Heavy Vehicle Rescue Review

CarolinaFireJournal - David Pease
David Pease
08/10/2016 -

We have covered a lot of information over the past several years on heavy vehicle rescue. I want to now go back and review some of the key points before I move onto another topic. Over the past few years I have seen an increase in the number of crashes involving large trucks.


Seeing that trucks account for up 10 percent of all crashes, and there are over 19 million trucks on the road, this comes as no surprise. This means that some type of truck is involved in every eight crashes.

Knowing that trucks come in all types, sizes and weights is also an important factor. Many of the trucks on the roads are specialty trucks such as dump trucks, concrete trucks, recycle and garbage trucks. These pose different challenges when it comes to rescue and extrication. Tractor-trailer semi-trucks also pose challenges due to the weight and size. We know the trailers they pull come in many types where we can see what is being hauled and a lot we do not know what is inside. The other issue of weight becomes a problem when they can legally be on the road at 80,000 pounds. When the truck overturns, that weight can now be displaced. This can put unexpected stress on parts of the trailer that are not designed to carry that weight. The BIG problem however, is we do not know the weight or cargo by our scene observation and size-up.

Trucks pose a unique situation when it comes to stabilizing because of their height in relation to ground. It can take a huge amount of cribbing to properly stabilize a large truck due to size and weight. That is why stabilization struts may do a much better job in these particular cases. The plus here is that most of the vehicle’s weight does not have to be supported, it is already being supported by another vehicle or the ground. We stabilize to keep things from shifting, or for the lifting process, which does present a different scenario all together. Most heavy lifting will need to be done with airbags like we have discussed. You need to make sure you are well versed in the use and safe lifting technique of heavy lift bags. Again, struts work wonders to assist with this.

Courtesy of Iredell County Rescue

Access to the truck itself can be challenging due to the elevation from the ground will put us working at a much greater height than when extricating from normal vehicles. We may have to consider working off of ladders or rollbacks, which can work great if they have close access. Always consider using the lightest tools possible. Heavy hydraulics are not really the best tools for the job. I have found over the years that the use of a reciprocating saw with a good blade, and an air chisel, is one of the best ways to dismantle a large truck cab, especially with a sleeper. If you are dealing with a specialty truck or heavy metals and steel, then your more powerful cutting tools are preferred. Harder to work with but better. Most truck windows are held in with rubber gaskets, but more and more are going to mastic. Some windows may just pop out and some may have to be cut out. These openings can sometimes give you all you need to remove a patient. No need to work more than you have to.

In closing, remember that large wreckers can be a Godsend. Take the time to work with them, learn what they can do and how you can assist them. They deal with heavy vehicles on a daily basis and have an extreme knowledge base on moving and lifting large trucks. When you see a large truck class being taught, make every effort to attend.

We are having a hot summer so stay cool and hydrated. I think I may delve into buses in our next issue. Until next time.

If you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at [email protected]. Until next time, train hard, be safe, and know your equipment.
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