More from: tow operator

Acknowledging Tow Operators Who Know Their Business

Not too long ago we published a post detailing the adventures of two people who didn’t know how to use their truck loading ramps correctly. We have also published other posts which discussed tow truck fails brought on by inadequate understanding of standard operating procedures. Those kinds of stories are always a reminder of how much we appreciate tow operators who really understand their profession and work hard to be good at it.

Towing isn’t as simple as attaching a hook to a car and driving away. There is so much more to it than that. Tow operators have to consider everything from the vehicle being recovered to the kind of recovery being undertaken. They must decide whether to use webbing straps or towing chains; whether to make use of a hook truck or a flatbed; and whether it is really safe to secure a recovery vehicle using just tire nets.

None of what we just described even touches the most complex recovery jobs. As an example, consider a recovery this past summer (2018) out of Phillipsburg, New Jersey. It required not only savvy tow operators with knowledge and experience, it also required the right tools and equipment.

Sinking Heavy Equipment

June 22 was the day a local Phillipsburg towing company was called to Heckman and Marshall streets around early in the morning. Apparently, a Case digger was preparing the site for future utility work. While the operator was busy digging a trench for utility workers, the pavement under the left side of the machine gave way. The digger fell into the resulting hole. Half of it ended up in the hole while the other half remained outside, perched at roughly a 30° angle.

Making matters worse was the fact that the digger was resting right on top of a gas line. Tow operators called to the scene had to figure out how to get the machine out of the hole without allowing it to slip. One slip could have severed the gas line and caused a major problem.

An Hour of Touch-and-Go

As you can imagine, it was impossible for the tow truck operators to just hook up a chain and drag the digger to safety. First of all, the machine was too heavy for that sort of thing. Second, it had to be lifted straight up in order to protect the gas line underneath. Trying to drag the digger would have probably ruptured the line and further weakened the surrounding pavement.

It took a team of two tow operators about an hour to come up with a plan and then successfully execute it. It was an hour of touch-and-go. In the end, they used a combination of two boom trucks equipped with heavy towing chains to slowly lift the digger out of the hole.

The two trucks were positioned on the opposite side of the street, front to back. Their booms were extended out over the digger so as to transfer all its weight to the stronger pavement. Then the two operators used remote control devices to slowly pick the machine up. They had to synchronize their movements to keep everything steady.

It is fortunate that the operators were very experienced, had good judgement and also had the right tools at their disposal to handle what was a very dangerous job. We are guessing they weren’t using cheap towing chains and hooks on something so heavy. Incidents of this kind are a reminder of how important is it be a good tow operator.


Auto Towing and Winches: How to Use a Winch Safely

Operating a tow truck or wrecker does require a good understanding of safety procedures. Between working in traffic and having to deal with hazardous conditions related to weather and topography, things can go wrong even on the easiest of jobs. The tow operator doesn’t need to make things even less safe by not knowing how to properly use his or her equipment. This includes the electric winches found on tow trucks and wreckers.

By itself, an electric winch is a harmless and inanimate piece of machinery. But hook it to a car and you have an entirely different matter. Once in action, winches are inherently risky tools that need to be treated with a safety-first mindset. Improper use of a winch could lead to property damage, serious injury, or even death.

Do not Neglect the Owner’s Manual

Using a winch safely starts with reading and understanding the owner’s manual. We know, it is so easy to discard the manual along with packaging. But it’s included for a reason. Not only should it not be ignored, but it should be fully understood before installation and use.

Along with all that is the basic principle of installing an electric winch according to manufacturer specifications. Those specifications are found in the owner’s manual. Safe operation requires doing exactly what the manufacturer recommends, right down to little details like not welding mounting bolts and using only approved power cords and wire rope.

Operational Inspections

Manufacturers will always recommend a tow operator inspect his/her winch before using it. This means before every use. Even if a tow operator doesn’t think an inspection is necessary on every job, the winch should still be inspected on a regular basis. The operator should be checking winch rope, hooks, slings, and all visible moving parts of the winch.

Frayed, kinked, or damaged winch rope should never be used. Any moving parts that appear to be worn should also be considered for replacement. You can never be too careful when you are connecting an electric motor to a 12,000-pound vehicle using a piece of winch rope.

Safety During Use

The nature of towing and vehicle recovery is such that problems with an operator’s equipment are usually not apparent until he or she is in the middle of a job. In other words, a visual inspection may not reveal a potential weak point in a winch rope. The operator might never know the rope is weak until it snaps during a recovery.

As such, the tow operator should always assume that danger is present whenever using a winch. Basic safety rules always apply no matter the circumstances. For example, the operator should stay out of the direct line of the wire rope during recovery. A winch dampener should be used just in case the rope snaps.

Operators should use spotters when possible. The spotter should also be out of the direct line of the rope. Neither the operator nor the spotter should attempt to manually assist the winch by pulling on the rope.

Finally, tow operators should never use electric winches to recover loads that are too heavy. They should never be used for overhead lifting either. Winches come with weight ratings that should always be adhered to. Exceeding the stated limits of an electric winch will almost always end badly.

Mytee Products sells a range electric winches for tow operators. We also carry a complete line of towing supplies including auto hauling straps, hooks, chains, and safety lights. Feel free to use our inventory to stock your tow truck or wrecker.


