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6 Strategies Experienced Towmen Know and Practice

Anyone who thinks car hauling and towing is easy work has never done it for a living. Working as a tow operator is one of the most dangerous jobs in America thanks to the combination of weather, other drivers, and the generally hazardous nature of trying to recover vehicles that may not necessarily be in the safest locations.

The best tow operators, also known as towmen in the industry, know that they are only as safe as the equipment and strategies they employ on the job. Here at Mytee Products, we have the tools tow operators need. From auto hauling straps to chains and winches, we can properly equip any truck for just about any job.

What we cannot to do is equip operators with the knowledge they need to do their jobs safely. That knowledge comes from seasoned operators who teach their younger counterparts on the job. For example, your average veteran will know all about the following six strategies for safe vehicle recovery:

1. Position the Truck as Close and Straight as Possible

Whether a towman is using a flatbed wrecker or traditional tow truck, it is a good idea to position the truck as close to the vehicle as possible. The less pulling over open space required, the safer things are for both the tow operator and the vehicle being recovered. Along those same lines, getting the truck perpendicular to the vehicle is ideal. A perpendicular position reduces stress on winches and cables.

2. Use a Spotter When Possible

Your average towman works alone except on especially complicated recoveries. It is up to him or her to properly load the vehicle, strap it down, and get back on the road safely. Having said that, experienced operators know it is always wise to use a spotter when one is available. A spotter keeps an eye on the recovered vehicle as it’s being loaded onto the back of the wrecker or hoisted by the hook. Obviously, the spotter should be an experienced operator is well.

3. Use Properly Rated Straps and Chains

The next tip is a matter of both law and safety. According to federal and state laws, tow operators must use properly rated straps and chains to secure vehicles to tow trucks. That means operators have to know a little bit of math to do what they do. The general rule is to use straps rated at 2 to 3 times the weight of the vehicle being recovered. The stronger the straps, the more secure the vehicle will be when accelerating and braking.

4. Make Use of the Factory Tow Hook

When loading a recovered vehicle onto the back of the wrecker, the experienced operator will make use of the factory tow hook for both winching and tying down. The tow hook is the strongest point on a car for these sorts of operations. Not using it is ignoring something designers put in place specifically for recovery operations.

5. Utilize Four Points of Contact

Wrecker operators should always utilize four points of contact at a bare minimum. Chains and straps should be deployed at 45° angles in order to reduce both parallel and perpendicular movement. Four points of contact will keep the recovered vehicle in place better than three, and a lot better than two.

It takes time to learn all the tricks of the towman’s trade. We cannot offer you either the time or the on-the-job training you need to be the best in your industry, but we do have a full selection of towing supplies and tools to keep your truck fully equipped.


Lessons from Experienced Tow Operators

There are a bunch of viral videos out there showing just what can go wrong when a car is towed improperly. Not only are they good for a laugh, they also clearly define the difference between professionally-trained tow operators and amateurs. The professionals obviously possess the skills, tools, and equipment to do the job right.

The best tow operators in the business are defined by how they do what they do. For example, there are certain mistakes every professional tow operator knows to avoid. These are the same mistakes amateurs make just before they end up on viral videos. Here are four of them:

 

1. Pay Attention to Weights and Ratings

A lot of what a tow operator has to worry about is directly related to physics. For example, every tow strap and chain has a working load limit (WLL) that cannot be exceeded and still be safe. Tow operators have to pay attention. They have to understand gross vehicle weight ratings, axle weights, towing capacities, and the like.

Not paying attention to such things could mean serious trouble. Thankfully, the pros understand what’s going on. They choose the right towing straps, chains, and hooks to correctly secure vehicles before towing begins.

2. Use A Sufficient Number of Anchor Points

The tow operator who drives a flatbed wrecker rather than a standard tow truck handles vehicles in a slightly different way. He or she has to anchor the vehicle in question to the bed of the truck rather than hooking the car from underneath. Then he/she uses a series of tow straps or chains to secure the vehicle.

Amateurs who might try this with a utility trailer often fail to use enough anchor points. That is, they do not secure the vehicle to the trailer on all four corners. That’s a mistake. Professional tow operators not only know where the correct anchor points are found, but they also use all of them.

3. Always Utilize Safety Lights

How many times have you seen an amateur towing a vehicle without any kind of lighting? The vehicle being towed is not running, so brake lights and turn signals are not working. This is a recipe for disaster. Inadequate lighting is an open invitation to a rear-end collision. The pros know this, which is why they use safety lights. They activate the safety lights on their trucks and put towing lights on the back of the car.

