Tow trucks are vehicles used to pull other vehicles. They are commonly used to haul vehicles that have failed due to mechanical errors or that have been in an accident. Most are owned by private business owners who earn their money removing vehicles from roads, highways, ditches, and other situations. Some trucks, however, are owned by the government and used to patrol toll roads and highways. Some companies also own ones that are used exclusively to tow other vehicles owned by the company.
There are three main types of tow trucks: hook and chain, wheel-lift, and flat bed. Hook and chain trucks, also referred to as sling tow trucks, are no longer used as much as they once were. This is because they work by wrapping a chain around the axle or frame of the vehicle. This can cause scratches or other damage to the car. Typically, this type of truck is reserved for vehicles that have been damaged in an accident, vehicles that do not have their front wheels or their back wheels, and vehicles with steel bumpers.
Wheel lift tow trucks are similar to hook and chain trucks, but they use a metal yoke rather than a chain. This yoke is hooked under either the front or the rear wheels of the vehicle to be towed. Using a hydraulic or pneumatic hoist, the front or the rear portion of the vehicle is lifted from the ground as it is towed.
Flatbed tow trucks, also called rollback tow trucks, contain a large empty bed in the back of the truck. Using hydraulics, this bed can be inclined in order to form the shape of a ramp. The vehicle can then be either driven onto the flatbed or a winch can be used to drag it into place. After the vehicle is in place, hydraulics are used again to level out the flatbed in order to haul the vehicle. Flatbed styles are the preferred method for hauling vehicles, because they do not place pressure on the vehicle or drag it for a period of time. Rather, all of the stress is placed on the tow truck.