What is Tow Truck? Definition, Types, Which One You Need?


In this article, we will learn what is tow truck along with definition, types, which one to buy and why require, etc. In the field of transportation, a truck or lorry is the name given to a motor vehicle used to transport cargo, carry specialized payloads, or perform other utilitarian duties.

Tow trucks come in different styles to serve different purposes. For instance, tow trucks can be used to haul wrecked cars to a junkyard, to transport disabled cars to repair shops, or even to transport wrecked vehicles to the local junkyard. For the purpose of carrying out their daily operations, towing truck companies usually rely on a few main types of tow trucks and wreckers.

In order to select the right type of tow truck for your company’s needs, it is important that you have a thorough understanding of the main differences between the types of tow trucks. If you have the proper information then you can also call for a tow truck if your car gets damaged in any type of situation.

What is Tow Truck? Definition

Tow Track Basics & Definition

Tow trucks (also known as wreckers, breakdown trucks, recovery vehicles, or breakdown lorries) are vehicles that are used to move motor vehicles that are disabled, improperly parked, impounded, or otherwise indisposed, such as those that need to be towed from one place to another. An example of this would be to retrieve a damaged vehicle resulting from an accident, to restore a drivable vehicle following an accident or inclement weather, or to tow or transport a drivable vehicle via flatbed to a repair shop or another location in need of repair.

what tow truck definition types which why require

It is likely that you will require vehicle towing in a breakdown situation. Typically, a flatbed truck or a tow truck would be used to hook up your vehicle, which is a kind of standard vehicle towing equipment. Thereafter, it would be towed back to a depot or to a mechanical workshop, depending on the circumstances. There are generally no problems associated with towing vehicles.

It is important to note that a tow truck is not the same thing as a car carrier trailer, which is used in routine transport operations for moving a number of new or used cars simultaneously.

History of Tow Trucks

In 1908, Ferdinand Porsche, one of the engineers for Austro-Daimler, developed the M 08, which was an artillery tractor that was sold to the Austro-Hungarian army. A recovery vehicle was built as part of one of the batches, which had a large winch mounted on the rear platform to assist with recovering the other vehicles.

In 1916, Ernest Holmes Sr. was an experienced garage worker in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After he needed blocks, ropes, and six men to pull the car out of a creek, Holmes developed the wrecker (with lifting jib) he invented in 1916. His design improved over time, and he began manufacturing them commercially after improving his design.

Types or Varieties of Tow Trucks

There are various types of tow trucks that are used for different types of work and serve different purposes. These are listed below in the following lines

  • Rollback or Flatbed Tow Truck
  • Chain and Hook Tow Truck
  • Oversized Tow Truck
  • Boom Trucks
  • Rotator
  • Integrated tow truck
  • Wheel lifting tow trucks

In the modern world, towing companies use four types of trucks for the purpose of towing. There are a number of tow trucks available in the market such as hook and chain tow trucks, wheel lift tow trucks, flatbed tow trucks, and integrated tow trucks. In order to choose the right tow truck for your needs, it is important for you to know the different types of tow trucks available

Rollback or Flatbed Tow Truck

What is Rollback or Flatbed Tow Truck?

In comparison to the typical tow vehicles, you would be used to seeing, a flatbed tow truck will have a somewhat distinct appearance. The enormous flatbed of the flatbed tow truck can accommodate an entire automobile. The flatbed truck’s back is what makes it possible to put an automobile onto the flatbed. The flatbed has the ability to slide out and then tilt downward.

  • A car or other vehicle can drive up and park on top of the flatbed when it is slanted and on the ground. A winch may be used to attach the automobile after it is on top of the flatbed tow truck, after which the ramp will return to its initial position.
  • A flatbed tow truck has a hydraulic system at the back, and there will be weight limits that you will not be able to exceed when loading and unloading the flatbed truck. In addition to the fact that a flatbed tow truck keeps cars off the ground entirely, it is also one of the best things about these trucks.
  • In this way, there is an increased risk that the car will be damaged as compared to a car that rides along the road. In the event that your car ends up being totaled, then you may need a flatbed truck to transport it from the scene of the accident.
  • The totaled car may not be able to travel along the highway on its own, and it will need to be lifted and put on top of a flatbed truck in order to make its way along the highway.
  • The remaining parts of the automobile will be dragged onto the flatbed trucks top if it is unable to travel on its own any longer. A slide truck or a rollback truck may also be used to describe a flatbed truck. This is a result of the truck’s back end sticking out from the back of the car.

Is the flatbed tow truck good for towing?

