Motor Vehicle Crashes

At my department, as likely in yours, we see considerable amounts of motor vehicle crashes. With some luck these are only fender benders and once law enforcement investigates, the parties involved drive their vehicles away. 


However, more often than not we deal with crashes that include injuries and vehicles that are not operational anymore.

One of the resources that we need to mitigate the situation is a wrecker from local wrecker services. How many times have we considered these wrecker services, how they operate, what needs they have, or how we can work together better? I would bet that this is not something we consider.

So why would we need to consider the wrecker service? There are many reasons.

First, the wrecker service is dealing with a dangerous situation as well, even when we have stabilized the vehicles. Vehicles can inadvertently shift, cables can snap, or other situations can happen putting the wrecker driver and us in danger — this is not to say that wrecker services are untrained but they provide a delicate service.

Secondly, they are in danger as well since they are in the area of traffic. In addition, the longer that traffic is backed up or interrupted the increased chance for injuries to the wrecker service, to us, or to other citizens who may be involved in secondary collisions.

Finally, and to be openly honest, most of us do not want to sit on scene any longer than we have to. The more that we coordinate with all parties the sooner we will be off the roadway and back at the station doing other chores.

So, what should we do in order to work together with the wrecker services?

First, why not train with the wrecker service? I know with my department, Buies Creek Fire Department, we often do extrication training in order to better our craft. This is a perfect time to train with the wrecker services. In addition, this will be helpful as they can move the vehicles into various situations to make our training more realistic.

Another aspect is to ensure that we communicate with the wrecker services when they arrive on scene. Normally they discuss with the law enforcement which vehicle they are responsible for towing. During this time, it would be good for us to determine how they are going to load the vehicle. This will allow us to protect them by blocking traffic, altering traffic patterns and other assistance as needed.

In North Carolina, the wrecker service is responsible for cleaning the glass and other debris from the roadway. In many instances, we can do this prior to the arrival of the wrecker service once the law enforcement officer clears us to do so. During this time, we normally are standing around not doing much. This would allow the wrecker service to arrive, load the vehicle, and do minimal cleanup and clear the area so that others can clear the roadway.

Doing this training and work will only allow us to be safer, better protect law enforcement, the wrecker service, and reopen the roadway as fast as possible. Next time you have a motor vehicle crash, take a minute and think about these points and other ways you can aid the wrecker service in making things more efficient.

Until next time, be safe out there!

David Hesselmeyer, M.P.A., has been in emergency services for 16 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and North Carolina Executive Emergency Manager. Hesselmeyer is the owner and primary consultant with On Target Preparedness (OTP) which contracts with emergency services agencies and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Harnett County EMS. He can be contacted at or visit his website at

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.