There are many hazards that come along with towing cars, and the news stories about tow trucks are often populated with tragic articles about tow truck drivers getting struck on the side of the road. Some are injured, some have near-misses, and others lose their lives. The side of the road is a dangerous place, especially if you’re trying to load a car on the back of a tow truck. To help you stay safe on the job, we’ve put together some safety basics about working on the side of the road.
7 tips for working on the side of the road.
1. Wear the appropriate safety equipment.
First and foremost, make sure that you’re wearing a safety vest that’s bright and reflective so that you’re more visible to other drivers. It’s really important to make yourself stand out with a proper reflective vest and personal protective equipment. Don’t leave the truck without it. It’s more than just a fashion statement – it’s a safety thing.
2. Get out of your truck very carefully.
Getting out of a tow truck on the side of the road is a skill. There’s an art to it. You can’t just hop out when there are cars whizzing along beside you, right? Follow these tips for getting out of your truck, whether you’re helping someone change a tire or helping to clear an accident scene.
- Take things slow and check your mirrors.
Don’t rush yourself. Look into your side mirrors and scan for cars.
- Turn to look over your shoulders and out the window.
Don’t just rely on your side and rearview mirror. Turn your body to look over your shoulder and look out the window. Wait until you’re comfortable getting out of the truck even if it means taking some more time.
- Open the door carefully and get out of the truck.
Keep an eye on traffic as you actually get out of the truck, and be mindful of where you’re opening the door.
- Don’t dawdle between your truck and traffic.
Don’t hang around in the space between traffic and your truck. Shut the door and get away from the oncoming cars. Move safely and quickly away from traffic and to the curb – i.e. away from cars. Always be aware and keep an eye on the road and traffic while towing.
3. Open the door carefully.
We already touched on this, but be careful when opening up the door. You don’t want a car to tear the door right off…and you don’t want to take out an unsuspecting bicyclist.
4. Use appropriate warning mechanisms.
Give other drivers as much warning as you possibly can. Put out road triangles, traffic cones, signs, and so on. It’s important to make your truck visible and to let drivers know that they need to slow down and move over. Give them a head’s up that someone is working on the side of the road so they’re alert and aware.
5. Don’t stand with your back to traffic.
Don’t turn your back to oncoming traffic even for a second. Stay alert and aware and make sure that you can clearly see the road and the cars that are coming.
Also, stay out of the traffic lanes on the road.
6. Get your truck off the roadway as much as possible while you’re towing.
It’s also a good idea to give yourself some breathing room. Get your tow truck off the road as far as you can to give yourself space. It’s best to give the drivers on the road space because that way no one has to slam on the brakes and swerve as they approach you. (Though people are supposed to slow down and move over according to the laws in their state, not everyone will or does. So, just get as far out of the way as you can.)
7. Don’t hang out between the tow truck and the car.
It’s really important to stay out of the danger zone between the tow truck and the disabled vehicle while you’re preparing the car for towing. If someone were to hit the disabled car, they could cause that car to hit you. Anyways, be sure to take care to have all conversations with customers or law enforcement on the curb away from traffic.
These are just some basic tips to help you stay safe on the side of the road. Towing is a dangerous profession, and it’s so important to be careful and not to let your guard down. Stay alert and don’t rush as you park and get out of the truck.
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Gratzianna, Patrick. “Exiting Your Truck Near a Roadway.” Tow Times, April 2019, p. 24.