There is a significant difference between a flatbed and a wheel lift towing truck when it comes to the level of security provided. It is by far the safest type of truck, the flatbed.

It does not require any adjustments; the car rests on the deck and there is no risk of it getting damaged while lying on it. This will prevent the wheels from hitting potholes or cracks along the way since they are off of the road.

Chain and Hook Tow Truck

What is Chain and Hook Tow Truck?

According to popularity, the next type of tow truck is the most popular type of tow truck. Towing junked vehicles with hook and chain tow trucks are a common practice among towing companies. On the rear of these trucks, there is a heavy-duty hook and chain attached to the chassis.

Working and features of a Chain and Hook Tow Truck

  • It is possible for the operator to attach the hook to a vehicle or piece of cargo that needs to be towed, and then they can pull that vehicle behind the truck as they travel down the road. When a hook and chain are attached to a vehicle, that side is lifted up, and suspended in the air, which leaves the other side’s wheels on the ground while the other side’s wheels are left on the ground when the hook and chain are attached to the vehicle.
  • The purpose of this type of towing truck is to transport a vehicle from one location to another by dragging it behind them as they transport it. Using this method of transportation can lead to serious damage to whatever is being towed, as it puts the bumper and other parts of the car in harm’s way, causing scratches to the bumpers and other damage to other parts of the car.
  • There is also the issue that these tow trucks aren’t compatible with vehicles that are equipped with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, as the dragging tends to damage the drive trains of these vehicles.
  • Due to the possibility of damage to the towing vehicle in the course of the process, hook and chain trucks are typically used for wrecked vehicles and cargo that do not require gentle handling during the towing process. Originally, this type of tow truck was among the most popular kinds of tow trucks available on the market at one time. They are still helpful today for particular purposes like hauling autos to junkyards.

Oversized Towing

It is also possible to come across oversized towing vehicles as well as the integrated tow trucks that are integrated. It is a kind of vehicle that is capable of towing and transporting large-scale operations.

In some cases, you may see them towing large boats or vehicles down the road, but they do not look like a typical tow truck does. It is common for small towing businesses to not have these trucks in their fleet, but if you need to move some large vehicles or construction equipment, they may still be available to you.

Boom Tow Trucks

What is Boom Tow Truck?

On a boom truck, the hydraulic arm is referred to as the boom and the truck has a hydraulic arm that acts as a hydraulic arm. With the help of this boom, you will be able to extend past the end of the vehicle and it will be able to grab the vehicle that needs to be towed. In most ways, boom trucks can be seen as small versions of cranes, so their appearance will be similar.

Differences and features of Boom Truck

The difference and features of Boom Trucks are:

  • There is not much difference between a boom truck and a tow truck when you first see them, they will look more like a truck you might see doing electrical work than they will look like a tow truck. In spite of the fact that the boom can be used for a variety of things, one of them is to tow a vehicle with it.
  • Due to the fixed boom of the truck, it is a very stable option when it comes to towing heavy objects, as the boom of the truck remains in a fixed position. There was a time when boom trucks would tow vehicles in just the same way that hook and chain towing trucks pulled vehicles for many years.
  • In order to attach the car to the boom, they would wrap a hook and chain around the front bumper of the car, before securing the boom with the hook and chain. As soon as the front of the car is lifted, the back end will remain on the ground while the front of the car is lifted.
  • As we now know, this is not the best method if you want to maintain the appearance of the front of your car in a reasonable manner for a long period of time. It is not uncommon for boom trucks to be equipped with a sling or a belt attached to them today. In addition, these belts or slings will cause less overall damage to the vehicle and will allow you to get your vehicle out of a bad situation in a very short amount of time.
  • As it stands, boom trucks are still not a good option for pulling all-wheel-drive vehicles, as they will do damage to the wheels that are on the ground if they are being pulled by the boom truck. A boom truck is a powerful vehicle that uses a winch to pull the car into position so that it can continue on its way to its destination. You can usually be sure that a boom truck will be able to get you out of a bad situation if you happen to find yourself in one at the time.

Rotator Tow Truck

The tow truck that is the most badass and biggest of them all (and the star of the TV series “Highway Through Hell”) could not be more different. There are some cranes that are like large construction cranes with a boom that can be rotated 360 degrees and can extend up to 30 feet in length.

As a result, they are able to handle even the most challenging of situations with strength and flexibility.  However, because they cost upwards of $400,000, there is not a lot of them available for sale

Integrated Tow Truck

If you own a large vehicle, then you will need an integrated tow truck which is a large, powerful truck that can handle the job. The majority of people don’t think about the fact that trucks and buses tend to break down quite a bit, but they do. It is hard to imagine that a typical tow truck would be able to pull something like this, but an integrated tow truck is designed specifically for jobs like this.

