Vehicle Recovery - General Recovery

General Recovery

There are many types of organisations that carry out the recovery of disabled vehicles; however, they can be divided into two distinct areas: Recovery Operators (who undertake the recovery) and Motoring Organisations.

Motoring organisations—or as they are often known, 'The Clubs'—are organisations to which the vehicle's driver will belong. They may have made a conscious effort to do this, or they may have got the membership with their new vehicle, through a company scheme, or purchased with an insurance policy.

In the event that a member of the public does not have a "club" membership, the police or Highways Agency can arrange recovery of the vehicle at what is called an "Owner's Request" and they will arrange for help to attend.

Recovery operators are the people who undertake the recovery. They are known by different names around the world, including 'patrols,' 'tow men' and 'wrecker drivers'. Some are the people used by the motoring organisations to rescue their members. A small percentage will be on the payroll of the motoring organisation and will work exclusively for them. Examples are the patrols used by the AA, RAC and Mondial in the UK. Most recovery operators, however, work for privately owned companies or are individuals. They can do large volumes of work for some of the motoring organisations, but they will normally also do work for the public. In Europe, the percentage of this 'private' work is low due to the high profiles of the motoring organisations. Of course some will never do work for the motoring organisations, preferring to work just for their own customers. In the USA, motoring organisations are still growing.

Although there have always been auto repair shops and garages who towed or recovered any vehicles, it is only really in the last fifty years that vehicle recovery has become an industry distinct from the auto repair trade. Many are still involved in workshop repairs, but an increasing number, if they cannot repair the vehicle by the roadside, will transport it to another repairer. Although there are some large organisations operating hundreds of recovery vehicles, most are family businesses operating typically between 10 to 50 vehicles. Lastly there are operators like Highway Authorities and other government bodies, operators of local recovery schemes (contra flows, etc.) and large fleet operators who recover their own vehicles.

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