4. Drive Cautiously

Finally, a truly wise tow truck operator knows how foolish it is to drive his or her truck the same way he/she might drive a car. Amateurs don’t know the difference. They drive as though they are not towing at all. They drive at the same speed and brake just as hard, assuming nothing bad will happen.

The secret professionals know is that all the towing straps and chains in the world aren’t enough to compensate for reckless driving. They drive cautiously whenever they have a car in tow. And it’s a good thing they do because as they know what they are doing, and they do it well, the rest of us don’t have to worry about being in danger when we come upon a tow truck or flatbed wrecker.

For the record, Mytee Products appreciates the magnificent work professional tow truck operators do every day. They put their lives on the line nearly every time they go out on a highway job. We are pleased to be able to help them by providing the reliable and heavy-duty towing equipment they need to do what they do safely.


How To Choose Chains Suitable for Towing

Tow truck operators carry specific kinds of chains for doing what they do. Along with those chains are hooks, car hauling straps, and other equipment that operators need to safely rescue and transport disabled vehicles. One thing is for sure though, not all chains are suitable for towing. Tow operators have to have either G70 or G80 chains.

 

The ‘G’ in G70 chain stands for ‘grade’. Industrial chains made of steel are graded according to their tensile strength. The higher the grade, the stronger the chain. A G30 chain is the weakest of the options. This is usually a general-purpose chain made for light industrial and agricultural use. The strongest is grade 100. This kind of chain is made with a strong steel alloy capable of handling heavy loads during overhead lifting.

We explain all of this to say that tow operators cannot take chances with their chains. Any chains purchased with the intent of using them in vehicle recovery have to meet minimum standards for strength. Using inadequate chains is both unsafe and illegal.

Tensile Strength and WLL

There are two factors to consider when using chains to tow or lift overhead. The first is tensile strength, a measurement of how much force an object can withstand before breaking. That is where the grading comes in. A higher-grade chain can handle more force than a lower grade chain.

A G70 grade is capable of handling 700 newtons per square millimeter. It might elongate somewhat during towing, but it is unlikely to be compromised under normal circumstances. G70 chain has a strong enough tensile strength to withstand the punishment delivered by most towing operations. Having said that, it is not strong enough for safe overhead lifting.

The second factor to consider is working load limit (WLL). Although this measurement is similar to tensile strength, it is not quite the same thing. Working load limit measures how much work a chain can actually do before breaking. If a tow truck is towing a car in a cradle, with the rear wheels still on the ground, the load being carried is less because the ground is supporting some of the car’s weight. If that same tow truck were to lift the car straight off the ground, the load would be greater.

This suggests that the same chain may be appropriate for one operation but not another. So tow truck operators have to understand working load limits in relation to the kind of stress each particular recovery will have on the chain being used. Attempting recovery operations without understanding tensile strength and WLL is dangerous.

Towing with a Passenger Car

With just this little bit of information it should become apparent just how dangerous it is to use ropes or chains to tow a disabled vehicle using a passenger car. Yet we see it all the time. You might see a four-door sedan towing a disabled SUV down city streets using nothing more than a piece of rope the driver grabbed from the garage.

Such dangerous towing is an open invitation to disaster. The driver of the tow vehicle can easily lose control; the person in the towed vehicle behind could slam into the vehicle in front by not braking quickly enough; ropes and chains can snap, etc. There is just no good way to tow a disabled vehicle without a purpose-built truck.

No, not all chains are suitable for towing. You need a steel G70 chain at minimum. If you have any plans to lift vehicles rather than simply towing them, you will need either G80 or G100.


What Kind of Tow Truck Do You Operate?

To the average person on the street, the tow truck is a modified pickup truck with extra tires on the back end and an on-board yoke for towing disabled cars. Few people pay any attention to the fact that the vehicle recovery industry has multiple kinds of trucks at its disposal for nearly every kind of job. If you are a tow operator, what kind of truck do you normally operate?

Different trucks are designed for different kinds of jobs. As such, the auto towing and hauling equipment drivers use differ from one recovery to the next. They have auto hauling straps, towing chains, winches, and hooks to work with. Equipment has to be matched to the job at hand to ensure it is done safely and efficiently.

We have put together a list of the different kinds of tow trucks below. If you are a tow operator, just remember this: who you choose to supply your straps, chains, etc. will play a role in your overall success. You have to have the right equipment to do the job. You are in luck, because Mytee Products has exactly what you need.

