Tow Truck Operators Beware! Drive Shaft Removal – An Important Lesson

There have been many reports of a tow truck operator injured in the process of removing a drive shaft also known as a drive line from RV’s but in theory the injury could occur with any vehicle.

Our own towing association of California was contacted by a motorist that witnessed the tow truck operator being struck by the drive line he was removing and suffered a severe head injury. While reading this horrific description, I replayed the scenario in my mind how it occurred and how it could have been prevented.

With over 30 years experience in the towing industry, I have experienced this very situation many times. It is one of the main subjects in training for every new employee and is revisited periodically as a retraining tool when we conduct our safety meetings.

The problem arises when the transmission or differential is locked causing the drive line to bind.

1. The tow truck must be hooked up with safety chains to the disabled vehicle before proceeding in any further steps.

2. Never attempt to remove the drive shaft without first grabbing it with your hand and rocking it back and forth to determine free play.

3. If no free play, you must jack up one drive wheel off the ground which relieves the tension or bind on the drive shaft thereby allowing it to achieve free play. Again, I reiterate, do not do this unless the disabled vehicle is hooked up to the tow truck!

4. Once the tension or bind is relieved the drive shaft is now safe to remove.

Unfortunately drive line removal injuries happen all too often and is cause for concern in the towing industry. If the above simple but yet life saving steps are not followed, the tow truck operator finds himself unable to remove the drive shaft. The tow truck operator then uses other tools such as a pry bar to pry out the drive shaft resulting in the drive line popping out and spinning like a propeller.

Towing is a hazardous occupation just by being on the road way. Safety should always be the first concern in any tow truck operator’s performance.