Roadside Recovery Vehicles have evolved almost as much as the cars they are sent to rescue since the likes of Henry Ford and Karl Benz put the first cars on the World’s streets over 100 years ago. When a Roadside Recovery vehicle, or tow truck, is sent out to a rescue in 2018, it is very different to the ‘vehicles’ which would have been used in the very early days, and even more recent decades, of a Roadside Breakdown.
Of course, the very early motorised vehicles were not only pretty slow, but they were also pretty compariably heavy. The frames used to make cars 100 years ago were largely constructed from timber, and the engine blocks didn’t have the advantage of lightweight materials that are found within modern petrol, diesel, and more recently electric vehicles of nowadays. These heavier earlier vehicles were more often towed by another motorised vehicle, or pulled using a horse, often back to a blacksmith (whom, in their day were also seen as general ‘go to’ odd job men and fixers up of machinery).
Roadside repairs weren’t unusual 100 years ago. In fact, it’s only really been since the 1950’s or 1960’s in the UK that Motoring Breakdown Organisations really started to operate and evolve independently from the repair garages (and blacksmiths!), though of course a few organisation have existed a lot longer with a broader range of motoring services via the form of annual membership. In fact, the UK is quite unique in our history of general motor clubs and roadside recovery ‘brands’.
In more recent decades, the vehicles sent to rescue broken down and crashed vehicles have had to become more adapted to the more modern roads and environments in which we live, and drive. Safety is obviously paramount as motorway traffic and even that on A and B roads is both fast, and plentiful. Trucks attending a roadside breakdown are now very visible, with flashing lights and with very bright livery so they can be seen for hundreds of metres away. Furthermore, after it’s established that a vehicle is needing recovery, as opposed to roadside repair, it’s the job of the recovery agent to ensure the vehicle and the occupants are removed from the roadside as quickly as possible, and taken to safety. Therefore the trucks need to come equipped with everything to effect such a rescue…every eventuality.
It’s not just the flatbed trailers of trucks that have evolved by using safer, lighter and more effective materials. Most recovery flatbed trucks now have twincabs, or cabs large enough to recover a vehicles occupants from the roadside at the same time as the rescue of their car. There is legislation in the U.K which controls the load weight of vehicles, including vehicles tasked with the recovery of other vehicles. Therefore, every pound or two of weight that can be saved from a tow truck’s flatbed is utilised, and that’s why many have drilled alloy ramps (also asists with tyre grip of course) and metals more typically made from lighter choices like aluminium.