'They have to be prepared at a moment's notice': Tow truck driver course offered in Canada for 1st time
It might be one of the most dangerous jobs on the road. Tow truck drivers enter the scene of a crash or weather event, and are needed to work their magic to pull vehicles out of precarious positions.
“They have to be prepared at a moment’s notice,” said Bruce Campbell, lead instructor for Wreckmaster. “For every hour of the highway being blocked because of an incident, it costs the commerce world about $3 million.”
Wreckmaster is running a five-day course that's being offered in Canada for the first time, and the 23 drivers enrolled are from across the country.
The team invited CTV News cameras to watch a demonstration of how they might lift a vehicle over an embankment or a body of water, by suspending it between two tow trucks some six metres in the air.
“It’s calculating all the working load limits, it’s calculating forces,” said Jeffrey Martin, another one of the course instructors.
“We have to understand about the working load limits of the rigging, the wire load, the chains, the shackles, and what the trucks can handle,” said Campbell.
And communication is key. The entire time the vehicle is being hoisted into the air, the team is talking, shouting weight numbers and making sure they are lifting in sync.
Martin experienced first hand what can happen if those communication lines break down.
“In 2017 I was on a job where the communication wasn’t as good and somebody pulled a winch when they shouldn’t have and I got hit by a trailer loaded,” he told CTV News. “Broke four vertebrae, 19 ribs, both my scapula, rotator cuff. (I had a) punctured lung, torn esophagus, spent six weeks in a coma while they rebuilt me. And that was from lack of communication.”
Wreckmasters offers training for rigging, recovery and incident management that’s used by not only the towing recovery industry but entities such as fire departments, the government, and the Canadian military.
“This is the highest level (of training) that we offer at the moment,” said Campbell.
He explained it’s an 8/9R (which stands for rotators) and it’s used in incident management for quick clearance of highways so the entire road isn’t blocked for long periods of time during a recovery.
“When you live in the city, it looks like 'Where would you ever use that?' But probably 80 per cent of our roads are not city roads,” said Adrian Scovell, president and CEO of Automotive Retailers Association.
“A lot of the work is semi trailers an they’re fully loaded an they’re tipping them over and lifting them back up.”
On the last day of the course, those enrolled must complete and pass an exam.