Know Your Tow Equipment and How to Use It

America has a lot of unsung heroes who really don’t get the recognition due to them. Among them are tow truck operators who risk their lives every day to recover broken down vehicles. We appreciate the efforts of these towing professionals , which is a primary reason for our decision to stock tow truck supplies including chains, hooks, winches, and towing straps.

This is the time of year we start hearing some of the wildest and craziest stories from tow operators. The later we get in a year, the wilder and crazier those stories will become. You see, winter weather makes already dangerous conditions absolutely treacherous for roadside recoveries. Any tow truck operator who has worked a winter on snow and ice-covered roads can tell stories that would make your hair stand on end.

We say all of that to say this: it is absolutely vital for tow operators to make sure they have all the right equipment on board to safely recover broken-down vehicles. But it is also critically important that operators know how to use that equipment the right way. A little knowledge goes a long way toward both effective and fast vehicle recovery.

Get In, Hook Up, Get Out

It is obviously necessary for tow operators to properly secure recovered vehicles with chains and straps before departing. To that end, rushing through a recovery job is not a good idea. But at the same time, a tow operator wants to get in, hook up, and get out as quickly as possible. Lingering for too long is an open invitation to trouble.

Knowing how to use towing equipment the right way increases both safety and speed. In terms of safety, a properly secured vehicle is a lot less likely to break loose during transport. That should be obvious. But let us talk about the speed question. Remember that a tow operator doesn’t want to hang around on the side of the road for too long.

If you have seen a professional lumberjack competition, you will notice that the men and women competing for the top prize can hack through a log in mere minutes. They are fast and efficient because they know how to use their tools. The same principle applies to operating a tow truck.

A tow operator who knows how to use his or her equipment can, and should, practice doing so. It should become second nature so that, on any given recovery job, the operator doesn’t have to spend 15 to 20 minutes figuring out what needs to be done. The more efficiently an operator can deploy chains and straps, the more quickly he or she can get out of harm’s way.

Know What You Need

Another side to towing equipment is knowing what is needed to complete most recoveries. For example, every tow truck is going to be equipped with a basic inventory of chains, straps, and hooks. But let’s say you operate a towing company in north-central Pennsylvania. Your trucks could be recovering a lot of vehicles from the mountain passes of I-81 this winter.

Your trucks might also need to be equipped with motorized winches and heavy-duty cables. Otherwise, how are you going to get those cars that have managed to find their way into ditches? Once recovered, your drivers may have to deploy some creative tiedown methods to overcome car damage.

Recovering broken-down vehicles is always a sticky situation. Doing it during the winter adds an extra element of danger brought on by severe weather. If you are tow operator, we implore you to make sure you know your tow equipment and how to use it.


Tow Operators Have to Be Ready for Anything

What does a typical day for you look like? If you are a tow operator, there is no such thing as a typical day. Between cars that will not start, and heavily-damaged vehicles involved in accidents, you have to be ready for just about anything. Even a truck spilling a load of potatoes on the highway is not out of the question.

Those of us who don’t work in the towing and recovery industry tend to think of towing as little more than recovering cars with dead batteries or faulty starters. We may give a slight nod to recovering cars off the side of the interstate following an accident, but most of us have never given any thought to recoveries involving tractor trailers, construction equipment, or dozens of mangled vehicles involved in a multi-vehicle collision during the middle of winter.

To do their jobs right, tow operators need a virtual library of knowledge accompanied by practical experience and the right tools. We can help where the tools are concerned. Mytee Products offers a full catalog of products ranging from towing chains and hooks to hauling straps and emergency towing lights.

The Right Equipment for Those Big Jobs

We hear plenty of stories from tow operators who visit our showroom in need of a few towing supplies. Many of those stories involve pretty big operations requiring multiple tow trucks and drivers. The big jobs are some of the most dangerous that tow operators work on.

For example, the potato truck referenced at the start of this article wasn’t made up. The accident really occurred just outside of Aiken, South Carolina. News reports say a local driver ran a red light and proceeded to collide with an 18-wheeler. The impact sent the semi into a ditch, its load of potatoes emptying out onto the highway.

Potatoes strewn everywhere was not the big issue for the towing company that responded. The spuds could easily have been cleaned up and taken away. No, the real problem was getting the trailer out of the ditch. A photograph of the accident scene shows a rather large tow truck with a hydraulic beam and winch attempting to pull the trailer back onto the roadway.

These kinds of jobs require specialized equipment. For example, it would be inappropriate to hook a chain between the tow truck and trailer in an attempt to drag the trailer back onto the road. The heavy-duty winch and steel cable capable of moving the trailer while the tow truck remained stationary was the safest way to extract the damaged trailer.

Operators Need a Variety of Tools

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned over the years of serving the industry is that tow truck operators need a variety of tools to do what they do. It’s not enough just to have a small selection of towing straps and chains on board. Operators need a full arsenal of weapons, so to speak, if they are truly going to be prepared for anything.

An easy job might be as simple as hooking a broken-down car underneath its front axle and using wheel nets and a chain to keep everything in place. A more complicated job might require a combination of steel winch cable, a couple of heavy-duty chains and hooks, and even a snatch block or two. The tow operator never really knows until he or she arrives on-site.

No, there is no such thing as a typical day for tow operators. They need to be prepared for anything and everything. That means having the right tools on board.

 


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.