Tow truck operators beware! Drive Shaft Removal - An Important Lesson

Tow truck operators beware! Drive Shaft Removal – An Important Lesson

Many reports have reported that a tow truck operator was injured while removing an RV’s drive shaft. However, the injury could happen with any vehicle.

A motorist saw the operator of a tow truck being struck by the driveline while he was taking out the debris. He suffered severe head injuries and was called our towing Association of California. After reading this horrible description, I thought back to how it happened and what could have been done to prevent it.

This is something I’ve seen many times, having worked in towing for over 30 years. This is a key subject in every employee’s training and it is a tool we use to retrain our employees when we hold safety meetings.

Problems arise when the differential or transmission is locked, causing the drive to bind.

1. Before proceeding with any further steps, the tow truck should be connected to the disabled vehicle using safety chains.

Tow truck operators beware! Drive Shaft Removal - An Important Lesson

2. Do not attempt to remove the drive shaft. Instead, grab it with one hand and gently rock it back and forth until you are satisfied that it is free of play.

3. You can free up one of the drive wheels if there is no free play. This will release the tension on the drive shaft and allow it to play freely. This must be done only if the disabled vehicle has been hooked up to a tow truck. Visit to read about Find out basic safety towing tips.

4. After the tension or binding has been released, the drive shaft can be removed.

Driveline injuries are a common occurrence in the towing industry. The tow truck operator will not be able to remove the drive shaft if the above-mentioned steps aren’t followed. To remove the drive shaft, the tow truck operator uses other tools like a prybar. The drive shaft will pop out and spin like a propeller.

Towing can be dangerous just because you are on the road. Safety should be the number one concern of any tow truck operator.

Steven E Ramirez is an author for, a big rig towing company for over 30 years in Northern California.