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American Towman Operations Editor Randall Resch instructs on avoiding sloppy actions on-scene, questionable vehicle operations and chances that tower’s repeatedly take. His seminar, “Wreckers in Trouble,” will take place during Tow Industry Week, May 9-12 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tackling a Propane Truck [b]on a Wooden Bridge

0 3761c2015 Donnie Cruse Recovery Award for Medium Duty (Sponsored by B/A Products and AW Direct)

By Jason Zylstra, Zylstra Towing; Sturgis, S.D.

We received a call to respond to a 30,000-lbs. propane truck off the road. They advised we should send our big wrecker.

We responded in our 1993 Peterbilt/'88Challenger 35-ton wrecker; when we arrived, we noted three wooden bridges with a load capacity of four tons. There was no way we could cross them in the Challenger.

We determined we'd need to send three 1-ton wreckers to do the job, and used a 2011 Ford F-450/Century 412 (short wheelbase), 1997 Ford F-350/Holmes 552 and a 1998 Chevy 3500/Holmes 4402B (short wheelbase).

The road had 3" of ice and was on a 13-degree incline covered in snow. We went back to the shop for extra rigging and the three light wreckers. Once back on site, we couldn't plant the trucks for stability and decided the driveway needed to be plowed and salted.

The next morning, Saturday, we told the company that this was a difficult recovery and would require additional planning and gave a rough estimate. The company was a local outfit, and the boss respected that we gave him an estimate up front. I didn't want them to get sticker shock after the fact. The recovery would require a lot of rigging in a super-tight area.

The cost and work was approved, and a plow truck was arranged to clear the road. Fresh snow delayed the recovery until Monday. After hours of planning over the weekend, Monday the plow was directed to clear the site. We loaded up all extra rigging that we thought we may need to do the job. We purchased a 300' spool of 3/8 wire rope. The three 1-ton wreckers, plus an extra man for prep work, arrived on site.

We determined the casualty had roughly 4,400-lbs. of resistance. The casualty was sitting at approximately 35 degrees with its front axle almost suspended. There was minimal damage to the passenger side step and a broken exhaust hanger. We used four ground anchors to create a 10-part line to the casualty; four more lines from the slingshot trucks made 14 to the entire load.

We used the Century with 100' of 3/8" wire rope to do the main winching. We parked a 1-ton Holmes on either side to create a slingshot set-up. We married the lines on each 1-ton and hooked to the rear duals.

We began winching with a load cell in place to assure our line loads were within proper working load limits. The load cell spiked three times at 3,800 lbs.; we maintained an average load of 3,200-lbs. throughout the recovery.

For every 100' we winched in, we gained 10' at the casualty. The Holmes units held the propane truck in place each time we re-rigged. We did this three times until the bobtail was on the road. The sander truck did not sand where the bobtail would end up sitting so we could spin it on the ice in the middle of the road. The propane truck was recovered with no damage and driven home.

The actual rigging and winch time took about 4-1/2 hours. The job was successful with a pleased customer at the end of the day. Paid in full.

The Donnie Awards are sponsored by WreckMaster, B/A Products and AW Direct and are presented at the American Towman Exposition in Baltimore, Md. in November. Has your tow company worked a recovery job that you feel is worthy of a Donnie Award? Submit your entry to American Towman Editor Brendan Dooley at
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WreckMaster President Justin Cruse said that the WreckMaster Convention will bring together towers from all over North America to provide a unique and beneficial opportunity to broaden knowledge.
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