Written By Don Archer Connect on Facebook

When responding to motor vehicle accidents, it is the responsibility of the tow truck operator to clear the roadway as quickly and as safely as possible. Upon arrival, he must asses the damages, determine the safest, most expedient method to remedy the situation, communicate with law enforcement, and as soon as they’ve okay-ed the vehicle for removal, and all motorists and other emergency personnel have cleared, he must perform the recovery. In so doing he must ensure that the road is clear of all debris, including glass, car parts, and any leftover fluids, using an absorbent like oil dry where appropriate.  All this he must do before exiting.

When you’re called to the scene of an accident the important thing to understand is that you’re not doing this quickly and efficiently to impress anyone, or because you’ve got 3 more motor vehicle accidents after this one. No the reason you want to get this accident cleared and the roadway opened back up, quickly, is because the longer you’re out there the more of a spectacle you become.  And the more people that fixate on you and bend their necks to see what’s going on, the higher the chances are of another accident occurring.

In 2007 the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research partnering with The Virginia State Department of Transportation conducted a study to better understand the relationship between primary and secondary incidents.  Part of their findings was; “…that a 10-minute increase in primary incident duration is associated with 15% higher odds of secondary incidents.” This means that the longer you remain at the scene of an accident, the higher the odds of a secondary accident are of occurring.

Let’s say you haven’t responded to many accidents. And you’re one of those guys whose stomach gets tight at the thought of public speaking. The pressure put on you by the facts mentioned above can be quite overwhelming. Well, when you’re at the scene of an accident you’re not only the center of attention, but literally hundreds, if not thousands of people are waiting and depending on you to do your job well. It’s not quite a speech but you will be counted on to perform.  So how do you prepare?

The best way to prepare for the unknown is to practice. And let’s face it, the unknown is exactly what you’ll run up against? t many times at accident scenes. One car will run into a barrier and slide up over another and they’ll make a connection you’ve never seen. And you’ll swear you don’t know how they could have ever become lodged together or how they’ll come apart.

Preparing for the unknown is somewhat difficult but there are some things you can do.  Rollovers are especially daunting to the beginner so you could practice rolling over previously wrecked cars during down your time. Rolling a car over that’s on its side or top, may seem difficult when you’re put under that pressure out on the road but it really isn’t, especially if you’ve practiced. Take the time to do it now when no one’s counting on you. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Know where, on the ground or road, the car is going to land before it actually lands, and be sure that your truck or anyone else isn’t occupying that same space.
  • It doesn’t matter if the vehicle is on level ground or a hill, have a contingency plan if it should roll when it lands. Use a pre-placed block and or the emergency brake- plus put it in park if appropriate.
  • Know if the vehicle is in park or still in drive before you roll it over, and adjust as circumstances warrant.
  • If you can, spin the vehicle first, before you roll it over, so that when it does land, the positioning is optimal for easy loading with your wrecker.

Another difficulty many run up against is a vehicle that’s lost a front wheel. Say you’re accustomed to scooping up front-wheel-drive cars with your Vulcan 882 and you are confronted with a Toyota Camry that’s missing a front tire and wheel. What do you do? Call for a rollback? Depending upon the condition you could sling it if you know how to use your sling. Or you could use your L arm on one side like normal, around the tire that’s still intact, and use a recovery chain on the side with the missing wheel. By finding a transport slot to the rear of where the tire was you could attach your mini J there and use the inverted grab hooks on your wheel lift/Tbar to allow your chain to support that side of the vehicle by the A-arm. Of course, you want to be sure it’s taught and be careful with stopping too quickly as the car could come riding up and over the wheel lift if you don’t have the weight distributed evenly.  Just know that this is a very temporary solution to the need to clear the roadway quickly.

Another thing you can do to prepare yourself for the unknown is to check that you have all the tools you might need and that they’re in the right place. Broom, Shovel, Oil Dry, Trash Bags, Recovery Chain, Large J Hooks, Wire Rope in Good Shape and operational, Snatch blocks, Extra chains, Straps, Gas Can, Skates, Gloves, Flashlight, Safety Vest.

As time goes by and you’ve responded to more and more accidents your confidence level will rise and you’ll come to enjoy the challenges you find.



[i]Page 5; http://www.virginiadot.org/vtrc/main/online_reports/pdf/11-r11.pdf