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Using Heavy Duty Tow Straps For Haul Truck and Excavators

By: Dawnerz

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Time to read 12 min

Have you ever found yourself battling with an excavator or dump truck stuck in deep mud or soft soil? It can feel like an insurmountable challenge, leaving you frustrated and anxious about downtime and productivity loss. 


Everyone has their own approach to handling such situations, but this blog will outline our recommended methods utilizing heavy duty tow straps.

Our Tips - Preventing Equipment from Getting Stuck

When working with heavy equipment in muddy or soft soil conditions, it's crucial to take preventive measures to avoid getting stuck. By following these tips, you can minimize downtime and maximize productivity

Inspect your job site: 

Before starting work, carefully inspect your job site and identify areas with sticky soil or mud. Mark off these areas to prevent your equipment from getting stuck.

Use tracked excavators and compact track loaders

Whenever possible, opt for tracked excavators and compact track loaders instead of wheeled equipment. These machines distribute weight more evenly, reducing the risk of sinking into soft soil or mud.

Clean your equipment regularly: 

Regularly cleaning your equipment is essential for maintaining good traction in wet conditions. Remove any mud, debris, or other substances that may compromise the grip of your machinery.

Essential Recovery Tools for Getting Unstuck

When dealing with heavy machinery stuck in muddy or soft soil, having the right recovery tools can make all the difference. These tools should be designed to withstand the heavy loads and forces involved in towing machinery. Here are some essential recovery tools that you should have readily available on your job site:

Heavy Duty Tow Straps

Reliable and durable heavy duty tow straps are crucial tools for getting your excavator unstuck. Look for specialist heavy duty tow straps that are designed for such applications. It should have a high tensile strength and be able to handle the weight of your machinery without pushing its limits too close to its minimum breaking strength. If you’re working in wet and hostile environments, make sure the strap material is treated to provide adequate resistance to wear and tear, abrasion, resistant to UV light, and can operate effectively when wet. 


Traction Boards

Traction boards are essential tools providing added traction for vehicles stuck in challenging terrains like sand, snow, mud, and more. These boards offer a reliable solution to help vehicles regain traction and get unstuck in various scenarios. 


Here are some key points about using traction boards


Functionality:

Traction boards work by providing a surface for the vehicle's tires to grip onto, allowing them to move forward and escape from being stuck. Placing the boards under the spinning tires and slowly applying the throttle can help the vehicle gain traction and maneuver to safer ground.


Versatility:

Traction boards are versatile tools that can be used for a wide range of vehicles, from regular cars to body-on-frame overlanders. They come in rigid or flexible designs, making them suitable for different recovery situations and terrains.


Compact and Portable:

Traction boards are compact and easy to transport, allowing users to carry them conveniently in their vehicles. Their compact dimensions make them practical for off-road adventures and emergencies where traction assistance is needed.


Additional Tips:

When using traction boards, it is important to ensure that the small, angled cleats face the vehicle's tires for optimal traction. Also, paying attention to the "This Side Up" markings to face the direction of movement is crucial for effective use. Airing down the tires can further enhance traction by increasing the tire's footprint and spreading the vehicle's weight over a larger surface area.

Be careful in the selection of the material if you plan on using them with a tracked vehicle

Steel Shackles

When towing heavy-duty vehicles, using quality shackles is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, high-quality shackles are designed to withstand the immense forces and stresses involved in towing heavy loads, ensuring they do not fail under pressure. This added strength and durability provide a crucial safety factor, preventing accidents and damage that could result from using inferior or substandard shackles. 


Secondly, quality shackles help ensure a secure connection between the tow strap and the vehicle being towed. A secure connection is essential to prevent the strap from coming loose during towing, which could lead to dangerous situations, accidents, or damage to the vehicles involved. 


By investing in quality shackles, you not only enhance safety but also protect your vehicles and equipment, making towing operations more reliable and efficient

Crosby Steel Shackles

Shackle Safety Precautions

The safety standards for shackles used on heavy-duty vehicles include several key guidelines:


Working Load Limit (WLL): 

It is crucial not to exceed the working load limit specified for the shackles. This limit indicates the maximum weight the shackle can safely handle without risking failure or accidents.


