You probably don’t give much thought about tow trucks on a
daily basis until vehicle gets in an accident or breaks down on the road. You may
feel frustrated but know that help is on the way to recover your vehicle and
transport it to a repair shop. Tow trucking service ever-so-quietly makes the
world go round. Seldom do we think about what modern life would be like if tow
trucks didn’t exist at all.
100 years have passed since the tow truck as we know it was
born, so let’s delve a little deeper into the interesting history of this
silent yet heroic business.
An idea is born
First tow truck was invented by Earnest Holmes, Sr. of Chattanooga,
Tennessee in 1916. The first incident that inspired the invention of prototype
to tow truck occurred in the year 1916 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A Ford Model
T found its way into the Chickamauga Creek and the resulting extraction took
many hours and a great deal of manpower, including Earnest Holmes, Sr., a service station owner, using blocks and
After the exasperating process of early roadside recovery,
Ernest Holmes Sr. knew there had to be a better way and began working on
developing a simpler and efficient method to recover vehicles. He and two
friends, L.C. Decker and Elmer Gross, designed a crane and pulley system,
mounted on his 1913 Cadillac, the first prototype for tow truck. But his towing
system wasn’t stable enough to recover vehicles. Undeterred, he continued to
work on his new towing designs and eventually added outriggers to support and
stabilize his new invention. He earned a patent for it in 1919 and thus the
towing industry was born.
Evolution of Tow Trucks
Once he had earned his patent for wreckers, Holmes founded a
business building his very own line of Holmes Wrecker tow trucks selling them
other mechanics and garage operators. The first truck built by Holmes was
called Holmes 680, priced at $680 but it was too pricey for buyers. So he created
a cheaper version priced at $480 named Holmes 485. Holmes mounted his system on
a 1913 Locomobile, a steam-powered automobile with a six-cylinder engine and
four-speed manual transmission.
One interesting fact is that his company also built vehicles
for military use when the United States entered World War II. His company was
sold in 1973 and is now known as Miller Industries.
Over The Years, the tow truck continued to evolve and
manufacturers developed a variety of different types of towing equipment to
meet different needs. These include:
Hook and chain
Hook and chain, also referred as sling or belt lift, where
chains are looped around the vehicle’s axle or frame and a boom winch lifts the
vehicle so that customer’s vehicle can be towed on its other axle. However,
this system works only works for vehicles with steel bumpers without all-wheel
drive, or it will scratch the bumpers of cars. But they are sometimes used for
towing vehicles that have been in an accident or have one or two of the front
or rear wheels missing.
This is one of the most common types of towing equipment, where
a large metal yoke is fitted under the car’s front or rear wheels and lifting
the vehicle clear of the ground by a pneumatic or hydraulic hoist so it can be
towed. This is a great option for two-wheel drive cars, as the tires not used for
driving can assist in the towing process and your transmission won’t be harmed.
This system has boom winch attached to a vehicle to lift the
vehicle. Not specifically for towing rather this system with adjustable boom
winch is to recover vehicles that are no longer in the drivable surfaces such
as ditch, culvert, over an embankment.
Also called a Rollback or a Slide, in this system the entire
back of the truck is fitted with flatbed trailer that can be hydraulically
inclined and moved to ground level, allowing the vehicle being towed to be
placed on it under its own power or pulled by a winch. Flatbed Trailers can get
those bigger vehicles where they need to be. Ever wonder how an oversized load
or farming tractors that aren’t running get moved? A flatbed has plenty of room
for these and other unusual vehicles.
Integrated Tow Trucks
Also referred to as a “Self Loader” Snatcher,
Quick Pick or Repo Truck, this system combine a boom lift and a wheel lift on a
single truck. This makes it more versatile and gives these tow trucks the
ability to handle virtually any kind of residential vehicle without much
trouble. Used in light duty trucks to repossess vehicles or move illegally
parked vehicles. Most have controls for the apparatus inside the cab of the tow
truck to make quick pick up possible without the inconvenience of exiting the
truck to hook up the vehicle. Heavy duty trucks are also manufactured with