Propane Truck Rigging

Apr 7th, 2011 | By | Category: Recovery

By Uzek Susol.

On the afternoon of Nov. 29, 2010, I was called by our local propane company and asked to bring multiple trucks to recover a loaded propane truck that slid backwards down an icy driveway and was leaning severely.

Being on an island accessible only by ferry, and a medium/heavy wrecker hours travel time away, I gathered my apprentice, two extra 100-foot lengths of wire rope and jumped in the 2001 Ford F-550 4×4 with six studded tires and a Chevron 408 equipped with two 9,000-lb. planetary winches each with 150 feet of 7/16-inch swaged steel core wire rope to survey the situation.

Upon arriving we found a 33,000-lb. loaded propane truck on a roughly 20-degree ice-covered, narrow driveway. Since the initial call, a Honda CRV had slid down the hill and was jammed against the propane truck.

Neither vehicle had serious damage but the propane truck was leaning heavily with the driver’s side front tire well off the ground and the concern was to get lines attached to secure it from going any further. Offloading the truck would have been time consuming and difficult due to the steep, ice-covered hill.

I positioned the wrecker to the far left side of the driveway about three truck lengths above the casualties, chained my scotch blocks to the tailboard, backed up on top of them and set the truck’s Mico-Lock for anchoring. I winched the CRV back and then down the hill approximately 100 feet to level ground.

I then looked at rigging for the propane truck pull. We figured the surface resistance to be 5,100 lbs. and the gradient resistance to be 15,000 lbs. for a total required pull of 20,100 lbs. My wire rope’s Working Load Limit is 4,100 lbs. each leg so I must have five lines to the load — 20,500 lbs. — to stay within the safe Working Load Limits of my equipment and avoid any catastrophic failures.

My wrecker would not offer 20,100 lbs. of anchor ability on an ice-covered hill, so other anchors had to be implemented. There were two large, well-rooted cedar trees off the driver’s side in front of the propane truck that would offer most of the anchoring. We ran the passenger side winch line to a basket 3/8-inch Grade 80 recovery chain at the passenger side of the propane trucks axle/frame through the bumper access hole, from the wrecker through a 4-ton snatch block at the recovery chain through a 4-ton snatch block/10-ton shackle/12-ton strap/cedar tree then back to the recovery chain at the propane truck’s bumper for three lines to the load at the front bumper, I snugged the winch.

Next was to get a line to the lift eye at the top/rear of the propane tank for a high pull. I didn’t feel comfortable crawling on the tank without some side stabilization so we ran the driver’s side winch line through another snatch block/shackle/strap/cedar tree through a snatch block/shackle/strap at the propane truck’s frame just behind the cab, then terminated the wire rope back at a shackle/strap/cedar tree for two lines to the load.

I snugged the driver’s side winch and proceeded to rig the shackle/strap/WreckMaster Buckle at the top/rear lift eye of the tank, I then released the driver’s side winch and moved the snatch block that was at the propane truck’s frame to the buckle at the top/rear of the tank; I snugged the winch.

I checked all my rigging for proper securement, asked the propane truck driver to start the truck, put it in neutral, release the brakes slowly and to steer it toward the cedar trees off its driver’s side front corner. I winched the truck back onto the roadway without any complaints from the wrecker. Once squared back up I winched the propane truck down to level ground.

It was very difficult to keep standing upright throughout the recovery due to the ice and steep grade.

Total time on scene was about two hrs. — I billed a base hourly rate plus a per-pound rate due to the weight, exposure and liability. The company was pleased to have the truck recovered with no further damage and the bill was paid in full.

I have owned Orcas Auto Tech Inc. dba Orcas Towing since 1990. I am a 4/5 Level WreckMaster, ASE Certified, a member of the Towing and Recovery Association of Washington, and I thoroughly enjoy a challenging recovery.

Editor’s Note: Uzek Susol owns Orcas Towing on Orcas Island, Wash.