Autoduel QuarterlyVolume 3Issue 3

Tow Trucks in CAR WARS

by Kurt Hoglund
Tow trucks are multi-purpose pieces of equipment, able to haul a large load that is not directly on their chassis. They are most frequently used as search and rescue vehicles since they have an overland capability and, usually, general equipment that is handy in many tough situations. But the tow truck of 2035 must also be able to defend itself and its customers from perturbed duellists and gangs looking for easy prey. The men who operate these vehicles must be the highest calibre of driver, be able to right and tow vehicles, protect their high-paying customers, and get those customers safely to a shop for repairs. In most cases a tow truck operator is a trucker who has a mechanic's background.

Tow truck operators are the most respected of all road drivers, since everyone will have to use them at one time or another. There are very few times that you would really want to fire on a tow truck, and you should be very wary of these times. Trying to continue a duel while your opponent is being towed away is considered very bad form. It is also likely to be fatal, since tow trucks are heavily armed and armored, and tow-truckers are as competent as any other Brotherhood members, and tend to be very protective of their customers.

Operating tow trucks can be both the most rewarding and most hazardous of all vehicular operations, since it entails going into a high combat incident area, getting to your high paying customer, and then getting you, your customer, and as much of your equipment as possible out again. And it seems so simple, too. All you have to do is pull up to the wounded vehicle, spend a few minutes attaching a winch cable to the front or rear armor, and then off you go. But it's never as easy as it looks ...

The most expensive, time consuming, and financially rewarding aspect of tow-trucking is not towing your everyday car or pickup. It is, instead, at the other end of the income bracket -- the one that includes buses and tractor-trailer rigs. To get a rig back on the road is a time-consuming job that requires skill, a good winch, and a lot of equipment. The operator's job is to get them upright and back on the road again. For this service, a towing service will probably ask for 10-20% of the vehicles' weight in dollars.

Once your customer is back on the road, there is a possibility that he or she may need a tow to your fine establishment of refit and repair. And, of course, your well-meaning and well-paying customer will inquire as to your rates for towing his endangered vehicle to your previously-mentioned establishment. Most garages charge anywhere from $3-7/mile. This rate does not usually include the following: hazard pay for towing in extremely dangerous areas, damage done to the tow truck in defense of his vehicle, equipment expended in the line of duty, and expended ammo used to defend his vehicle. All this and more is tacked onto the bill. (Customers of tow-truckers should make sure that the duel is truly over before calling for help. It can be very expensive, otherwise.)

The care and upkeep of equipment is the most important part of a tow truck operation. Equipment permanently installed on a tow truck can be repaired at +20% of the normal repair cost. Portashops, flashing lights, etc., if damaged in combat, must be fully replaced: No repair is possible. Upkeep of equipment runs to 1% of cost after every use.

To get started in the world of towing, a character must have at least base level skill in the following -- Trucker, Gunner, and Mechanic .

The tow-trucking community is very close knit, and its methods of accepting and instructing others clearly demonstrates this. First, tow-truckers usually run an apprentice system. An applicant must be approved by the boss of the hiring company or the local manager of UNITT (the independent tow-trucker's association) as an apprentice for a period of not less than six months. The apprentice is assigned to a tow-trucker of some experience so that he may learn the trade and how to handle various situations. An apprentice must demonstrate knowledge of the use and care of equipment. how to handle customers, and a general coolness in road combat situations. Salaries of apprentices run between $10,000-15,000 per year, not including hazard pay bonuses.

After the apprentice period is over, a company will pick up the apprentice and offer him a job with a stock tow truck. Some apprentices have saved enough money to go independent right away, but that's very rare. The higher an apprentice's skill, the better the job offer, which can range from $25,000 to $50,000 per year and a stock tow truck of any size from "small vehicles only'' to the very large rig- or bus- capable tow trucks. The former apprentice is given a Journeyman title and will be added to a regular shift rotation of his company. The outfit will take care of repairs and ammo, but the Journeyman must pay off the truck in 2-5 years, depending on the individual contract.

If a Journeyman has completed his contract and paid off the truck, then he will own it and is responsible for all repairs. At this point the Journeyman is an independent operator who can sign term contracts with a towing company or start out on his own as an independent tow truck operator. The only obligation that this tow truck operator would have is to train apprentices as they are assigned by the local tow truck operator's board or regional UNITT headquarters.

