5 Facts About The History of Tow Trucks

1. The story says that, back in 1916, a driver lost control of his Ford Model T, plunging it into Chickamauga Creek in Chattanooga.

Local service station owner Ernest Holmes Sr. heard about the accident and, along with nine other men, spent the next eight hours working to recover the car.

Understandably thinking there had to be a better way, he then enlisted the help of two friends – L.C. Decker and Elmer Gross – and together the team set about building a wrecker.

As with many inventions, the first attempt proved less than successful. An improved design – which included outriggers to stabilize the vehicle the wrecker was attached to – succeeded. Now, besides providing his garage service to anyone who drove up, Holmes could go out and help people when and where they needed him.

2. Holmes eventually patented the design and sold the “Holmes Wreckers” to other garages, not only creating a business for himself but an industry that is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary. His concept of going to people, where and when they are in trouble, created a 24 hour a day, seven day a week, 365 day a year industry that boasts 30 minute response time for everything from: “roadside assistance, flat bed towing, unlock car door solutions, private property towing, auto battery assistance, auto mechanic services, out of gas towing or jump start battery options.”

3. Holmes’ died in 1945 and the family held the business until 1973. It eventually became part of Miller Industries, the largest manufacturer of towing and recovery vehicles in the world.

More Than The Story of a Truck

4. These stories and more about the towing industry and the Holmes family are displayed at the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum, located appropriately in Chattanooga. Understanding an industry is more than equipment and more than a function, the museum also focuses on the heart of the industry – its drivers.

5. In the museum’s Hall of Fame almost 300 men and women are recognized for, among other things, more than 20 years in the industry and for being ‘outstanding’ people.

A more sobering marker, and one that drives home the risks involved in the industry, is the Wall of the Fallen memorial, honoring those killed in the line of duty.

It is said most people don’t think about tow trucks, until they are in trouble. As the industry nears 100 years of service to the nation, perhaps it is time to consider its history and the people who have made it.

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