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The Self-Loader: A Brief History

For today's post, a look at the equipment we use; the Dynamic 601 Self-loading wheel-lift on our Chevy W4 (Isuzu NPR) chassis.

I always get a kick out of the reactions I get from folks who have never seen a self-loader in operation (or seen one of the reality shows on TV), often after having to convince them that we could handle their tow just fine, thank you, without the need for a flatbed/rollback. For those who are skeptical, see our photo gallery and/or earlier blog posts.

Wheel-lift style trucks have been around for quite some time. The self-loader (a bit of a misnomer; it does NOT load itself!) goes back to the original patent holder, Dynamic Towing Equipment & Manufacturing.

Established in 1982, Dynamic Manufacturing began its operations in Norfolk Virginia. Dynamic Manufacturing were the innovators in the towing and repossession industry. Calvin Russ, the company's founder, started Dynamic Manufacturing by sketching out an idea to design a wheel-lift system that would be easier, faster, and safer to operate than what was available at the time. His creation, the Original Self Loading Wheel-Lift, was born. The Original Self Loading Wheel-Lift from Dynamic was introduced in 1983.

Our late founder, Jeff Gaik, was a bit of an innovator himself and brought the first self-loader to Charlotte County in 1997 when he upgraded his existing truck with the new Dynamic 601 back end. It was the first of two self-loaders we would have and the one we still use today; the second unit was retired upon Jeff's passing in 2006. Now, nearly 25 years later, you will see at least one self-loader (they are now manufactured by a number of other companies) in many towing service fleets. They are extremely popular with repossessors, but because of their efficiency and versatility they have become a mainstay for standard towing operations. Just one example of this versatility is the ability to tow a vehicle that is parallel-parked between other vehicles!

Here's how it works!:

The operator approaches the vehicle to be towed; this one is front-wheel drive. Side note: The disabled vehicle is rarely so conveniently positioned for easy hook-up!

The operator unfolds the wheel-lift. All of these functions are controlled from within the cab of the truck.

Unfolded and in position.

The "forks" are moved to the open position.

And lowered to the ground.

The unit is then backed up under the disabled vehicle.

The "forks" are closed and the vehicle is raised to towing height.

Before departing, the operator secures the vehicle to the lift with heavy-duty ratchet straps and attaches the tow lights to the rear. Ready to go in minutes and all we touch is your tires!

A final note on wheel-lift operations, both conventional and self-loading: It is both unsafe and unprofessional to perform a tow without the disabled vehicle being properly strapped to the lift and having tow lights installed. You will never see us in operation without both being utilized.

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