Heavy Vehicle Rescue

The weather is turning warm and it’s time to start planning for upcoming extrication training. As the warmer weather rolls in, so does the increase of drivers on the road. Statistics show that more fatal wrecks occur in nice weather than any other time.


I do understand that training in heavy vehicle rescue is much harder than standard vehicle extrication to accomplish due to what is needed for the class and training. It does get difficult to acquire a large vehicle to train with, because the salvage yards do not want to let them be used and destroyed. If you play it right, they may let you come out and place the large vehicle on top of a car and you can at least train with your air lift bags and stabilization struts. Be sure and let them know you are not going to cut up the large truck, but only use it for lifting and stabilizing. If that doesn’t work, keep your eyes and ears open for a class being taught. We do several each year around the state.

In past articles we’ve looked at most aspects of heavy vehicle rescue, from size up to lifting and stabilizing, as well as cutting into the vehicles for patient packaging and removal. The one aspect I would like to cover last, is the use of large wreckers and even recovery bags. I will also be the first to tell you that I am no expert in lifting and moving heavy vehicles with wreckers. I depend on the folks that do it every day. Their expertise in this fields far surpasses mine and most of the rescue technicians in the field. This is what they do.

Large wreckers come in a variety of styles and sizes, much like fire trucks do. The 40 to 60 ton is a common size, with some of the nicer ones having a 360-degree rotation. This allows the wrecker to work like a mini crane.

I had the opportunity to be a part of the heavy vehicle rescue school taught every year in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. The school offered some excellent training with classroom, but especially hands on in the field. They had deployed the use of several large wreckers and the students were able to learn a lot from these operators.

During the class we were not allowed to use the wreckers until other exercises were done. The operators showed how to safely work around the wreckers and large vehicles being moved and lifted, as well as how to run and attach straps and cables. One of the most important things to remember when working around these vehicles are the weights and forces you may be dealing with. Trying to lift 80,000 pounds of truck with the possibility of the load shifting and changing the forces of gravity can be a real challenge. A lot of physics and geometry come in to play here. You have to also remember that with large trucks, the weights are now much higher in the air as compared to standard vehicles. You have to consider the higher you go with the lift, the more unstable the truck becomes. This makes our job really tough because we now have to figure a way to control horizontal movement, along with roll, yaw and pitch. This may require cables or straps running from the truck down to anchors on the ground. You have to be able to safely attach these anchor lines as well. Sometimes they can be hooked low, sometimes they may need to be much higher. This is another good application for utilizing a large wrecker.

Understanding Stability Techniques

Understanding how to connect cables, chains and straps to the vehicles for movement and stability is another technique to be learned. How lines can be anchored to the wrecker, as well as the anchor points to be used, is another key point to learn.

If you are going to have the possibility to be involved in a large vehicle crash, then take some of your training time and learn some key factors that will help you when this happens. How do you learn this stuff? Contact your local wrecker and recovery service and have them come out to the station with one of their large wreckers. Ask them to show you some of the things we have discussed and to help you become more versed in exactly how they do things. These operators will be more than happy to work with you and help you to better understand how they can better your rescue operations with their assistance. They will also teach you how to be safe around their equipment. In turn, you should also help them to better understand your job. We are all out here to work together for the same cause and conclusion, to safely save lives.

As always, be safe out there and train to your best.

If you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at reds100@aol.com. Until next time, train hard, be safe, and know your equipment.

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