The Boom Truck

The boom truck is the biggest and baddest of all tow trucks. This is a vehicle built on the same kind of frame as an 18-wheeler tractor. It has an on-board adjustable boom capable of recovering extremely heavy vehicles or lifting a disabled car right out of a ditch.

The secret of the boom truck is its hydraulics. By combining hydraulics with telescoping booms, these trucks can access disabled vehicles that are all but inaccessible to other kinds of tow trucks. They are the only recovery vehicles suitable for extremely heavy lifting.

The Wheel-Lift Truck

The wheel-lift truck is one of the more common tow trucks used in the United States. It is built on the frame of a pickup, but everything underneath is reinforced for extra strength. On the back of the truck is mounted a hydraulic frame with a steel or aluminum alloy cradle that slides under the front wheels of the vehicle to lift it off the ground. Towing straps or chains are then used to secure the vehicle to the cradle.

The Integrated Truck

This kind of truck is a hybrid vehicle with both hydraulic cradle and boom on board. It is not a truck we see commonly used in this country. However, it’s seen a lot in Europe. It is ideal for recovering broken down vehicles in urban areas.

The Flatbed Truck

Next to the wheel-lift, the flatbed truck is the second most commonly used vehicle for towing operations in this country. Flatbeds make vehicle transport a lot safer because cars are taken completely off the road. The flatbed tilts up and slides down to meet the road, making it easy for the tow operator to drag the car on board using a winch and cable. The car is then secured with straps or chains prior to departure.

The Lift Flatbed Truck

Last is the lift flatbed truck, another kind of truck used more in Europe than here. This is a flatbed with an on-board boom. The boom is used to lift a car vertically and place it on the flatbed. Lift flatbed trucks are another good option for vehicle recovery in urban environments.

Regardless of the kind of truck used, tow operators rely on their winches, straps, and chains to do what they do. Here at Mytee Products, we are proud to supply the towing industry with all the necessary equipment. We hope you find what you’re looking for here on our site.


Towing Lights: A Matter of Personal Safety

Some of the things we sell at Mytee Products are designed for the sole purpose of making the lives of truck drivers easier and more productive. Towing lights are not one of them. We sell towing lights to tow truck drivers and fleet owners because it is a matter of life and death. Towing lights are very much a matter of personal safety.

As we all know, tow trucks come with a range of safety lights already on board. For example, a light bar mounted to the top of the truck cab is standard. The towing lights we sell are considered accessories. Rather than being permanently affixed to the tow truck, they are temporarily affixed to the vehicle being towed so as to make it more visible to drivers who may not be paying close attention.

Traffic: The Biggest Hazard

Driving a tow truck is certainly not an easy or terribly safe job. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers from 2016, some 745 drivers were killed in 2015. Far too many died in accidents involving oncoming traffic.

Traffic is the tow truck operator’s biggest hazard. Whether people are tired, distracted, or just not paying attention, it only takes one momentary lapse for the driver of an oncoming car to strike a tow truck operator or his/her vehicle.

Unfortunately, there is only so much that drivers can do to protect themselves. At the top of the list is making themselves and their vehicles more visible. That is what towing lights are all about. Lights make a tow truck and the vehicle being towed more visible to traffic moving in both directions. Second, drivers have to pay close attention to everything going on around them; they must have eagle eyes whenever they are working.

The Operator’s Inventory

Mytee Products recommends tow truck operators keep at least a basic inventory of lights on board. A good inventory starts with at least one light bar that includes turn signal capabilities. A 360-degree strobe that can be easily placed on top of the towed vehicle should also be part of a basic inventory, along with a heavy-duty flashlight that doubles as a chemical-free flare.

There are plenty of other towing lights an operator can add to his/her inventory. The three mentioned here represent only a starting point. The more lights an operator has at his or her disposal, the more visible the tow truck and tow vehicle will be.

We also recommend going with rechargeable towing lights rather than traditional corded models. Rechargeable lights are faster and much easier to deploy in emergency situations. As long as the operator keeps batteries charged, lights will provide hours of reliable service.

Safety Is Always the Priority

As a tow truck operator or fleet owner, what is your first priority? It ought to be driver safety. No car is valuable enough to risk the safety of someone trying to tow it. No job is so important that tow truck drivers should put themselves at risk unnecessarily. There are already enough hazards to worry about in the towing industry; drivers don’t need to add the lack of a safety-first mindset to the list.

Safety should always the priority for tow truck operators. To that end, towing lights are a valuable safety tool in that they make tow trucks and their cargo more visible to other drivers. Mytee Products is proud to serve America’s tow truck operators with a full line of equipment and supplies, including towing lights.