These tow trucks have an additional axle built into them, which gives them much more strength and stability. They can rescue cars from challenging circumstances and are made for big, heavy loads. You will see that an integrated tow truck has its arm in the exact middle of the vehicle. Because of the stability of this arm, the tow truck may draw loads that are even larger than the tow truck itself.

The majority of drivers who own cars and SUVs will not need an integrated towing truck when they have cars or SUVs. There is no doubt that if your motor home breaks down during your next vacation, then you will need the integrated tow truck to get it fixed.

Wheel Lifting Tow Truck

Wheel lift tow trucks are an improved version of hook and track trucks. They lift the front or rear axles of a vehicle, leaving the other side’s wheels on the road while lifting the front or rear axle. On the way to the destination, the tow truck pulls the car behind it, which is then towed by the tow truck. Transporting disabled vehicles to repair shops is typically the purpose of these tow trucks.

The features of Wheel Lifting Tow Trucks are as follows:

  • Unlike hook and chain haulers that depend on chains to secure their vehicles, wheeled pallet trucks utilize a metal yoke to keep their vehicles in place. When a vehicle is being operated, the operator places the metal yoke under the wheels at the front or rear of the vehicle.
  • In order to partially raise the vehicle into the air behind the tow truck, the tow truck uses a pneumatic jack or hydraulic jack to raise the vehicle partially into the air. The operator can now drive the tow truck and the vehicle to the destination of their choice after placing the vehicle in this position.
  • Due to the fact that they use metal yokes instead of chains, these tow trucks do not put as much stress on the vehicle as chains do.
  • This results in less damage to the car compared to hook and track trucks, and the operators do not have to worry about scratching the bumpers of vehicles when using these trucks.
  • Because wheel lift tow trucks do not cause damage to the vehicle, they are more suitable for vehicles which are in need of repair and not for those which are destined for the junkyard.

What Do You Know about Towing Capacity?

When you call a tow truck service, one of the first things they ask is what kind of vehicle you have, aside from your location.  A dispatcher can then decide what types of tow trucks are suitable based on the information provided.  Additionally, the criteria for driver’s and operator’s licenses vary according to size.

The features of the towing capacity of tow trucks are as mentioned below:

Light Duty

Compared to heavy-duty towing vehicles, light duty towing vehicles are compact and maneuverable, requiring a lower level of overhead clearance.  As these vehicles have a towing capacity of between 5 and 10 tons, they are only suitable for sedans, small pickup trucks, and smaller SUVs.

Medium Duty

Towing wreckers with a capacity ranging from 15-20 tons are usually used for medium duty towing and include flatbeds.

Heavy Duty

In terms of capacity, heavy-duty towing wreckers can handle 25-50 tons and are built on the chassis of semi-trucks so that they can be pulled by semi trucks.  It is common for rotating machines to have a weight range between 50 and 75 tons

Which Tow Truck Do You Need?

Once you have a better understanding of the different types of tow trucks on the market, you will be able to decide which one you may need based on your situation.

  • You should be sure to express any concerns you have regarding the towing company when you call them. There may be a flatbed truck that would be more convenient for you if you have a high-end vehicle and are concerned about damage. The car would be well above the ground.
  • Make sure you tell the towing company if your car is an all-wheel-drive vehicle when you contact them to arrange for it to be towed. You may end up needing something with a powerful winch in order to be able to pull your car down the road if your car is in bad condition and it is not a simple breakdown. For this reason, you may need something with a powerful winch.
  • Finally, make sure the towing company knows if you are driving a large bus, truck, or motor home so they can send the right equipment. Your tow truck is very likely to take a while to arrive, so you are better off ensuring the right one is sent.
  • Having to wait until another one with the appropriate size and features comes along is not fun at all, especially if you don’t have time to wait. As a matter of fact, most towing companies are experienced in rescuing cars from difficult situations or getting them out of non-drivable vehicles. Whatever situation you are in, there is a good chance that they have seen it before, no matter what.

What are the reasons for which you might require a tow truck?

Cars parked in an improper manner

There is a good chance that you have already encountered the experience of a tow truck if you have parked in a place you should not have. In most cases, improperly parked cars are towed, and there are usually signs posted around warning you of the possibility of this happening.

A towing truck that is integrated into the trailer is usually used in the majority of cases because this type of truck is flexible and can handle a variety of situations, but depending on the company, different types of trucks may be chosen. It is also important to take into consideration the type of vehicle in question.

