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It Might Look Cool … But It’s Not Legal

Resch article 06b81By Randall C. Resch

I find training value in seeing what other towers are doing, looking closely (like a traffic cop would) at the tower's techniques. I think it's really cool when towers get creative with their hook-up processes and build that "varsity mentality" of "no job too tough."
Accordingly, what safety features might be missing in the load scenario in the picture accompanying this article, and what vehicle code violations might be present?

The towed vehicle in the picture was obviously chopped to where only the cab and front-clip were present along with its front suspension. The tower simply loaded it onto his wheel lift, then strapped it down using a pair of ratchets and straps. Two cables running over the cab to help keep it suspended. In the old days, that technique was known as floating a vehicle.

Let's assume this tow was a police impound. I'm sure the tower's creativity satisfied the impounding officer's plan to get the vehicle towed. I salute the tower for his creativity and imagination for not having to call for a flatbed.

But what if the travel back to the yard passed through different jurisdictions? Although the highway patrol cop or impounding officer allowed you to load and go, would a city cop or sheriff write you a citation?

While I like the creativity of the load, the tower used the tow truck's safety chains to keep the wheel lift from turning at its pivot pin. However, I spy two additional vehicle code violations that any hawk-eyed cop can make a stop and possibly cite.

Do you see what they are?

Legal or Not?

The first obvious violation that comes to play is the overhang of the half-cab's length beyond the wheel lift and the rearward lights of the wrecker. Providing that extension lights are applied to the rear of the towed cab, are extension lights required or allowed in your state's lighting laws?

As an alternative suggestion, lower and push the wheel lift under the half-cab. Then load the half-cab backwards, setting extension lights on the hood in the usual manner that's less obvious to the overhang. The two float cables could be attached in a similar manner to lift and secure, ultimately keeping the load closer to the tow truck's rear dock.

Although the argument may be that it's neither a transported nor towed vehicle based on the letter of the law, any overhang that's longer than allowed per state law could violate the vehicle code.

Although the half-cab is secured by ratchets and straps applied to the tires and wheels, it isn't restrained by safety chains attached from the tow truck. The safety chains used to keep the wheel lift from pivoting do not comply with safety chains required for vehicle restraint. The over-cab cables provide helpful securement; however they're not considered part of the typical vehicle-restraint process.

Know your state's vehicle code laws as they pertain to towing or transport operations. When faced with difficult or challenging tows and recoveries, compare your hook-up, tow or load techniques to the laws pertaining to towing and transport operations.

Some towers may argue that the picture depicts a proper hook-up, but any traffic cop with a penchant for equipment violations could tag you for these. If you get the ticket, you'll ultimately suffer the consequences when a judge finds you guilty of violating your state's vehicle code.

When your hook-up techniques appear to be visually problematic, there's a question if the tow process is safe or not. All it takes is for a traffic cop to perceive your tow as unsafe or a definite vehicle code violation. Look beyond the cool factor of how you're getting the job done and consider what else could make your load safer and more secure.

If you're new to this towing and recovery game, remember that "more is always better" when it comes to tow truck safety and securement. It only takes a few more seconds to be more secure and in compliance with the law.

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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