The Tow Truck Equipment Checklist Every Tower Needs
August 10, 2022
As a new tow truck operator, it’s important to have a tow truck equipment checklist. This way, you can more easily recognize the dangers and risks associated with roadside assistance work. As well as the safety and equipment inspections you will be required to regularly conduct.
By staying up to date with safety checks and performing your own inspections of equipment before and after every towing job, you will greatly reduce your chances of accidents and injury to yourself or others.
To gather some firsthand field knowledge on the matter of tow truck equipment, we spoke to Mike Meyer, a towing vet with nearly 10 years of towing experience ranging from light-duty to medium-heavy duty, towaways, wrecks, and shop management. Mike is now an engineer and support tech for TRAXERO’S Omadi towing software. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.
What Tow Truck Equipment Will I Need to Get Started?
The type of equipment you will need often depends on the type of towing you’ll be doing. But, “[Whether] you’re doing standard ‘on-the-side’ calls, or doing accidents, or PPI/impounds…most states do require [some] basic minimums,” Mike shared.
These basics include:
- Emergency light bar on top of the truck
- Fire extinguisher
- Safety chains
- Pry bar
- Trash can
- Absorbents for oil spills
- Shop rags
- Paper towel
- Communication, 2-way radio or cell phone
- Booster or battery box or jumper cables
- Hydraulic jack
- Tire change equipment
- Rubber mallet
- Lockout tools
- Motorcycle straps
- Tool kit
- Reflective safety attire (minimum requirement: reflective vest)
All of this equipment is essential to providing roadside assistance safely and effectively and is typically required by most towing companies to work with them. By following a tow truck equipment checklist and inspecting your equipment inventory before and after each job, you ensure that you are always prepared to service a wide range of towing needs. Each state will have its own list of required equipment you must keep on your truck while operating, so be sure to research your local and state requirements.
Tow Truck Weight Classes & Wrecker Towing Equipment Requirements
Tow trucks range in size, weight, and functionality and are designated into four separate classes, based on their Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR):
Towing Tip #1: GVWR is the rating applied by a vehicle manufacturer, and represents the maximum total weight of the vehicle, cargo, people, fuel, and other fluids together. You can think of GVWR as the truck + whatever it can tow
- Class A – Minimum 14,000 Pound GVWR
- Truck size: 4-ton Boom Rating
- Class B – Minimum 33,000 Pound GVWR
- Truck size: 16-ton Boom Rating
- Class C – Minimum 52,000 Pound GVWR
- Truck size: 25-ton Boom Rating
- Class D – Minimum 54,000 Pound GVWR
- Truck size: 35-ton Boom Rating
Your necessary equipment specifications will vary depending on the class of tow vehicle you are operating. You can get an idea of a more exhaustive list of required equipment by reviewing a State Highway Patrol Tow Truck Inspection Guide like this one.
Inspection Due Diligence on Rotation
If you’re a tow operator who is on rotation and serving multiple clients simultaneously (Highway patrol, local city police departments, motor clubs, local shops, etc.) each of these clients will want to conduct their own inspection of your truck(s) and tow truck equipment once a year.
“They’ll make sure the truck is in good running shape—they’ll check things like the lights, horns, etc.—and if the truck fails, they won’t allow that truck to tow for them, and if your [tow business] fails overall they won’t allow you to tow for them at all. They will take you off rotation” Mike explained. “There is also a yearly city inspection, to make sure you have the basic essentials to do the job, very similar to what a police inspection would [include], just a little bit less in-depth. They’ll look at your tires and the truck and equipment and then they’ll give you a sticker for a year.”
With a city inspection, you’ll have to take your truck to the city to be inspected. With a local police or sheriff’s department, you’ll prepare your truck and lay out all your equipment at the yard and they will come and conduct their inspections on site. Each department that you are on rotation to tow for will conduct its own inspections as well.
Towing Tip #2: Getting on rotation with police departments as a new towing business owner can be extremely difficult. These departments have strict requirements and often demand towers with years of experience and demonstrated integrity and reliability. They will conduct background checks and if a driver or tow business owner has a felony they will not consider partnering with that business. Most new companies will get the bulk of their work from the motor club industry as they build up experience.
Pre & Post Trip Inspection
Operating a towing business can be a taxing and time-consuming endeavor. While it may be unrealistic for operators and drivers to conduct a thorough inspection and inventory of their equipment in between every single job, tow truck operators are required by Department of Transportation rules to conduct basic pre and post-trip inspections of their vehicles and equipment.
Things to include on your tow truck equipment checklist:
- Do all your lights work?
- Does your horn work?
- Are your tires in good condition?
- Are all truck functionalities operable?
- Are your chains in good condition/not breaking?
- Are your cables in good condition?
- Keep in mind, equipment inspection checklists will vary based on vehicle class and vehicle type.
Where to Buy Tow Truck Equipment
Zips.com/AWDirect.com is a great retail website to find tow trucks and towing equipment for your business. You’ll also find a wide range of workwear and apparel as well as repair products and helpful towing instructions. This is probably the most comprehensive selection of towing-related products from a reputable source.
Another great venue for tow business owners to come across trucks, equipment, apparel as well as training is at regional tow shows. “Florida Tow Show is the biggest one, followed by the Baltimore [Tow Show]; Those are places that new companies should go to. You go there and meet a bunch of different towers, a bunch of different vendors and it’s a place where, you know, when you’re on the road you’re competitive with people, but when you’re [at a show] you’re making friends and it’s not as competitive. You can take advice from other people there, whereas you wouldn’t take advice from [other towers] on the side of the road.” Mike explained.
Final Thoughts for New Towers
Towing Tip #3: When attending to jobs on the side of the road, as a safety precaution, try to avoid positioning yourself between the truck and the guardrail. Give yourself as much open space to work and to escape in the event of a roadside collision or accident while you’re on the side of the road. Remember, towing can be a dangerous line of work and you always need to be taking your life and safety into consideration while doing the job.
Don’t forget to utilize the free Tow Spec towing instruction guides, powered by TRAXERO’S Beacon Software. With easy-to-understand instructions and diagrams of proper vehicle positioning, this handy tool will help you find the right way to tow vehicles of nearly every make and model.
Tow Spec is just one useful tool offered by TRAXERO’S integrated towing solution. TRAXERO offers access to a FULL suite of tried and tested, industry-leading towing business software solutions that are proven to help businesses become more efficient and grow faster—all in one place.
From fleet management to enterprise-level towing dispatch software, to digital payment processing, auction management, overall towing business management solutions, and more—TRAXERO has got you covered with the best software for the road ahead.
Ready to explore custom integrated solutions ideal for growing and streamlining your business? Contact TRAXERO today for a software consultation or with any questions you might have for the TRAXERO team.