View Full Version : Lighting requirements on funeral coaches

Charles E Snyder, II
05-22-2014, 03:20 PM
I know that different states and sometimes different municipalities have their own requirements for lighting on hearses. Style of light, color, placement etc.

There was a question posed by someone as to why their funeral director's current hearse has purple strobes mounted behind the grill. He wanted to know if this was something new... Mounting lights behind the grill.

I was once told a story and would like to know if I remember it correctly... A past PCS president had two late 60s hearses that were both out of California. Both of his hearses had lights and a siren mounted behind the grill. The reason that I was told was that at the time California had regulations in place that required hearses to be equipped with emergency lighting and sirens and would be called in to use in times of natural disasters. They would be used as transportation for the people with non-life threatening injuries.

It has been many years (10 years? 15 years?) since I have seen or talked to this gentleman and I am wondering if I remembered the information correctly.
Was this true at one point?
Did California (or other places) require emergency lighting on hearses at one point in time?
With today's emergency services, is there anywhere today that still requires anything similar?

Mike McDonald
05-22-2014, 06:54 PM

Kevin O'Connell may be able to answer your better specifically about (CA) Hearses being utilized in times of disasters that I am personally not aware of.

Related to our Private Construction and "CWN" (call when needed) Emergency Heavy Equipment Services Companies they were first allowed (under special permit-inspections from the CHP and Direct Contracts with the CA Governor's Office of Emergency Services) to be on certain pieces of transport and key supervisory vehicles beginning circa the mid 60's. (*) They could be on, but covered and only used as specifically directed-ordered on a specific incident. During Governor Edmund G. Brown's tenure (Jerry "Moonbean" Brown's Father) the AGC's "Plan Bulldozer" was made part of California's Emergency Mangement Plan. The same program during the Nixon Administration was intregrated in to the Army Corps of Engineer's supervised diaster relief efforts prior to FEMA being formed. So the concept you were told about was used at least on the heavy equipment side in CA. MM

Jerry Jacobson
05-22-2014, 07:37 PM
I seem to recall being told the same story about the lights and siren on hearses. Another member advised me that it was not the case and the story was used to justify their being installed for the owners enjoyment. I can not speak with any authority, but this was my own experience. I wait to hear from anyone who can add credence to one story or the other.:confused:

James Fischer
05-22-2014, 09:40 PM
I can only add a story as to what was,or was not legal or required on hearses.

In 1972 I was employed by Foothill ambulance service which served the foothills I/80 area heading east to Reno.

The office I was stationed at was out of Lamberts Funeral home in Roseville.Lamberts has been around since 1932 and when the 2 sons took over in running it,they immediately ordered 2 Superior Crown Landaulets,
Being very proud of their new investments they had 2 purple flashing lights installed (behind the grill) with a steady burning red and amber in the center (behind the grill).

They had the coaches inspected by CHP for their certification and were granted clearance.

Nine days later,they used one of the hearses in a very large funeral for a high ranking Hells Angel from Oakland.

To say the least,there were a ton of law enforcement present including CHP.

After the funeral and returning the hearse to its garage at the funeral home there were several CHP waiting to speak with Reggie.
Well they let him know in no uncertain terms that what he had done (using the amber/purple lights) during the procession was NOT legal and was told to not use the vehicle until they were disabled or removed from the hearse.
He explained to them that he thought that purple was reserved for funeral coaches and that he would remove the red and amber.
They replied "NO...they want ALL the lights removed no matter what color....hearses are NOT emergency vehicles"
Reggie had them removed after 2 days and had to pay for another re-inspection.

So,I dont know what the rules are these days but back then I guess they were a no-no.

Charles E Snyder, II
05-22-2014, 11:20 PM
Thanks everyone for your input!
It is truly appreciated.

I still wonder what the actual law stated back in the 60s and 70s.
Were we just told a story about why the emergency lights were on the funeral coaches or was it an actual regulation. Hmmm... :)

John Royark JR
05-23-2014, 03:02 AM
I know some states require a roof beacon or strobe and some specify color, so its possible some states require other warning lighting. Purple warning lighting for hearses has been used since at least the 30s (think of the silent siren, and Lite-O-Flags). There are more and more places are officially designating purple as funeral procession lighting, it makes it easily recognized as such and not another work truck with amber warning lights.
Even where not required by state/city laws many coaches have run strobes, wig wags and sirens for many years as added safety, especially in places that do not run escort vehicles to head the procession.
I know somewhere in the forums there is a discussion about this from a few years ago.

Dennis Svoboda
05-24-2014, 09:41 AM
In Nebraska red lights are permitted on "funeral escort vehicles". This can be the coach, lead limo, or a lead vehicle. Some funeral homes use red lights, some don't. Purple is NOT an authorized color under State statute. At the funeral home I work at our coach and limo have red dash LEDs. If we have a large service we use the removal van as lead with a mini red lightbar or if I am working, my Federal FBH11.

Nebraska Revised Statute 60-6,231

60-6,231. Flashing or rotating lights; authorized emergency vehicles; colors permitted.

A flashing or rotating red light or red and white light shall be displayed on any authorized emergency vehicle whenever operated in this state. A blue light may also be displayed with such flashing or rotating red light or red and white light. For purposes of this section, an authorized emergency vehicle shall include funeral escort vehicles.

Laws 1969, c. 327, 3, p. 1171;
C.S.Supp.,1972, 39-788.02;
Laws 1989, LB 416, 1;
R.S.Supp.,1992, 39-6,149;
Laws 1993, LB 370, 327;
Laws 2008, LB196, 4.

Skip Goulet - Deceased 1945 - 2018
06-19-2014, 06:29 PM
Texas has no lighting requirements for funeral coaches, so it's quite rare to see one with any sort of lighting. But back in the good ol' days when almost every funeral home in Texas ran an ambulance service, the first out ambulance was generally a station wagon or sedan-delivery until the short coaches came out, and then Suburbans. But a majority of funeral homes used a combination as their funeral car, and for the most part, they were equipped with under hood or grille-mounted sirens; and most often a demountable beacon. Because the ambulance service was generally not a money maker for the funeral home, they spent no more than actually necessary on ambulances or equipment. So a couple of the more unusual setups I've seen were coaches with just a pair of red lights behind the grille and the smallest available siren they could find, like on the '68 Cadillac combo in Tahoka, TX (just south of Lubbock). It had a pair of red grille lights and a little Federal "O" siren under the hood. But when I first became acquainted with that funeral home in '68, their first out ambulance wasn't much better off. It was a '62 Ford wagon with a single red 17 beacon and a VL siren mounted in front of the beacon. They eventually upgraded with a '65 Pontiac Consort that had a 174 on top and a Federal 28 under-hood. While running with scarce equipment might not be a problem in a small town like Tahoka, it might've been disastrous when they had to make runs into Lubbock in that Caddy combo. However, part of that was rectified since Lubbock P.D. adamantly insisted on escorting out of town ambulances when they came in "hot" to Lubbock. I doubt that you'd see that much anymore.