Avoid Shock Loading: 

Shackles should not be subjected to sudden or abrupt loads, known as shock loading, as this can lead to failures and accidents. It is essential to apply loads gradually and consistently.


Proper Loading Orientation: 

The load should be applied in line with the shackle to ensure optimal strength and safety. Side loading should be avoided, especially with "D" shaped shackles, as they are designed for in-line tension.


Inspection and Maintenance: 

Regularly inspect shackles for wear, deformation, and damage before each use. Any signs of wear, corrosion, or deformation should prompt immediate replacement to maintain safety standards.


Correct Installation: 

Ensure that shackles are properly installed, with pins securely engaged and tightened. Following manufacturer guidelines for installation and maintenance is crucial for safe usage.

Our Tips - Digging Out and Providing Traction

If your equipment is still stuck in mud or soft soil, there are steps you can take to improve its chances of getting unstuck.

Dig out the mud:  

Use a shovel or another appropriate digging tool to remove as much mud as possible from around the tires or tracks of the excavator. This will help reduce the suction that's holding the equipment in place and make it easier to free.

Reduce tire pressure:  

Reducing tire pressure can enhance traction when stuck in wet, deep mud, or sand by increasing the tire's footprint, spreading the vehicle's weight over a larger surface area for improved grip and traction.

Rubber tracks:  

For tracked vehicles operating in wet conditions, opting for rubber traction pads can help reduce the risk of getting stuck by enhancing traction and grip on slippery surfaces, minimizing the likelihood of becoming stuck in wet conditions.

Use boards for traction:  

Place boards or planks behind the wheels or tracks of the excavator. These boards will provide extra traction for the machinery, allowing it to gain better leverage and grip as it tries to move. Make sure the boards are sturdy and securely placed to avoid any accidents.


By combining the digging technique with the use of traction boards, reducing tire pressure, and utilizing rubber tracks, you can significantly increase the effectiveness of the recovery process. These methods, when used in conjunction with  heavy duty tow straps, can greatly improve the likelihood of successfully extracting the stuck excavator.

Recovery Techniques

Proper connection when using heavy duty tow straps and shackles is crucial for safe and effective towing operations. Many individuals connect the straps to the boom of the excavator, which is not the optimal solution. When the boom or arm moves, the strap is not on a horizontal plane, leading to changes in direction. This misalignment can have significant consequences as it affects the stress position of the strap and loop eyes, potentially causing failures during towing operations.


Excavator pulling a haul truck

WARNING


Attaching a tow strap to the bucket or boom of an excavator will increase the risk of your strap failing. As the boom angle changes, it applies an uneven distribution of force on the towing strap and the loop ends. As the material stretches it will cause the strap to become weaker, potentially failing during recovery operations

Single Strap Recovery

To ensure safety and prevent failures, it is essential to connect heavy duty tow straps and shackles to rigid parts of the frame, chassis, or specific towing connection points. By attaching the straps and shackles to stable and fixed components of the vehicle, such as the frame or designated towing points, the risk of misalignment and stress concentration is minimized. This proper connection method helps maintain a secure and stable towing setup, reducing the chances of accidents, damage, or failures during the towing process.


When an heavy vehicle or machine us stuck, and one side of the vehicle is significantly deeper or more buried than the other, it is crucial to adjust the towing strategy accordingly. Instead of connecting the tow strap in a central position, it is recommended to attach the tow strap to the side of the vehicle that is buried deeper. By doing so, you can apply more force to the side that requires additional assistance to level the vehicle during the recovery process.


After successfully leveling the vehicle by pulling from the deeper side, it is important to then relocate the tow strap and shackle to a central position before proceeding with the recovery operation. This adjustment ensures a more balanced and stable towing setup, allowing for a safer and more effective recovery process. By initially targeting the deeper side for assistance and later transitioning to a central connection, you can optimize the towing effort and enhance the chances of successfully recovering the stuck excavator.

Haul Trucks In a Single Line Tow

Double Strap Recovery

Another alternative for extracting a stuck vehicle involves using two heavy duty tow straps in a specific configuration. One tow strap is utilized as a bridle, forming a V-shape, and connecting both the left and right sides of the vehicle. This setup allows for distributing the pulling forces more evenly across the vehicle, especially when one side is significantly deeper or more stuck than the other. The second tow strap is then employed for a straight-line pull, providing the necessary force to extract the vehicle effectively.


