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A rollback wrecker is a type of tow truck. Typically used to transport personally owned motor vehicles, a rollback wrecker features a flatbed with rails. The bed, in its entirety, can be hydraulically lowered to ground level. Vehicles to be transported can be driven onto the flatbed or pulled onto it with a winch. After the vehicle is safely positioned, the flatbed is raised back level with the tow truck chassis and locked into placed, and the vehicle is secured for transport.
Although it is most commonly used for personal vehicles, a rollback wrecker can be fitted with a large enough flatbed to accommodate bigger vehicles. Heavy duty diesel rollback wreckers frequently carry large, heavy equipment vehicles such as backhoes, cranes or other construction vehicles. Commercial transport vehicles can be transported for delivery or repairs via a heavy duty rollback wrecker. Tow trucks for large vehicle transport are common, but the term "rollback wrecker" typically refers to emergency roadside recovery equipment for personal motor vehicles.
In terms of emergency roadside recovery vehicles, there are three basic types of tow trucks. These types include wheel-lift tow trucks, hook-and-chain tow trucks and flatbed or rollback wreckers. Wheel-lift tow trucks as well as hook-and-chain wreckers transport a vehicle by lifting the front or back axle, leaving the remaining wheels on the ground to roll behind the truck.
Alternatively, a rollback wrecker allows for the transport of a vehicle entirely on the back of a tow truck. By removing the entire vehicle from the roadway, tow truck drivers and vehicle owners eliminate potential damages to the vehicle that is being transported. Drivers need not worry about low-hanging bumpers, the need to disconnect drive shafts or other factors that make towing via hook-and-chain or wheel-lift tow trucks less than desirable.
Certain characteristics are common to virtually all flatbeds. Material construction for decks, rails and other elements include steel, aluminum or other alloy metals. Most rollback wrecker vehicles include a diesel-driven cab with an extended chassis. Safety equipment, hydraulic mechanisms and mounts for the flatbed are fitted to the chassis to optimize the tow truck's stability when fully loaded.
Options such as rail design, deck size, deck material and capacity vary depending on model, intended application and user preference. Deck rails — the raised metal boards on either side of the deck — might be high, low, fixed or removable, depending on the specific type of rollback wrecker. Additional features such as winches also vary from one wrecker to another.