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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMarch 20 - March 26, 2019
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Tow Trucks and Loose Dollies

hqdefault e39bbMake sure your tow dolly racks are secure.

By Randall C. Resch

It only takes a second for a side rack of tow dollies to launch from the tow truck if the truck hits a large pothole, curb or bump in the road. Most tow manufacturers mount dollies somewhere atop the tow truck's deck; typically in the space above the wheel wells. The reason for launch; the dollies weren't restrained or held in place by some form of capture accessory like a clip, lock or carabineer.

You might say, "If they launch ... it's typically the driver's fault."

There's a necessary standard of care that some tow operators fail to monitor, one that shouldn't be overlooked as part of a tower's daily inspection. That responsibility requires towers to ensure that nothing comes off the tow truck during driving operations.

I'm Sorry Officer

That's pretty embarrassing if you're the tower explaining to a reporter or a police officer why the dollies ejected off your tow truck. When dollies come off your tow truck and cause an accident, you'll be listed as the party at fault in the accident.

Here are three examples of accidental discharge:

Example One: A tow truck lost a side rack of dollies on a crowded Interstate. Highway patrol responded to multiple 911 calls reporting that a van had run over a large metal object that had fallen from the backside of a tow truck. The item was reported to be, "a tow truck's dolly," that became lodged in the vehicle's underside causing the van's gasoline tank to erupt into a ball of flames. A reserve police officer and two motorists helped rescue the vehicle's driver and her young son, although she was burned on more than 30 percent of her body.

Example Two: A towman had completed a flat tire call on a quiet stretch of highway when a suicidal motorist intentionally drove into his parked wrecker as the towman was writing a receipt. When the car impacted the tow truck, the unrestrained passenger-side dolly rack launched towards the dirt embankment striking the customer across the face and upper body inflicting near-fatal injuries.

Example Three: A towman was driving down a city street that was in a sad state of repair, when the truck abruptly hit an uneven dip in the temporary pavement. The tow truck was traveling at a speed of maybe 25 mph, but the unrestrained dolly rack flew off the tow truck and onto the sidewalk. Luckily, no one was injured.

Make It Stay

Tow trucks are typically equipped with a set of dollies to make towing and vehicle retrieval possible. Dollies allow tow operators the increased mechanical advantage to tow vehicles that have flat tires, no tires, locked transmissions, accident damages or any other towing scenarios that don't allow vehicles to roll freely.

I personally prefer tow trucks that have dolly systems that stow in a tow truck's side boxes for several reasons: it keeps clutter on the wrecker's bed to a minimum; dolly components are out of the weather; inside storage prevents sun-rotted sidewalls; and most importantly, they can be locked in a more secure location to prevent theft.

Additionally, dolly bunks are a back injury waiting to happen. The same holds true for dollies that have to be lifted to higher locations on the upper decks of a wrecker's bed.

When dollies are mounted topside on a wrecker's bed, employ some kind of retention item so to solidly keep dolly wheels in their stowed locations. The securing item must be made of something with sufficient tensile strength that will keep the dolly rack solid and in place. Bungee cords aren't the right accessory if you're expecting retention.

In order to ensure dollies remain on the tow truck's deck, tow companies should have an operational procedure in place that becomes a topic of discussion at monthly safety meetings. If there's no policy requiring tow operator responsibility, it's just a matter of time before a preventable incident happens to your company.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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