The Right Tow Truck Capacity

Need a tow truck?  Bigger wreckers with more capacity cost more, so towing companies have to charge more.  And it’s not just a matter of cars, pickups, and SUVs.  Big commercial trucks, including those huge tractor-trailers, often need off-road recovery and towing.  So our fleet has vehicles in a wide range of towing capacities.  In fact, we specialize in heavy duty big rig services.  Over the phone we’ll ask for enough details to be sure we’ll send the right wrecker and tow truck driver to properly handle the job while reducing the cost of towing.

Capacities, Categories

There’s more to a wrecker’s towing capacity than meets the eye.  Its size is indeed a big factor, but there’s other things that matter as well.  Most important is a high-horsepower engine to handle the weight of an added vehicle.  That said, you may be surprised to hear that tow trucks themselves have to be heavy.  Why?  Lifting or towing a vehicle from one end puts the weight on the rear of the wrecker.  The wrecker’s rear wheels then act as a pivot and the front of the wrecker can rise up off the road — clearly not a good thing!  Absent that extreme the front wheels loose traction, a dangerous situation.

There are three basic categories of tow trucks based on their towing capacity.

  • Light Duty  These fit the classic image of a tow truck as a sort of over-sized pickup with a boom and cable on the back.  They have a gross vehicle weight of at least 5 tons and a towing capacity of 7,000 to 11,000 pounds.  Compact and maneuverable, they’re the most common type for passenger cars and small trucks.
  • Medium Duty This category includes flat beds, low boys, and other configurations.  Their gross weight is a minimum of 11 tons and their tow capacity 7,000 to 17,000 pounds.  Intended for heavier trucks and off-road recoveries, they’re still often the best choice for many type of passenger vehicles as they can often hold the entire vehicle with all 4 wheels off the road.
  • Heavy Duty The largest of tow and recovery vehicles cover from 17,000 pounds on up to fully-loaded tractor trailers.  Ours span all the way up to 110,000 pounds!  This category has a minimum gross weight of 23 tons.

For comparison a typical sedan can tow around 3,500 pounds, a pickup around 7,000 pounds.

Capacity is Not Just Horsepower

Although many light duty tow trucks have gasoline engines, most wreckers have powerful diesel engines, capable of providing more torque than gas motors.  Heavier categories also have higher numbers of heavy duty tires as well as a larger wheel base.  And their various pieces of equipment — pulleys, cranes, winches, wheel lifts, and so on — are also larger and more rugged.  There are also regulations specifying certain safety features for the three categories.

Here are the highlights of some of that equipment.

  • Light duty equipment includes a powered winch and cable plus some type of wheel lift.
  • Medium duty ratings require a 12-ton capacity boom lift, 5-ton winches, and wheel lifts.
  • Heavy duty must have a 25 ton single or double boom lift, one or more 25-ton winches, and a 6 ton wheel-lift.  For safety they must have light and air brake hookups.

Call or contact us anytime!