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How to Operate a Tow Truck

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A tow truck operator is trained to operate a special truck that can move vehicles. Vehicles are towed for a number of reasons; they may have broken down, been abandoned, impounded by police or damaged in an accident. Operating a tow truck requires special skills and training, and many truck driving institutions provide training for tow truck operation.

Inspect the tow truck before operating it. Make sure the winch and cables are clean and lubricated and that hooks and clamps have the capacity to handle the weight of the vehicle they will be towing.

Unravel the drum manually so that the cable is loose and rewind it occasionally to keep it in good condition. Ensure the lines are not tangled in the process.

Place a block and chock the wheels before you disengage the brakes when you arrive at the site and before you start to connect the vehicle to be towed.

Lockout your wheel lift, boom and winches if you need to get under the towed vehicle or between the truck and vehicle. Locking out the tow truck will prevent the functions from activating when you don't want them to and potentially causing a hazardous situation.

Place your remote control in a safe place, not on the ground or in your pocket, if you have one. Some tow trucks come with remote controls that can activate and engage the boom, lift or winch. This will prevent the remote from accidentally activating these functions.

Operate the hook and sling using the designated handles and levers inside the tow truck and attach it to raise one end of the vehicle that is being towed, if you are using a conventional tow truck.

Control the winch with the designated lever and and use it to lift the car, while supporting the wheels under both axles if you are using a wheel-lift or full-float tow truck. Wheel-lift or full-float tow trucks contain axles that will raise the wheels slightly in order to give you the necessary support to lift the car and connect it to the tow truck.

Lower the truck bed to the ground and attach the winch to the vehicle to pull it onto the bed before raising it, if you are using a flat-bed truck. Flat bed trucks typically transport more expensive cars.

Disable the towed vehicle by attaching steering locks, chains and lights. This will disable the functions of the vehicle being towed and make it easier to transport.

Cut, bend or remove any parts of the car that might make it difficult to transport. This may be necessary for vehicles involved in an accident.


Krista Martin has been writing professionally since 2005. She has written for magazines, newspapers and websites including Live Listings, "Homes & Living" magazine and the "Metro Newspaper." Martin holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Master of Journalism from the University of Westminster.