1. An Overturned Ford Model T Started the Towing Industry
Towing involves pulling an object using a rope, chain, or bars that can support the object. The object has to be attached to the power source where the pulling is done. In ancient times, pulling involves using animals or manpower. However, it is not until 1916 when the idea of a tow truck is born. Ernest Holmes Sr., a mechanic from Chattanooga, Tennesse, was asked to by his friend to help him recover a Ford Model T that had fell into a creek bed. The whole towing process took 6 men and hours of labor, and finally, the vehicle was recovered safely. This lead to Holmes finding a more efficient way of towing automobiles.
2. Cadillac was the “First” Tow Truck
After this incident, Holmes Sr. modified his own 1913 Cadillac, by creating a crane system and mounting it to the back of the Cadillac. Unfortunately, the chassis of the Cadillac did not have the strength to tow and hoist a vehicle for some distance. Thus he spent another few years refining and improving his design. He added outriggers at the front of his Cadillac, and this stabilized the weight distribution of the vehicle and mounted towing equipment. Finally, the first successful tow truck model was built in 1918. The basis of Holmes Sr.’s design was the “split-boom” concept where the tow truck can anchor on one side, and recover the vehicle from the other side, without tilting the tow truck.
3. A Museum of Tow Trucks
The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum, also known as the International Towing Museum, is a non-profit organization located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This museum is established in 1995 and features the origin and growth of the towing industry through historic photos and restored tow trucks as well as towing equipment. It also honors the towing operators who were killed in their line of duties. It is located just 3.5 miles away from the Ernest Holmes Company, where the first tow truck was manufactured in Chattanooga.
4. Different Names for Tow Trucks
There are other names for tow trucks. They are also known as wreckers, recovery vehicles, breakdown trucks, or breakdown lorries. These are terms for tow trucks, but they do not describe the type of tow truck.
5. Different Types of Tow Trucks
Tow trucks have evolved over more than a hundred years, and we can see these five types of tow trucks.
Hook and Chain
Similar to the original tow truck, the hook and chain adopt the crane and pulley system to tow vehicles. The problem with this method is it can cause damage to the drivetrain or the bumper. The cause is due to the hook attached to the axle or frame of the vehicle towed, which can easily damage the vehicle.
The wheel lift tow truck is also evolved from the original tow truck and has a metal yoke that can fit under the front pair or rear pair of wheels of the vehicle and hoist them up. The vehicle is hauled with the remaining wheels on the ground.
The flatbed tow truck has a hydraulically inclined bed that can slide back to the ground. It allows the vehicle to either driven up onto the bed or get pulled up using a winch. This towing method is safer, as the towed vehicle is rested on the bed of the tow truck. It prevents the vehicle from possible damage while traveling on the roads.
The boom tow truck has an adjustable boom with a winch to pull vehicles from places that cannot be accessed easily.
The integrated tow truck has features of a boom and wheel lift tow truck. It can tow heavy-duty vehicles like buses and semi-trucks, also it is used in recoveries and rescues in hard to reach terrains.
6. Tough Vehicle, Tough Drivers
Tow trucks are sturdy vehicles, that perform strenuous tasks. The people who operate them, the tow truck drivers or operators, are also working under challenging conditions. To be a tow truck driver, one has to go through training to gain a license. Working hours are long for some drivers, as some towing companies do operate 24-hour daily. In addition to long hours, they need to work on highways or high-speed traffic. That also leaves the tow truck drivers to risks of getting hit by careless and reckless drivers.