Right Driver

What does a vehicle recovery driver do?

Vehicle recovery drivers do all kinds of work assisting immobile vehicles on the roads. They might be immobile because they’ve broken down or had a crash. Drivers can work on general accident recovery across a range of vehicles or they can specialise in certain sectors such as HGVs and heavy plant.

Because working on the roadside is dangerous and modern vehicles are complex, most vehicles are towed or transported to a workshop for repairs.

How to become a vehicle recovery driver

The training courses are very detailed. While towing may, superficially, seem like a simple tasks, there are many complex situations with multiple hazards that need to be addressed.

There are general jobs with organisations such as AA and RAC, or you can work for specialist companies. But first you will need to do training with an approved Institute of Vehicle Recovery provider. They will offer a course which will teach you everything you need to know to get started with vehicle recovery.

What you’ll learn on a vehicle recovery course

The basics

  • Health and safety and hazard identification relating to the workplace (which can be in a workshop or on the side of a road) and the equipment you’ll be using.
  • How to use personal protective equipment
  • Manual handling – how to lift and move heavy items without injuring yourself
  • Keeping your tools clean and maintained
  • Communicating with clients and your fellow co-workers, and the types of communication used to call in jobs
  • Corporate pride and the importance of creating a positive impression
  • Identifying different types of customers and what type of requirements they’ll have
  • Customer service
  • Legislation relating to towing

Safety on the scene

  • How to attend to a vehicle incident and approach the scene
  • How to assess the risks at a breakdown or accident scene
  • Managing the vehicle and the driver
  • Checks to make before you leave with the vehicle

Recovering a light vehicle

  • Health and safety issues
  • Types of towing apparatus – e.g underlift, winching, etc
  • Terminology used in towing, e.g. flat tow, suspend tow
  • Loading procedures for different types of towing – getting the vehicle on the transporter or trailer and making sure it’s secure
  • Equipment checks before use
  • Types of transporters and how to load a vehicle onto a fixed bed or slide bed transporter
  • How to winch a vehicle – calculating risks and whether a vehicle can be winched
  • Lorry loader cranes
  • Hand signals used when winching and using lorry loader cranes
  • Handling motorbikes, including purpose-built trailers and wheel cradles, spectacle frames, etc

Recovering a heavy vehicle

  • Types of towing and towing equipment, as per light vehicles
  • Identifying extra hazards with heavy vehicles
  • Using extra equipment for heavy vehicles such as stabiliser legs, twin booms
  • Low loaders and oversized loads
  • Winching heavy vehicles
  • Bus and coach recovery
  • Using air cushions – high- and low-pressure cushions – setting them up and looking after them
  • Rotating recovery equipment (i.e. vehicle-mounted cranes that swivel), and all rigging requirements, working at heights, etc

Evidence gathering and storage

  • Identifying what is evidence and what isn’t
  • Avoiding contaminating evidence
  • Handling forensic evidence and the laws surrounding this
  • Preparing a casualty vehicle to be removed

Administration and management

  • Defining the types of incident you’ll attend
  • Managing emergency services
  • Planning and communication for major incidents
  • The responsibilities and duties of an incident manager
  • Inspection and equipment management
  • Emergency first aid.

Not all courses will cover all specialist skills such as using rotating recovery equipment or recovery vehicles in road construction sites.

Extra skills you’ll need

  • The correct class of licence to drive a recovery vehicle towing a heavy load
  • Knowledge of the Highway Code for heavy vehicles so that you don’t endanger other road users
  • Good English language skills

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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