This year in Middleton, Delaware a man was killed after a tow hook came through the windshield of his tractor-trailer as he was trying to exit a muddy field. The strap broke off of the grain hopper he was trying to tow, striking and killing him.
Another documented incident involved a man trying to pull a tractor out of a field with a conventional chain. A cotter pin snapped, and the clevis (fastener) shot through the back of the windshield. It struck the driver in the arm, bounced off of expensive equipment in the cab and then flew through the windshield. The driver’s arm is permanently injured and both of the tractors were severely damaged.
In a similar case, local tragedy prompted the founders of Safe-T-Pull to reevaluate standard towing practices. A farmer, performing everyday tasks, was towing equipment on his farmstead. In the process, a chain snapped. The result: the farmer was struck with the chain and beheaded, and the small farming community that surrounded him and his family was devastated. In response, Safe-T-Pull founders invented a more efficient way to pull trucks without the risk of a cord recoiling and crashing through tractor or truck cabs.
Towing and pulling has long been a mainstay in any industry that utilizes heavy equipment. With the recent oil and gas boom, specifically in the Bakken, heavy equipment has flooded the region. Infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, was not prepared for the drastic increases in drilling traffic, forcing heavy equipment to be carried across harsh terrain. In addition, the nature of oil and gas exploration requires heavy machinery to be moved into unsavory areas where roads will not go. For example, in wet fields, equipment is often stuck, causing loss of time, money, and in dire situations, safety.
The industry standard has always been to tow with ropes and chains, but towing heavy machinery in this way can cause a myriad of issues. For example, ropes and chains do not adequately bind the towing vehicle to the towed object because the rope or chain becomes slack as the vehicles speed up and slow down causing immense pressure on the frames of both vehicles and also on the chains and ropes themselves. With chains and ropes, backing up is not a possibility when two vehicles are connected to one another, resulting in a lack of mobility. Most importantly, safety is compromised because the ropes and chains have been known to fail and break under the pressure endured by towing heavy equipment. In extreme situations, chain failures have resulted in injury of workers and even death.
North Dakota currently ranks number one in workplace fatalities in the country. It averages 12.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Over half of North Dakota’s workplace fatalities since 2010 are in oil and gas occupations. The oil and gas industry has been a miracle for North Dakota’s economy and the industry is only growing. Companies know best that proper safety equals time and dollars saved. According to OSHA, businesses spend $170 billion on work related injuries and illnesses. Will it take an industry-related tragedy to prompt safer towing methods?
Safe-T-Pull, a North Dakota based business, is leading the charge in redefining the industry standard for towing, especially for heavy vehicles. Safe-T-Pull developed an easy-to-use towing system that is adaptable to almost any large vehicle and can withstand loads of up to 160,000 pounds. Safe-T-Pull began in the 90s in Park River, North Dakota. Locally founded, they have been dedicated to solving the towing issue facing the agricultural industry in the state and hope to spread their safe and innovative towing product to the oil and gas sector.
How does the Safe-T-Pull work? Jacob Kringstad, the General Manager stated, “It’s basically a hydraulically operated tow bar that can mount onto any tractor. It would hook up to a pay loader or bulldozer.” He added, “You have hitches on your truck where the existing tow would normally go. Our hitch slides onto them. The bar allows you to move forward and backward and evenly distributes the pulling stress from the frames of both vehicles. With Safe-T-Pull you can unhook without anyone getting out of the cab, allowing you to move trucks on-the-go.” This product comes in a variety of models and can be suited to almost any need in the towing sector.
With the coming winter, a product like Safe-T-Pull will be in high demand. For example, The Bakken Oilfield Fail of the Day is a popular industry Facebook page, and almost weekly, the ‘fail’ features a large truck stuck in the mud or a hasty tow hook creation. Many trucks in the Bakken are hauling hazardous chemicals or heavy supplies. So it is critical for all companies that engage in any form of towing to prepare sooner rather than later.