Alberta Tow Trucks Allowed to Use Blue Lights Under Pilot Project

Starting June 30, 2022, tow trucks in Alberta are permitted to use blue flashing lights in addition to amber ones to help enhance roadside visibility.

Under a one-year pilot project, tow truck operators in Alberta have the option of using the blue lights on their vehicles as they respond to calls on highways and other roadways. This change should help increase the visibility of the vehicle to better alert the public about an operator working on the side of the road.

“Too many tow truck drivers are involved in collisions or dangerous situations because motorists have difficulty seeing them while they’re working. This pilot project is intended to increase safety for these operators and will help determine the best lighting for tow trucks in Alberta,” said Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation, in a press release.

The Alberta towing industry, including the Towing and Recovery Association of Alberta (TRAA) and the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), have been asking for permission to use blue lights for years. To increase pressure on the provincial government to pass new legislation allowing the lights change, towers also launched an online petition in 2020. This initiative has also been supported by the Alberta Chiefs of Police and key stakeholders across the province.

The Alberta towing industry’s primary argument for adopting this new amendment is to help improve drivers’ safety by making the approaching motorists more alert. According to the traffic-safety research that AMA quotes on their website, colour combinations draw more attention than the lights of just one colour. The research concludes that blue and amber is the most visible combination in low-light conditions and bad weather, which is often when tow operators are doing their most dangerous work.

Until now, Saskatchewan was the only Canadian province that has allowed tow trucks to be equipped with blue lights. The law was changed there in 2017, following the death of tow operator Courtney Schaefer. Earlier this year, on April 28, Leduc- Beaumont MLA Brad Rutherford, a former police officer, brought forward a private member’s bill—Bill 207, the Traffic Safety (Tow Truck Warning Lamps) Amendment Act—allowing flashing blue lights on tow trucks also in Alberta.

“This is a huge step forward in making our industry safer for roadside assistance workers and the motoring public through increased visibility. The effectiveness of this change will be noticeable and will save Albertans’ lives,” said Don Getschel, president of the TRAA.

Before the new amendment was announced, Getschel told Tow Canada that the industry should be mindful that changing the colour of lights alone will not prevent tow operators from being hurt. “We need to have better systems and policies as business owners to keep our staff safe by using better judgment and providing advanced warning,” said Getschel, who is the president of Oil Country Towing. “If we cannot do the call safely, we should not be doing the call. If the weather or heavy traffic is a factor, we should wait until the weather clears and the traffic lightens.” (Tow Canada, March-April 2020, p. 31)

Allowing blue flashing lights on the tow trucks is in addition to new rules to protect highway workers under the Traffic Safety Amendment Act. Starting spring 2023, all motorists travelling in the same direction on multi-lane highways will need to slow down to at least 60 km/h and allow one lane of space, where possible, when passing stopped emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and roadside workers’ vehicles when their lights are flashing. Motorists travelling in both directions on single-lane highways will be required to slow down when passing roadside vehicles and workers.

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