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Heavy Duty Towing: Not For The Lightweights

Heavy-duty towing is the backbone of the towing industry because of the ability of its equipment to tow larger vehicles such buses, fifth wheel tractors, motor homes and commercial vehicles that smaller towing wreckers cannot handle. This is a service, on-call business with large amounts of capital tied up in towing equipment. High volume and/or high service pricing are needed to meet revenue requirements to justify the capital cost. Therefore, the heavy-duty towing companies tend to locate near interstate highways and larger cities where higher revenue streams can typically be realized.

Whereas light-duty towing services typically use flat-bed trucks with tilting beds, the heavy haulers use traditional heavy-duty towing wreckers with booms, cables, winches and hooks to tow their loads.

These systems are used for both towing on the highway and for retrieving vehicles from off-road sites where they may have landed after an accident. It is not unusual to see more than one of these wreckers at the scene of an accident involving a large vehicle.

Bus towing is a heavy-duty service requiring special care due to vehicle length, unusual weight distribution and the use of air brakes that lock when pressure is relieved. Busses are longer than many heavy-duty loads and the turning radius of the combined vehicles must be adjusted to accommodate the extra length.

The weight distribution of a typical cab-over bus is heavily biased toward the rear of the vehicle because that is where the engine and transmission are located. This will affect the dynamics of the vehicle path when it is being towed. Although air brakes are not unique to busses, care must be taken by the tow truck operator to ensure the brakes are released and remain so throughout the tow.

Fifth wheel tractors are also recognized as heavy-duty towing loads. Although these vehicles also employ air brakes like busses, unlike busses, their weight is biased toward the front, and they are typically shorter loads.

Commercial towing can take the form of over-the-road commerce using tractor-trailer combinations in scheduled service, or dedicated contract carriage of dedicated loads such as large equipment, large boats, etc. These services are always licensed for such, although they can range in size from smaller owner-operated rigs to large corporations set up specifically for these services. When operating in scheduled service, the tractors and trailers are typically owned and maintained by the same entities, whether they are owner-operated or a large corporation. For dedicated loads, this is not normally the case as the tractors and trailers may be owned and maintained by different parties. Extra care to maintenance may be wise in this case.

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