For the safety of the driver and others on the road, a disabled vehicle must get off the road as soon as possible. The usual course of action is to contact a towing service close to the scene of the accident or breakdown to bring the vehicle to a mechanic’s shop or a junkyard if it’s not salvageable. Below are brief descriptions of the most common types of commercial tow trucks and the types of jobs companies use them for the most.
3 different types of tow trucks
1. Flatbed tow truck (a.k.a. rollback)
The flatbed tow truck gets its name from the fact that it has a flat top with a long and empty bed. The operator of a flatbed tow truck uses hydraulics to move it up and down. If it’s still possible to drive the car a short distance, the driver can simply drive it onto the flatbed tow truck. If not, the operator places a winch and chains on the vehicle and moves it onto the bed using hydraulics.
Using a flatbed tow truck when available has certain advantages that other types don’t offer. For example, the truck doesn’t drag the vehicle or place any type of pressure on it. The stress is on the flatbed itself, which works well because the larger size, weight, and strength of the truck enables it to withstand the stress while the disabled vehicle is in transit to another location. Tow truck drivers choose this type most often to bring a non-driveable vehicle to a repair shop.
2. Hook and chain tow truck
Towing companies used these types of trucks much more often in the past than they do today. The reason for this is that the towed vehicle can sometimes sustain damage due to the pressure put on it during transport. Because wrapping a chain around a disabled vehicle can scratch or damage it, it’s often reserved for transporting non-repairable vehicles to the junkyard. Hook and chain tow trucks can also cause damage to the drivetrain of 4 x 4 and all-wheel drive vehicles. The tow truck driver should ensure the vehicle isn’t salvageable before placing a hook and chains on it.
3. Wheel lift tow truck
A wheel lift tow truck is similar to a hook and chain tow truck with one major exception. Instead of using chains that can damage a vehicle, this type uses a metal yoke instead. The tow truck driver places the metal yoke under the back or front wheels and uses a hydraulic lift or pneumatic hoist to lift the vehicle off the ground. It’s now in the proper position for the tow truck driver to drive it away. This is an alternative to using a flatbed tow truck to transport disabled vehicles to a repair shop.
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