UNITT is the organization that represents tow truck operators in the US and Canada. The acronym stands for Union of Nationwide Independent Tow Truckers. Dues for this organization run $150/year, with local meetings held annually. UNITT also supplies a list of who gets discounts, how much, and why. This "Green Book" is updated monthly. There is also a second monthly publication called the "Black Book" which gives a list of those not in good standing with UNITT and why. People who help tow-truckers and stand with them in battles, or those who have provided an unrepayable service to a tow-trucker can get into the "Green Book." Anyone who has unlawfully killed a tow-trucker or has proved themselves to be more than a pain in day-to-day operations will be listed in the "Black Book" and may be refused service by UNITT operators.

Tow-truckers of any sort, but especially UNITT members, are greatly respected for their ability to get a customer out of a tight spot and stick with him until the bitter end. This reputation is well-known among the trucking Brotherhood. Many trucking organisations and amateur "Brotherhood" publications put out a list of tow-truckers who are legitimate operators and the maximum tow weight that each can handle.

The AADA puts out local, regional, and nationwide tow truck lists of all UNITT members and their fees. Most AADA members can get a small discount. Anyone of Ace status or higher can get at least a 10% discount, mainly because the local tow-truckers appreciate the contribution that the Ace has made to their profession.

Most non-trike equipped cycle gangs don't really care about tow-truckers and therefore feel free to abuse tow-truckers and, especially, UNITT members whenever and wherever possible.

Truck Construction

Tow truck construction should be based on the maximum possible weight that you would want to tow with a vehicle. After determining this you should then find out which Truck Power Plant will best suit your needs, according to its maximum rig weight. You should then look to see which winch or set of winches will give you an equal or greater weight capacity. Do you plan on righting vehicles? If so, then you must get a three-axle drive system and differential locks, so that when you attach the winch and start winching, it is the rescuee who moves and not the rescuer. Add to this a driver position, a possible gunner position, room for lights, room for the righting shops or regular portashops, and any other miscellaneous gear, and add them up. All you need now is a chassis, armor, and a weapon or two and you have one very expensive tow truck. Good luck!

Righting Vehicles

The righting of oversized vehicles is now possible with winch-equipped tow trucks. The required equipment for righting is: 1) One righting portashop box for every 10 feet, or fraction thereof, of vehicle that needs righting, and 2) a winch that has a maximum load capacity equal to or greater than the load to be righted.

The time required for righting is a base 15 minutes plus an additional 5 minutes for every 5 feet over 10 feet of vehicle that is being righted. The operator of the tow truck can use either Trucker skill or Mechanic skill, which- ever is higher. Then he rolls on the Mechanic Repair Chart -- a successful roll meaning a completed job without any foul-ups. Difficulty is as follows:

Trivial -- Righting a motorcycle.
Easy -- Righting a car, trike, pickup, or van.
Medium -- Righting a 10-wheeled truck or bus.
Hard -- Righting a 30-foot vehicle.
Very hard -- Righting a 40-foot vehicle.

For each point the roll is missed by, the side the vehicle is being righted to will take 1d6-4 points of damage. Tires take damage before the underbody is affected.

Tankers and flatbeds take an additional 20 minutes to right because of their construction.


Once the disabled vehicle is righted, it must be attached to the tow truck. This only takes 5 minutes, and is treated like an "Easy" mechanic's job. A vehicle can be towed from either the front or back, but there must be some intact armor on the side the tow truck hooks up to. If there's no intact armor on either the front or back of the vehicle, the tow truck operator must first patch on at least one point (as per the Mechanic rules).

A towed vehicle is treated exactly like a trailer for movement purposes. If the supporting tires on the towed vehicle (the ones touching the ground) are shot out, the towing vehicle takes a D4 hazard immediately and has its HC reduced by 3 for as long as it continues to drag the other vehicle around.

The weapons of the towed vehicle cannot be controlled from the cab of the towing vehicle. To use the towed vehicle's weapons in combat, somebody must be in the towed vehicle -- not exactly a safe spot!

Sample Vehicles

The Terminus Tow Truck Line presents its smallest unit, The Road Helper. The Road Helper is designed for light suburban work and is not intended for journeys into dangerous areas. But, if it happens that your customer needs to have his vehicle protected from certain undesirable elements, the Road Helper packs a universally turreted Vulcan to discourage such activity.

Road Helper -- Pickup, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, small truck power plant, three-axle drive, three differential locks, 6 solid tires, driver, VMG in universal turret, improved fire ext., targeting computer, derrick, medium winch, 2 righting portashops, tool kit, searchlight, 9 traffic cones. Fireproof armor: F25, R20, L20, B15, U10, T16. Cargo capacity: 3 spaces, 5 lbs. Righting capability: Any vehicle up to 20' long, 8,000 Lbs. Towing capacity: 7,205 Lbs. Accel. 2.5 up to 25 mph, 5 thereafter, HC 2, 7,795 Lbs., $39,309.

