Like the “repair”-plated tow-vehicle described above, a “ramp truck” displaying the valid compliance decal can tow an unregistered vehicle without a plate if the repairer has insurance coverage that protects the towing vehicle and the vehicle being towed.

Note:  A “Dealer” plate may not be used on either a tow truck or ramp truck for the purpose of transporting other vehicles.  A Dealer who transports his/her own vehicle through the use of a tow truck or ramp truck must obtain a “commercial” registration for such tow truck or ramp truck.  A “Dealer” who purchases a tow truck or ramp truck for resale may attach the “Dealer” plate to the tow truck or ramp truck for demonstration or sale-related purposes or for transport of the tow or ramp truck itself to or from an auction.

Trailer:
Is defined as: “Any vehicle or object on wheels and having no motive power of its own, but which is drawn by, or used in combination with, a motor vehicle. It shall not include a pole dolly or pole dickey, so called, nor a pair of wheels commonly used as an implement for other purposes than transportation, nor a portable, collapsible or separate two-wheel tow dolly limited only to the purpose of transporting or towing a registered vehicle.”  It also does not include farm machinery or implements when used in connection with the operation of a farm or estate, nor any vehicle when towed behind a farm tractor and used in connection with the operation of a farm or estate.

Tow Dolly: 
Is defined as: “A portable, collapsible or separate two-wheel tow dolly limited only to the purpose of transporting or towing a registered vehicle.”

  • A Dealer may tow a vehicle on a two-wheel tow-dolly if the towed-vehicle displays a “Dealer” plate but the towing-vehicle cannot display a “Dealer” plate or a “passenger plate” but should display a “commercial plate.”
  • A Repairer displaying “commercial plates” on the towing-vehicle can tow a vehicle on a two-wheel tow-dolly but the towed-vehicle must be properly registered or have the “Repair” plate displayed on the towed-vehicle. A Repairer displaying “Repair” plates on the towing-vehicle can tow a vehicle on a two-wheel tow-dolly without plates on the towed-vehicle if the towing-vehicle is properly registered, displays the valid repair plate, maintains insurance which also provides coverage for the motor vehicle being towed on the dolly and displays a valid compliance decal.
  • A Transporter can tow a vehicle on a two-wheeled tow-dolly if the vehicle being towed displays the “Transporter” plate. The towing-vehicle must be properly registered (not a passenger registration).
  • An Owner-Contractor generally will have vehicles that will be too large for towing on a two-wheeled tow-dolly but if the registrant does have one that safely fits it needs to display the O/C plate and the towing-vehicle must also display the O/C plate.
  • Tow dollies themselves are exempt from registration requirements.

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Massachusetts Department of Transportation

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