In this article, vehicle towing and recovery expert, Douglas J. Rowland, P.E., provides an overview of towing company responsibilities to provide and maintain safety around a vehicle crash site.
Towing & Recovery Company Responsibilities
Towing and recovery companies are called to all types of roadway incidents. Common roadways incidents include:
- Vehicle breakdowns
- Vehicle collisions with other vehicles, fixed objects, animals, or pedestrians
- Run off the road (single vehicle crashes)
- Load shift (cargo on roadwa)
Regardless of the type of incident, and who requested the service, once they arrive on-scene, towing and recovery companies are expected to:
Ensure Site Safety
Approaching traffic should be warned of the incident. Flashing lights, flares, signs, barricades, cones and flaggers should be deployed as appropriate to prevent additional vehicles from becoming involved, and or additional incidents altogether. Sight distance to the incident as well as to overall recovery area must be considered and addressed in order to prevent additional vehicles from becoming involved.
Drivers, by-standers, responders, and anyone else must be protected from harm. Injury or death from fire, explosion, equipment failure or malfunction must be considered and addressed by establishing safe distances for those around.
On scene operators should, and in some cases are required by federal law to wear high visibility clothing as prescribed by ANSI 107-2010.
Property damage at the scene, including, but not limited to fluid debris on the roadway, soil contamination from fluid debris, damage to grass, trees, shrubs should all be identified and remediated.
Recover & Remove Vehicles from Incident Scene
Vehicles should be recovered and positioned for loading as appropriate for transportation away from the incident scene. This will often require the use of a winch and appropriate rigging (chains and other hardware). The tow truck, winch, and all necessary hardware must be properly sized and in good working order. Attachment to the casualty should be made to a structurally significant member. Movement of the casualty during winching must be anticipated and planned for to prevent damage or injury.
Vehicle manufacturers’ procedures for securing and towing should be followed to ensure damage free transport.
Provide Safe Keeping for Vehicles and Property
Vehicle damage sustained in a crash can lead to additional problems later on. Damage to a vehicle’s wiring can lead to a fire hours or even days after the initial crash. Damage to the passenger area or cargo area can leave the vehicle’s interior and or contents exposed to the elements. Thin film wrap (Crash Wrap) should be applied for protection.
With proper tools and training, Towing and Recovery Companies can fulfill their duties without adding to the damage or injuries.
Doug has spent most of his professional career around just about every conventional vehicle manufactured, from automobiles to buses to 50-ton recovery wreckers. He spent eight years as an engineer for Bendix Friction and was involved in reviewing contract specifications for Ford, Chrysler and General Motors vehicles for specific friction material applications, product design and plant start-up. A future engineering position had him providing engineering support for the manufacturer of steering columns for Nissan automobiles.
He was Operations Director for the Marsh Bus Company, which operated highway, transit and school buses, and he was a heavy vehicle operator for Capital Transcorp, providing contract-trucking services in New York. As a heavy vehicle recovery and towing technician for two different companies, he not only has operated a variety of recovery equipment, but he’s also provided on site analysis. He specialized in heavy truck accidents.
Douglas is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of New York.