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Why is a Tow Truck Called a Wrecker?

Updated: May 28

why is a tow truck called a wrecker

A tow truck is a common sight on highways and city streets, and it plays a crucial role in keeping the roads safe and clear. But have you ever wondered why it is called a wrecker?

Tow trucks are often referred to as “wreckers” to remove damaged or wrecked vehicles from accident scenes. Typically, a tow truck is outfitted with a winch, which enables it to pull or lift non-functioning vehicles and transport them to a repair shop.

The term originates from the word “wreck” and has become an everyday way to describe these vehicles. Let’s delve into the origins of this name and explain its significance in the towing industry. By the end of this read, you’ll clearly understand why a tow truck is called a wrecker.

Why is a Tow Truck Called a Wrecker: Get All the Details


Tow Truck Called a Wrecker

hen you know the intended use, equipment, towing capacity, license needs, and safety precautions for both types of vehicles, it’s clear why people sometimes call a tow truck a wrecker. This information can help you better understand the distinction.

1. Purpose:

Both tow trucks and wreckers serve the same purpose of moving vehicles from one location to another. These vehicles are used for helping stranded motorists, towing vehicles involved in accidents, or transporting cars from one location to another.

In the early 1900s, automobiles were still new and unfamiliar to most people. Since cars were more expensive and dangerous back then, if a car crashed or became disabled, the only option was to call a tow truck, referred to as a “wrecker.” This term stuck and has remained in use ever since.

2. Equipment:

Both tow trucks and wreckers have tools and equipment, such as winches, chains, hooks, and booms. These tools are used to secure and lift the vehicle being towed. Tow trucks have a flatbed or wheel lift, while wreckers have a hook and chain. They are designed to handle different situations, such as towing a car, truck, or bus.

3. Towing Capacity:

Both tow trucks and wreckers offer advanced towing capabilities. A light-duty tow truck has a maximum towing capacity of five tons, while heavy-duty tow trucks can tow up to 50 tons, as wreckers do. The towing capacity of both these trucks depends on their engines, transmission systems, axles, and braking systems.

4. Licensing Requirements:

When operating a tow truck or wrecker, it’s important to understand the licensing requirements in your state. Both tow trucks and wreckers require drivers to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). A CDL ensures that tow truck operators have the proper training and experience to operate a large, heavy vehicle on public roads.

While these requirements can vary from state to state, in many places they are virtually identical. This means that whether you’re pulling cars out of ditches or towing away illegally parked vehicles, you’ll need to meet the same set of standards and qualifications.

5. Safety Considerations:

The safety of the tow truck or wrecker driver and the towed vehicle is paramount. Both types of vehicles are designed with safety features such as backup cameras, mirrors, lights, and warning systems that help detect potential hazards during towing.

The drivers must follow safety protocols, wear reflective clothing, and take necessary towing precautions to avoid accidents.

They must follow proper towing procedures, including ensuring that the towed vehicle is securely attached to the wrecker and that all lights and signals function correctly.

With highly trained and experienced professionals operating them, tow trucks can ensure the safe transport of vehicles and minimize any inconvenience caused to the customers. Therefore, it is clear that the tow truck's role in the towing industry is highly regarded, and they continue to serve as the backbone of the towing industry.

What is the meaning of a wrecker truck?

What is the meaning of a wrecker truck

The wrecker truck is a mechanical device designed for hoisting and pulling objects with a weight capacity of up to several tons. It is commonly used to tow vehicles wrecked, disabled, or stalled due to mechanical failure.

In the United States, this type of truck is known as a wrecker, while in the United Kingdom, it is referred to as a breakdown truck. These trucks are equipped with various tools and equipment to assist in the towing process, including winches, cables, and towing straps.

What is the arm called on a tow truck?

The arm on a tow truck is typically referred to as either a tow bar or a tow sling. The tow sling is a type of strap wrapped around the axle or frame of the vehicle being towed to secure it to the back of the tow truck.

On the other hand, the tow bar is a larger, more heavy-duty version of the tow sling that connects the tow truck and the vehicle being towed with rubberized mats. Both the tow bar and tow sling play an essential role in ensuring the safe and effective transportation of vehicles using a tow truck.

What is the hook on the back of a tow truck called?

What is the hook on the back of a tow truck called

Tow trucks have either a pintle hook or a hitch hook on the back. This hook can be mounted on the front or rear bumpers, frame, or grille of the tow truck and is used to connect the tow truck to the vehicle being towed.

The hook must be securely attached to the vehicle to provide stability during transport. To do this, tow truck operators often use tow hooks attached directly to the car frame. This provides greater stability and ensures the vehicle is safely and securely transported.

The Remarkable Rise of Tow Trucks as Essential Wreckers

The invention and advancement of the tow truck have improved the transportation industry significantly. They come in different sizes and styles, with various towing capacities, but they all serve the same purpose of hauling vehicles from the side of the road or the scene of an accident.

Now it’s clear that the term originated from the machine’s ability to haul wreckage or debris away from an accident site. Whatever the name, the tow truck or wrecker has undoubtedly become an essential part of our daily lives, and we can’t imagine navigating the roads without them.

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