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Emergency lighting should only be used if you are creating an unusual traffic hazard. When doing so, then flashing amber lights and or flashing traffic directional arrows might be needed to secure your workspace. If you need to use white work lights, make sure they are adjusted properly to avoid blinding approaching traffic. Use only the lighting that is necessary in order to minimize the distraction to motorists.

Exit the truck on the side that’s away from traffic. If you must exit the traffic side, check your sideview mirror and look over your shoulder before opening the door. Open the driver’s door slightly and look directly at traffic before exiting. Exit quickly and move immediately to the non-traffic side.


Whenever possible you want to create a lateral buffer zone between your incident scene

and live traffic with cones or flares when it is safe to do so. This buffer zone will provide some space for the tow truck operator to operate on the traffic side of the truck and not be in the live traffic lane. But avoid working the traffic side of the truck whenever possible. Always keep in mind that traffic cones do not prevent vehicles from accidentally entering your work space, so work as much as possible on the non-traffic side of the incident. If a disabled vehicle is too close to the live traffic, is moving it an option? Vehicles with a flat tire may be a candidate to drive a short distance to move it further away from the live traffic.


Traffic cones and road flares are temporary traffic control devices that are commonly carried on tow trucks. Some states require tow trucks to carry these devices. If you carry them you should be properly trained in their use (note sidebar). Traffic cones are often the quickest and easiest to deploy, but on most tow trucks you will be limited in the quantity you can carry due to the storage space they require. For most incidents where a tow truck operator would deploy cones, six should be sufficient. The MUTCD specifies 28-inch tall cones with two retro-reflective bands on them for night time use and or traffic speeds in excess of 45 mph. Placement of cones will vary based on many variables such as the location of the incident, speed of traffic, and visibility.


Road flares are effective but may pose a fire hazard. Fuel leaks, flammable cargo on the roadway, and high fire-hazard areas are examples where road flares are not safe to use. Electronic flare devices are available that do not pose a fire hazard. Road flares would be deployed in the same pattern as cones would be. Advance warning signs are not

20 • November 2021 |