In the event of a car accident or breakdown

If you have ever broken down on the side of the road or been in an accident where you had to deal with a tow truck, then you are likely to have dealt with one before. It is imperative to tow vehicles away from accident sites when they are immobile or have been severely damaged, in order to make sure they are in a safe environment.

Some other important things to keeps in mind are:

  • It is important to note that the type of tow truck used to pick up wrecked or broken-down vehicles will depend on the type of vehicle or the type of accident that occurred. It would be a wise decision for your towing company to use an integrated truck or a wheel-lift truck if your vehicle is still on the road and is still able to be wheeled away.
  • There is a possibility, however, that a boom truck will be necessary if your vehicle is stuck in a ditch and needs to be lifted out. In both situations, flatbed tow trucks are frequently used for the purpose of towing away a vehicle.
  • Tow trucks are usually used by car owners to transport their vehicles to repair shops, their homes, or to a specified location in which they need to be repaired. For this reason, many repair shops also offer towing services and roadside assistance as part of their repair services.

Extremely Vigorous Jobs

There are some towing trucks that are reserved for heavy-duty jobs, and there are heavy-duty versions of all towing trucks. An integrated tow truck is a standard size, which can be used to move parked cars and trucks, but there are times when semi-trucks and school buses will need to be moved, which may require a vehicle of a different size and type.

It is likely that businesses that have a large fleet of vehicles on their hands, especially those with buses and other types of vehicles, will also have tow trucks as an integral part of their fleet.

For transport

It is sometimes necessary to transport a vehicle, machine, or piece of equipment from one location to another with the help of a tow truck. It depends on the type of vehicle that will be towed for these jobs and what size the tow trucks will be. The use of tow trucks allows large volumes of equipment and materials to be transported to specific locations.

Uses for the Industrial work

There is a need for tow trucks everywhere, and some industries use them often and keep them on hand at all times. Following are some of the areas where tow trucks are common.

Private usage

The majority of towing companies are privately owned and operate. They assist in the recovery of vehicles after accidents, breakdowns, or other emergencies.

Use by the military

A military tow truck may also be on hand to assist in the recovery of stranded vehicles as quickly as possible.

Packing companies

Due to the fact that packaging companies have a fleet of vehicles, towing trucks may also belong to packaging companies.

Departments of the Government

Towing trucks are also available for use by other government departments. It is possible for fire departments, public works departments, transportation authorities, and other government authorities to have their own towing vehicles.

The local police

Towing trucks are owned or rented by some police departments, while other departments contract their towing jobs out to private companies.

Packaging companies

It is likely that packaging companies have their own towing trucks as well, since they may have fleets of vehicles.

Tow Truck Driver Training

 Upon completion of the required training, tow truck drivers are tested and certified. Once they have completed the required training, they are subjected to advanced training programs. Tow truck drivers are also required to undergo annual training to refresh their knowledge as well as to be introduced to the newest and most innovative towing-related technologies and techniques.

Largest Tow Truck

It is called the Century M100. One of the world’s largest towing and recovery equipment manufacturers has developed the world’s largest rotator, the largest of its kind in the world. It is the first heavy-duty unit to be offered in the industry, with an exclusive load capacity of 65,000 lbs.

What do you understand by vehicle recovery?

In order for a vehicle to be recovered, we need vehicle recovery. When the worst happens and you are involved in a motor vehicle accident or your vehicle slid off the road, you will need more than just a standard towing service if the worst happens. Before it could be towed, your vehicle would need to be recovered from whichever position it was in at the time.

There are many challenges involved in recovering vehicles when they slide off the road or become stuck. This is the reason that specialized recovery equipment and vehicles are used in order to carry out the recovery process.

Frequently Asked Questions for Tow Truck

Which tow truck is known as the most common type of tow truck?

There are two types of towing trucks, flatbed and winch, and it is likely that you have seen a flatbed truck on the road before. Also known as a rollback truck, it has a long empty bed at the back of the truck and is called a rollback truck. In addition to cars, other vehicles can also be secured on this bed in order to prevent theft. A hydraulically operated truck of this type is able to move its bed upwards and downwards with the help of hydraulics.

What are the differences between a Tow truck and a Wrecker?

It is generally accepted that wreckers are used for the recovery of vehicles in addition to towing, although they are not always equipped for towing. Tow trucks are trucks that are used to tow or haul a vehicle. Wrecker trucks, on the other hand, are used to recover vehicles. As a matter of fact, wrecker trucks and tow trucks can be used interchangeably, but a wrecker truck cannot be used as a tow truck at the same time.

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