A Brief History of Tow Trucks

Cars have been on the road since the early 1900s and they have had issues with breaking down ever since. The tow truck has been helping drivers when stranded for a long time, and here’s a little more about the history of how tow trucks came to be and how they’ve been helping us.

The invention

The tow truck, mostly as we know it, was invented by a man named Ernest Holmes Sr. in 1916 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The idea came to him after he needed blocks, rope and a handful of men to help him pull a vehicle out of local creek. His design went through several phases before he perfected it enough to start manufacturing and selling them commercially. While his invention was definitely practical for every day use, the technology was further developed and used during World War II to help get tanks and big armoured vehicles out of ditches or right them if they had been tipped over. Holmes lived long enough to see his invention be applied to various uses during the war.

The first few models of the tow truck used iron chains, pulleys and poles attached to the truck to help anchor the truck so it could pull the vehicle out from where ever it was stuck.

Hook and Chain Method

This type of towing was the first type ever used and developed. Over time many real-life tows have shown that towing a vehicle like this causes more damage to the underside of the vehicle.

Some modern tow trucks still use this, but many now come equipped with a boom so that a car will be more stable when it is under tow.

Flatbed Trucks

This kind of truck was developed out of a need to transport vehicles of all sizes, and make sure they are flat and secure while doing so. Flatbed trucks work best for vehicles that are AWD, 4×4 or larger than a regular car.

Flatbed Towing truck

The Wheel Lift

This portion of towing technology was invented by Frank Casteel and Felming Cannon Jr to replace the hook and chain method. The hook goes under the tires and kind of cradles a portion of the vehicle while lifting it off the group with a hydraulic lift. This development in the towing industry helped to prevent the damage caused to the underside of vehicles during towing, and therefore car owners were paying less in repair bills for their car.

Better Equipment

Kind of like computers that keep getting smaller but more powerful, tow trucks that are integrating technology are able to do so much more without expanding the size of their trucks. These modern innovations include wheel lifts, integrated trucks, and flatbed trailers. While these may not seem like more power, transformations in technology available means that drivers can do the job right the first time and they are going to deliver your vehicle to where it needs to be damage free.

With the change of technology even the way we call tow trucks has changed, we use to have to find the closest payphone. Nowadays we have the luxury of pulling our phone out of our pocket and simply typing in “Tow Truck near me” to get in touch with a towing truck company. How times have changed!

Even though we all try to be as safe as possible and keep our vehicles well maintained they still break down. Tow trucks are there to help you out when you’re stranded, and it all started because someone in Chattanooga put their car in a creek in 1916.

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