Note: Only the power plant, driver, weapon, and fire ext. are in the cab (and count against cab spaces) -- the remaining equipment is in the cargo area. The small truck power plant is not usually allowed in a pickup, but the loss of acceleration (not to mention all the valuable weapon space taken up by this giant plant) is fair compensation.

Do you need to go into a high-combat area to get to your well-paying customers? What you need is the Terminus Guiding Light, one of our midsized tow trucks made to deal severely with all sorts of riff-raff. For long range accuracy, we have installed a laser in a universal turret and given it a laser battery for endurance. And at close range, there's plenty of additional firepower! Forget those scavengers and duellists who think the battle's still on -- blow them away and bring back your prize with the Guiding Light!

Guiding Light cab -- Std. cab-over, x-hvy. chassis, regular truck power plant, three-axle drive, 3 differential locks, 10 solid truck tires, driver, gunner, laser in universal turret, laser battery, 2 hi-res computers. Fireproof armor: F40 (with ramplate), R40, L40, U30, T35, B5.

Guiding Light trailer -- 15' van trailer, 2 HDFTs (one R, one L), 2 autocannons (one R, one L), HDSS with extra magazine back, derrick, large winch, 3 righting portashops, Portable Shop, 2 flashing lights, 10 traffic cones, searchlight, auto battery. Fireproof Armor: F15, R35, L35, U20, T25, B20; 6 ten-point wheelguards.

Cab-trailer combo -- Cargo capacity: 3 spaces, 60 Lbs. in cab; 1 space, 10 Lbs. in trailer. Righting capability: Any vehicle up to 30' long, 25,000 Lbs. Towing capacity: 19,430 Lbs. Accel.: 2.5 up to 25 mph, 5 thereafter, HC 1, 20,570 Lbs., $145,350.

Tow Truck Accessories

Item Cost Weight Space DP
Auto Battery 50 0 0 2
Dayglo Coat 30 0 0 -
Derrick 2,500 200 2 8
Differential Lock 1,000 0 0 -
Righting Portashop (per box) 2,500 65 1 3
Three-Axle Drive +50% body - 0 -
Traffic Cones 5 1 0 1
Two Flashing Lights 100 20 1 2
Small 500 100 1 3
Medium 2,000 150 2 4
Large 5,000 200 3 5
Super 15,000 250 4 7
Winch Cable 300 50 0 10

Auto Battery -- Small battery used to put a 10-mile charge on a vehicle's power plant. Transfer takes 5 minutes. Battery can be recharged in 5 minutes for $5 at any power station.

Dayglo Coat -- Night time safety coat. Used to give the wearer better reflectivity at night. Chances of being accidentally hit by a vehicle or gunfire are reduced -- hut wearer is +2 to be hit on purpose.

Derrick -- Used with a winch to lift the near end of a towed vehicle up off the ground. When this occurs the towed vehicle is placed square with the towing vehicle (end-to-end). A derrick may be targeted at -4.

Differential Lock -- A differential lock is used to lock the wheels of a vehicle that is righting another vehicle. One differential lock is required for each "axle" pair. Destroyed only when both wheels on an "axle" are destroyed.

Righting Portashop -- One Righting

Portashop is necessary for every 10 feet of vehicle. or fraction thereof. to be righted.

Three-Axle Drive -- This is an improvement to a chassis of a tow truck which will be attempting righting operations. Vehicles without this improvement may not attempt to right vehicles -- their chassis will fail if it is attempted. Three-axle drive gives a tow truck the equivalent of Off-Road handling capability. A tow truck with three-axle drive has HC 1 on or off-road.

Traffic Cones -- Dayglo-coated cones for road traffic direction. Take no damage from collisions or being run over. Targeted at -8. Cones are knocked away when hit by gunfire, and are practically indestructible (why bother?).

Two Flashing Lights -- Battery-operated safety lights. Targeted at -6. -4 at night.

Winches -- Winches are mechanisms used to pull large weights or secure vehicles to tow trucks. Targetable at -6.

Type Maximum load (lbs.)
Small 4,000
Medium 8,000
Large 25,000
Super 40,000

Winch Cable -- Targeted at -8. a cable can only be hit by area effect weapons: they do half damage.

Issue 3/3 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index