The RAC’s roadside breakdown vans are being fitted with a clever new device that effectively gives them the recovery capabilities of a flatbed truck.
Essentially comprising a folding trailer and a winch system, the so-called 'All-Wheels-Up' equipment removes the need for a vehicle’s wheels to be on the ground while it is being towed. This means vans can now safely tow electric, hybrid and four-wheel-drive vehicles without calling out a second vehicle The system will also allow vans to move vehicles that would otherwise be impossible to tow, such as those with multiple flat tyres, handbrake problems or transmission faults.
According to the RAC, the system can deploy in a “fraction of the time it would normally take a standard recovery truck to arrive”, and the organisation says the new equipment will “dramatically” cut the time taken to get stricken vehicles to a garage.
RAC technical director Kate Burn said: “Our patrols’ first priority, after ensuring the safety of the driver and their passengers, is to try to carry out a permanent or temporary vehicle fix at the roadside – this delivers the best outcome for drivers and means that in the vast majority of cases they can soon be on their way again.
“But there are times when, due to the nature of the problem with the vehicle, a roadside fix is impossible. And, as a result of the rise in the number of crossovers, SUVs, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles on our roads, there has also been an increase in instances where our patrols can’t recover a vehicle using our existing trailer. In both scenarios, our customers previously had to wait for a recovery truck to arrive.
“This one piece of kit has the potential to transform the service RAC patrols deliver to members – they can now recover more vehicles than ever from a standard patrol van, reducing waits at the roadside.”
RAC patrol Martin Payn, who works in Somerset and Dorset and regularly uses the new equipment, said: “In the rural parts of the country I cover, I see a lot of breakdowns involving SUVs and 4x4s. In the past, on the occasions where I couldn’t fix their vehicle, customers always had to wait for a recovery truck – which was frustrating for them, and for me.
“This new kit has been very well received by customers who have seen it in action, with many remarking how clever and compact the design is. There are times when customers are fully expecting to have to wait for a recovery truck, and they are genuinely surprised and then very impressed that I’ve now got the ability to recover them myself, with my van.”