Tactics for Commercial Vehicle Extrication – Part 1

Mike Daley talks about the many challenges a responder faces at incidents involving large vehicles. He also identifies some of the specialized equipment used at these events.


The responsibility of today’s emergency responder continues to expand into many facets of technical rescue. Within this area is an increase in incidents that are significantly more complex in nature. This can certainly be the case when there is a mixture of heavy vehicles that share our nation’s roads and highways with passenger vehicles. These extrication scenes can produce scenarios that will test both the capabilities of the responders and the equipment and skills in their “toolbox” (photo 1). Preparation and familiarization are two keys for overall success at these scenes.

This area of expertise requires a bit more capability than just bending and ripping metal; many times these incidents require a strong background in heavy lifting. Knowing the lifting capabilities of your equipment and having resources at your disposal that you can call upon to move heavy loads are vital to have. However, the crew cannot sit idly by while waiting for these resources to arrive; the crew must be capable of moving these objects with the equipment that is on the arriving apparatus. Many rescue companies boast of being able to handle these emergencies, but fall short in the logistics department. For example, if your department is responsible for handling an emergency of this nature, here is a list of a few critical pieces of equipment (besides the hydraulic extrication tools) that are vital to have:

Wire Rope Cables and Chokers – Wire should be inspected regularly and be free of any kinks, broken strands or fatigued bends in them. They should also have loops built into each end.

Chains and Shackles – Alloy lifting chain, grade 8 (80) or 10 (100) with marking tag in place should be carried (photo 2). Chains should not have any stretch points, twisted links or nicks in the links.

Nylon & Polyester Slings – Seamless slings with ID tags, along with corner protection pieces, will be instrumental on the extrication scene.

Rigging Rope and Rigging Hardware – Many companies “retire” older life safety rope and hardware and assign the usage for heavy rigging. Be sure not to inter-mix these with true-life safety usage equipment.

The Commercial Vehicle Industry

No matter what the product, odds are very good that it got to the shelves at the store via a commercial vehicle. In fact, national statistics show that nearly 70% of commercial freight activity involves transport by truck. With this much activity, so comes the increased potential of serious accidents involving these vehicles. There are more than 4,000 accidents involving these vehicles every year, nationwide. These accidents result in more than 90,000 injuries per year, and more than 98% of these accidents result in a fatality. Conversely, only 16% of these incidents are found to be the fault of the truck driver.

These commercial vehicles can be broken down by class. There are 8 classes, based upon gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle. For our use, it is easier to keep them broken into three broad categories:

Light Duty: Commercial vehicles weighing between 6,000 – 14,000 pounds GVWR

Medium Duty: Commercial vehicles weighing between 14,001 – 26,000 pounds GVWR (photo 3)

Heavy Duty: Commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds GVWR (photo 4)

There are very little similarities between each truck, as many of them are custom-built for usage as ordered. For example, suspension systems will vary from vehicle to vehicle. While spring suspension systems are considered to be the standard in the industry, there are many different types of systems, including cushion suspension system, Camelback spring systems, air bag systems, and combination spring/air bag systems. They all have one major point to consider, no matter the type of system: each suspension system must be secured by chains to the vehicle, to limit the amount of travel the axles will move when the vehicle is displaced.

Vehicle Hazards

This content continues onto the next page...