When was Car Towing First Done – History and Types of Tow Trucks

The tow truck is an essential vehicle and has evolved in design and efficiency over the years. Ernest Homes Sr. from Chattanooga, Tennessee, invented the first tow truck in 1916. After having a hard time trying to pull the car out of a creek with blocks, ropes, and six other men, he determined to invent a better way in towing cars. He continued to improve the design and later began to manufacture the first tow trucks commercially.

The earliest types of tow trucks are known as the hook and chain tow trucks. The tow truck has a combination of pulleys and hooks. They are set up in such a way to reduce the amount of work needed to move a vehicle. The hook and chain towing has become obsolete in modern times, as towing is now a high-tech industry developing more efficient and sophisticated tow trucks. Modern towing equipment now combines safety, design, and better towing techniques. Some examples include the flatbed, wheel lift, boom, and integrated tow trucks.

Flatbed Tow Trucks

This tow truck has a flat looking “bed” at the back of the tow truck, hence the name flatbed or rollback truck. These flatbed platforms can be hydraulically tilted and slide to ground level, allowing the vehicle to drive up onto the flatbed. There is a winch at the flatbed that can use to pull the car up. So if the automobile cannot be driven due to mechanical faults or accidents, attach the winch to the vehicle, and it can pull slowly and load onto the tow truck. Not only can flatbed tow trucks tow wrecked cars, but they are also good at towing high-valued cars. Due to the is safety and security the tow truck provides.

Wheel Lift Tow Trucks

These trucks evolved from the hook and chain towing method. The tow trucks come with a large metal yoke that can be placed under the front or rear wheels and lift them using a hydraulic hoist. The remaining pair of front or rear wheels are left on the ground when the vehicle is being towed. This equipment usually picks up the drive wheels of the vehicle and only come into contact with the tires. When towing medium or heavy-duty trucks, a variant chassis lift is employed. The chassis lift can hoist the frame or axle of the vehicle rather than the wheels.

Boom Tow Trucks

These tow trucks come with adjustable booms or winches to recover vehicles from any place that cannot be reached safely. Some trucks come with booms that are fixed, pivoting A-frames, or hydraulic-powered. The heavy types of booms can rotate, making it a mobile construction crane, hence they are sometimes called as the rotators. Boom tow trucks are very effective in towing heavy-duty vehicles.

Integrated Tow Trucks

The tow trucks have both the boom and wheel lift features combined into one vehicle. Most integrated tow trucks have controls inside the cab of the tow truck. Since the tow truck has both the boom and wheel lift towing functions, a driver can stay in the tow truck to do the towing operation using the controls, and do a quick tow. As these trucks are used to repossess or move illegally parked vehicles, so people will also call these trucks the repo trucks.


Tow trucks have come a long way, and they are invaluable to drivers on the road ever since their invention. They make car towing easier, safer, and more efficient.

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