Tow truck operators transport cars and trucks that are damaged, non-operational, or parked illegally, aid motorists, and keep streets and highways clear. Traffic never stops, so tow truck operators are called out at all times of day, year-round. The job involves personal safety, driving, heavy equipment, and traffic safety, so operators should learn safety basics for tow truck operations.

Mind your personal safety—ensure that someone is tracking or has a record of your planned route. Don’t enter a situation that looks or feels dangerous. Be calm and diplomatic when dealing with customers. When exiting your truck, be aware of the traffic around you—look and think before you make a move. To avoid a fall, use the steps and handles getting in and out of the truck. Never jump in or out of the cab or bed.

Maintain your fitness for the job which may require stretching, bending, lifting, and climbing. Use good body mechanics and lifting techniques to avoid back injuries. Don’t strain, twist, or overreach, and avoid extreme or awkward positions as much as possible.

Drive defensively and stay alert. Avoid alcohol, drugs, and medications that cause drowsiness. Follow safe hours of service guidelines. Wear your seatbelt. Obey speed limits and road regulations. Don’t multi-task—keep your eyes and mind on the road. When towing, use your lights or a light bar to signal your intentions and show the rig length.

Know your equipment rating and capacity; overloading may cause an accident. Be aware of your truck height for maneuvering under overpasses and bridges. Inspect the truck before each use. Check the utility body and mounts and fix broken bolts, cracked welds, or stress fractures. Inspect the chains and hooks on the rig—make sure the security pins are not bent or falling out and the chain has no bent, stretched, or hammered links.

Inspect the winch and cable often, keep it clean and lubricated, and repair or replace if necessary. Use hooks and clamps rated at the same capacity as the wire. Maintain three-to-five wraps on the winch drum and rewind it periodically to lay the cable flat and even. Watch the lines so that they don’t get tangled—placing continued pressure can shear the cable and send it flying at high speed.

When hooking up a towed vehicle, chock and block the wheels before disengaging the driveshaft or the brakes. Try not to work under a lifted truck. If you must do so, chock and block the wheels, front and back. Use lockout/tagout procedures on the wheel lift, boom, and winches while working under a truck or between the truck and towed vehicle. If you have a remote to the lift, boom, or winch, do not leave it in your pocket or on the ground where it could be accidentally activated—lockout and secure the remote inside your truck until you are ready to use it.

When working in the tow-away zone, stay in the safety zone.