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Re: Policy: Linkage Disconnect

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Question:  Does your company have written quidelines regarding disconnecting (transmission) linkages? Although I don't know the entire investigative details of the tow operator killed, New Years Eve day, and another, injured the day after New Year's, news accounts and statements by investigators alleged that towers may have been working to disconnect linkages when, "something happened". Through the years, the industry has experienced several operator fatalities having been under a vehicle attempting to shift into neutral or pull other drive components.


FACT: Disconnecting linkages is a scary and dangerous process regardless if the tow truck used is a wrecker, wheel-lift, or flatbed carrier.


For my company, my Policy and Procedure Manual stated that, "Light-duty tow operators DO NOT go to a vehicle's underside to disconnect linkages for ANY reason." In most cases, a tower has to lie on their back and shimmy under a vehicle to disconnect a linkage. This is a dangerous practice that easily could lead in a vehicle rocking-out of a wheel-lift and dropping onto the operator, even when jackstands and chock-blocks are set in place. Because one operator was said to have been killed by, "mechanical asyphiation", the tow truck could have backed on top of him, or, other factors (no Ebrake or transmission in reverse) caused his demise. No matter what the direct reason, laying under a raised vehicle is a dangerous practice.


My policy is specific to my adminisrative requirement to keep tow operators from being injured or killed by this accidental mishap. When towers are properly trained and haveother techniques up their proverbial sleeves. there are many options for loading or hooking-up vehicles where disconnecting linkages isn't necessary. Go-Jacks, dollies, chock-blocks, even soapy water are the best items alternative techniques that don't require crawling or laying under a raised vehicle.


These items add a level of safety topside, but they too must be used in accordance to manufacturer's standards and instructions. Accordingly, because of the injury or fatality possibility that's always present when attempting to get a vehicle into neutral, adding Go-Jacks or dollies to the tow/load scenario is a, "Chargable, get paid", process and one you should be paid for. It's added cost is justified by the club/member/customer paying to provide the proper level of safety insurance to tow operators and preventing them from going under a lifted vehicle that presents right wno dangerous conditions; including Go-Jacks or dollies also prevents claims that the tow company inflicted damage to a vehicle's transmission. The customer, insurance company and motor clubs should know this up-front especially when no keys are available. If a vehicle's transmission has shift-override that can be manipulated from the vehicle's topside interior, obviously special equipment won't be required.


I highly recommend that your company's rule and regulations include a written requirement that demand tow operators to NOT disconnect transmissions, axles or linkages from the undersides of a lifted vehicle, or, that of a loaded (carrier) vehicle. If the vehicle can not does not go into neutral, other means to off-load should be employed. This is a ompany policy and training requirement that we make sure towers are aware of and one that's discussed at frequent safaty meetings. Unfortunately, these back-to-back fatalities were the result of industrial situations where their causes will be evaluated by OSHA.       R. 

Edited by rreschran
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Randall C. Resch

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NEVER EVER do it.. there is so many other alternatives to doing that. It is a matter of sheer untrained laziness ( not to mention a obvious lack of common sense ). If I were to catch one of my employees doing it they would be terminated for MAJOR safety violations. As a side note I DO NOT allow drive ons or roll offs on my flatbed at all.  


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Aside from the possibility of death or see erious injury, there is also the issue of liability pulling a vehicle on the drive linss. While some have a slinger that will move fluid around, it is no substitution for the pump running and a proper procedure being utilized.

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