While many drivers don’t consider tow truck operators as first responders, they’re often among the first to arrive on the scene of a roadway accident. Sometimes, they even arrive before police and medical personnel make it to the location where an accident has occurred.
In addition to being first responders to accidents, tow truck operators field many calls from stranded drivers who aren’t dealing with emergent circumstances. Flat tires, failed batteries, and lockouts are three of the leading causes for drivers to call for help when they’re on the road.
Whether they’re responding to an accident or a call for help from a motorist who has locked her key in her automobile, tow truck operators work in a dangerous industry. Since tow operators typically work alone, it’s critical for them to exercise extra caution when they respond to a cry for assistance.
Tips to Stay Safe
Even the most experienced tow operator needs some reminders about staying safe every once in a while. One of the most important tips you can use to stay safe as a tow operator doesn’t even involve your roadway duties. Instead, it’s something you should do at your home base on a regular basis: maintain your truck.
Having your tow truck serviced regularly will do more than ensure it works properly when you need it to. It will also ensure you can operate it safely. Routine maintenance and making sure minor repairs are taken care of quickly are two proactive things you should do to remain safe on the road and make sure you’re able to provide assistance to drivers in need.
In addition to maintaining your tow truck and equipment, you should do the following to stay safe:
- Know Your Truck’s Tow Capacity: As a tow truck operator, it’s vital to know your truck’s limitations and stay within them. If you go over your truck’s tow capacity, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle. As a general rule, light-weight trucks have a gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, of 10,000 pounds or less, medium-duty trucks can haul up to 26,000 pounds, and heavy-duty trucks can carry vehicles that weigh 26,000 pounds or more.
- Wear the Right Equipment: The Federal Highway Administration mandates that every roadway worker and emergency responder working on or near a federal highway wear a safety vest that satisfies criteria established by the American National Standards Institute. These fluorescent vests are green, orange, or yellow and they’re available in three classes, with Class 3 vests providing the highest level of visibility. Tow operators should wear a helmet that’s as visible as their vests, too.
While you’re required to wear visible gear on or near federal highways, you should consider wearing the same gear whenever you’re responding to a call for help elsewhere, especially if the roadway has a high speed limit, it’s dark outside, or the weather is poor.
- Follow Proper Loading Procedures: To avoid serious injury, you should make sure you follow proper loading procedures whenever you’re loading an automobile onto your tow truck. You should designate a safety zone away from traffic and work within its confines as much as possible. To load a vehicle safely, you’ll need to center it on your truck bed, tie the automobile down firmly, and chock and block its wheels once it’s in positon.
- Maintain a Safe Distance: When you’re hauling a disabled vehicle, you truck is carrying thousands of pounds of extra weight. This excess weight can increase the distance it takes for your truck to come to a complete stop, especially if the roadway is wet or covered with snow, ice, or mud. You need to take the extra weight your truck is carrying into consideration and increase the distance you leave between your truck and the car in front of you accordingly.
You should maintain this extended driving distance and adhere to each of these other expectations from the time you respond to a call until you offload the disabled automobile at the destination designated by its owner.