A road recovery vehicle is one that is specially designed, built or adapted to recover broken-down vehicles. It must be fitted with a crane, winch or other lifting system specifically designed to recover vehicles.

Three categories of vehicle are allowed under STGO:

  • locomotives are vehicles with an unladen weight heavier than 7,370 kgs not built to carry a load
  • an N3 motor vehicle is a vehicle built to carry goods with a maximum mass heavier than 12,000 kgs
  • a combination of an N3 motor vehicle and an O4 trailer is a trailer with a maximum weight heavier than 10,000 kgs

Where a vehicle or vehicle / trailer combination is broken, recovery can be carried out using a drawbar or ‘lift and tow’ method. It cannot be carried or towed any further than is necessary in order to clear the road it obstructs – for example, to the nearest motorway services. At this point, the broken-down vehicle must be either fixed or transported onwards under C&U rules, which may involve separating the towing vehicle and trailer, and/or unloading any load that is carried.

Maximum weights

  • gross 36,000 kgs on 3 axles
  • gross 50,000 kgs on 4 axles
  • gross 80,000 kgs on 6 or more axles
  • maximum axle weight of 12,500 kgs
  • maximum axle group weight 25,000 kgs
  • a road recovery vehicle must not, when towing a broken-down vehicle, exceed the maximum train weight specified on the plate fixed to it under regulation 66 of C&U Regs

Speed limits

While carrying or towing a broken-down vehicle:

  • motorway: 40 mph
  • dual carriageway: 30 mph
  • other roads: 30 mph


The maximum width cannot be greater than that imposed by regulation 8 of C&U Regs of 2.55 metres. However, a trailer up to 3 metres in width can be used when its use would be the only safe method of recovering a broken-down vehicle.


The maximum length of a road recovery vehicle is 18.75 metres but there is no restriction on the combined length when towing a broken-down vehicle or combination.

Vehicle excise duty

A road recovery vehicle with a maximum weight less than 25,000 kgs is taxable as a special vehicle at the same rate as a basic goods vehicle. One with a maximum weight greater than 25,000 kgs is taxable at 2.5 times the basic goods vehicle rate. One of the conditions of this taxation class is that the vehicle can only be used for break down recovery, and not for general haulage.

Plating and testing

Road recovery vehicles are no longer exempt from the plating and testing regulations. They must be fitted with a plate, which gives the maximum weight that can be lifted, by any crane, winch or another lifting system.

Source – DVSA