March 1, 2006
Tow trucks, also called wreckers, are used to clear disabled vehicles off highways and speedways. They constitute an emergency service that is of considerable importance in this age of heavy vehicle flow across the world. Without their efficient service, this flow would grind to a halt in less than no time.
Most tow trucks are run by private enterprises and are operated in fleets that specialize in quick road clearance and retrieval services. They are in a perfect position to supply captive customers to repair businesses and are an integral part of their economy. The government road authorities have their own tow truck fleets to service highways and areas like toll stations where bottlenecks are likely to occur if a vehicle breaks down.
There are various kinds of tow trucks in operation today, from the most rudimentary to the highly specialized. The most basic kind is the hook-and-chain truck, and it is still in extensive use in third-world countries. It employs chains that lift the broken-down vehicle by the axle with the help of a boom winch.
From this concept came the axle-cradling tow truck, which sports a single-unit yoke that can lift the front end of the disabled vehicle into the air for easy towing. The lifting mechanism is either hydraulically or pneumatically operated. This is arguably the quickest kind of towing and is often used in traffic control.
Flatbeds are used for long-distance towing. The flatbed accommodates the entire disabled vehicle piggyback. It does this by lowering a flat metal surface to the ground, making it possible for the broken-down vehicle to either drive or be drawn onto the back of the truck by a winch. There are also various combinations of the above-described tow trucks in existence.
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