Secured Vehicles Required
By Randall Resch,
AT Operations Editor
I followed a flatbed carrier (from a well-known local tow company) where the driver had a winch cable and one J-hook attached to the vehicle. Imagine enough slack in the winch cable allowing the J-hook to drop off … it would turn a routine transport into tragedy.
You read reports where towed or transported vehicles “somehow” get away from the tow truck or flatbed during transport. It’s a process where tow owners assume huge liability when they don’t mandate their operators make appropriate and consistent use of safety chains and tie-down systems on every tow.
Tow owners can’t neglect what their drivers are (or aren’t) doing in the field. Any vehicle that falls off a tow truck may be assumed to be more than an accident, especially if the company’s Employee Manual doesn’t directly address the requirements of safety chains and tie-down equipment. Better known as “vicarious liability,” if the driver doesn’t use safety equipment, the company’s ownership is liable for their actions beyond the occurrence of a simple accident.
All states have vehicle codes that require towed and transported vehicles to be sufficiently secured. If there’s federal and state laws that mandate such use, why would tow operators neglect to use safety chains or an appropriate four-point tie-down as recommended by tow truck manufacturers and industry-approved training?
Over the years, I’ve heard every excuse for not using safety equipment, including:
“They take too much time.”
“My boss doesn’t use them, so why should I?”
“It’s too dangerous to use them.”
“I don’t like to lay down to attach them.”
When a vehicle comes away from the tow truck or carrier deck, the real blame goes to the company owner. Are you ready to venture injury or loss of life when your driver’s actions don’t follow your lead?
Does your Employee Handbook make statements addressing the specific use of safety chains and carrier tie-down procedures? If a vehicle comes off a tow truck and results in wrongful injury or death, the FIRST places to be attacked will be the company’s Employee Handbook, the company’s training procedures, and evidence of on-going safety training. Drivers trying to dodge a charge of criminal negligence won’t lie to get into trouble, but they will say they weren’t trained or declare safety equipment wasn’t required by the company.
There’s too much at risk to not mandate the use of safety equipment on towed and transported vehicles. How you approach the topic is your business, but if you don’t protect your company’s interests, the courts will find huge monetary awards in favor of the other party.