Tow Truck Operator
Tow Truck Operator
Education and Training High school and on-thejob training
Salary Average—$18,000 to $25,000 per year
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Tow truck operators use specially equipped trucks to move vehicles that have broken down; have been damaged in accidents, abandoned, or impounded by the police; or cannot be driven for some other reason. Operators work for towing companies, service stations, or automobile salvage companies.
A tow truck operator may drive one of three kinds of trucks. Conventional tow trucks are equipped with a hook and sling that the operators use to raise one end of a disabled vehicle for towing. Operators of wheel-lift or full-float trucks use winches to lift cars and place support wheels under one or both axles for towing. Flatbed trucks are used for transporting more expensive cars. Operators lower the truck beds to the ground, winch disabled vehicles onto the beds, and then raise the beds for driving. In all cases, operators may attach steering locks, chains, or lights to disabled vehicles so they can be moved safely.
Sometimes operators diagnose and repair minor problems. They jump-start cars, replace spark plugs, connect loose wires, change flat tires, and add fuel. If vehicles have been involved in accidents, operators may need to remove, bend, or cut damaged parts before towing.
Many operators perform other tasks when they are not towing. Those working for service stations may fuel and service vehicles, perform repairs, and replace accessories and tires. Operators who work for automobile salvage companies may dismantle vehicles to salvage reusable parts.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer to hire applicants with high school diplomas or the equivalent; however, the job has no specific educational requirements. Applicants must have good driving records. High school courses in automobile repair and bodywork can be useful. Many truck-driving schools offer training programs for tow truck operators.
New workers receive on-the-job training from experienced operators, who explain safety and business procedures, customer service techniques, and paperwork.
The Towing and Recovery Association of America offers certification programs for light, medium, and heavy-duty towing and recovery. Applicants are tested on customer service, safety procedures, incident management, and truck equipment.
Getting the Job
Job seekers can apply directly to towing companies, service stations, or automobile salvage and wrecking companies. State employment services, newspaper classified ads, or Internet job sites may provide employment leads.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Tow truck operators usually start by towing impounded or abandoned vehicles with conventional or wheel-lift trucks. With experience, they can move to flatbed trucks. Some operators become supervisors or managers of towing companies or service stations. Others start their own service stations, towing companies, or salvage companies.
Employment of tow truck operators is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. The industry is moving toward more specialized towing companies, so trained and experienced operators should have the most opportunities. With more vehicles on the road each year, demand for tow truck operators should increase as well.
Tow truck operators usually work forty-hour weeks. Overtime may be required, especially in bad weather. Many large towing companies have operators who work in shifts or who are on call for night, weekend, and holiday work.
Operators have to work outside in all kinds of weather. They use power equipment, chains, hoists, and tools and must take precautions to avoid possible injury. Small cuts and bruises are common.
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary, depending on experience, location, and type of company. Average salaries range between $18,000 and $25,000 per year. Flatbed truck operators can earn more. Instead of salaries, some operators receive a set fee for each car towed.
Where to Go for More Information
American Trucking Associations
2200 Mill Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22314-4677
Towing and Recovery Association of America
2121 Eisenhower Ave., Ste. 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
Full-time employees often receive paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement benefits.