By using this bridle configuration with two tow straps, it becomes possible to adjust the pulling forces based on the specific conditions of the stuck vehicle. This method offers a versatile and adaptable approach to recovery, allowing for a more controlled and efficient extraction process. The combination of the V-shaped bridle and straight-line pull enhances the effectiveness of the towing operation, ensuring a safer and more successful recovery of the stuck vehicle.


It’s important to note that when utilizing more than one tow strap, you need to consider additional shackles, and always recalculate the WLL of the attachments. Any ‘weak’ link in the recovery setup can harm the overall success.

Haul trucks in a bridle recovery tow

Our Tips - Slow and Steady Towing

When it comes to towing a stuck excavator or other heavy duty machinery, the key is to proceed slowly and steadily. By following this approach, you can maximize the effectiveness of your recovery equipment and ensure a successful extraction.

Pulling too quickly or at an angle can hinder the process and potentially cause further damage. By maintaining a straight line and controlled speed, you will have better control over the towing operation, minimizing the risk of complications.

Post-Recovery Inspection

Once you have successfully extracted your equipment using the heavy duty tow straps or other excavator recovery equipment, it is crucial to conduct a thorough post-recovery inspection. This ensures that any damage incurred during the towing process is identified and addressed promptly.


Start by inspecting key components such as lights, hoses, brake lines, and exhaust systems. Look for any signs of damage or wear that may have occurred while freeing your equipment from the mud or soft soil.

External Checks:

Ensure there is no external damage or loose parts, paying particular attention to tires, hoses, and pipes.


Verify that the wheels are unobstructed and can move freely.


Check for any visible leaks and address them promptly.


Confirm the cleanliness and integrity of the backup camera and mirrors.


Ensure the steering joint lock is disengaged for proper operation.


Check that the engine hood, underbody skid plates, and protective plates are securely closed.


Volvo Excavator operating in a quarry

Internal Checks:

Verify that all control lights illuminate and gauges display accurate readings.


Confirm the functionality of safety features like mirrors, cameras, seatbelts, and safety levers.


Ensure the retarder system is operational for safe deceleration.


Check the steering system for any play or unusual noises.


Test the service brake to ensure normal brake pressure in both circuits.


Check the parking brake's ability to hold the machine stationary with throttle application up to 1,000 rpm (16.7 r/s).


Volvo Excavator Cab Inspections

Our Tips - Post Inspection and Cleaning

By conducting a comprehensive post-recovery inspection and cleaning process, you can address any potential damage, prolong the lifespan of your equipment, and ensure its reliable performance for future tasks.

Remove any mud, dirt, or debris from the exterior of your equipment using appropriate cleaning methods and tools.

Ensure that recovery tools, such as the heavy duty tow strap , are free from dirt or other contaminants. Clean and dry them thoroughly.

Consider using a pressure washer to effectively remove stubborn grime from your equipment's undercarriage, tracks, and tires. 

Inspect and clean the tow attachment points as well to prevent any debris from interfering with future towing operations.

Professional Inspection and Maintenance

Regular inspection and maintenance are essential to keep your excavator in top condition. By bringing your equipment to a professional service provider, you can ensure that any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly. Professional inspections can help detect problems early on, preventing costly breakdowns and ensuring the smooth operation of your machinery.


During a professional inspection, trained technicians will thoroughly examine your excavator, including its mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical components, to ensure everything is functioning optimally. They will assess the overall condition of the equipment and identify any signs of wear and tear or potential malfunctions.


If your heavy duty tow straps have been used during a recent extraction, it is crucial to have it inspected by professionals who specialize in heavy equipment recovery. They will check for any signs of damage or degradation that may affect the strap's strength and reliability. It is imperative to replace any worn-out or compromised recovery straps to maintain safe and efficient recovery operations.

The Benefits of Professional Inspection and Maintenance

There are several benefits to seeking professional inspection and maintenance services for your excavator:


Expertise: 

Professional service providers have extensive knowledge and experience in excavator maintenance. They understand the intricate workings of the machinery and are well-equipped to handle any repair or maintenance tasks that may arise.


Preventive Maintenance: 

Regular inspections can help identify potential issues before they become major problems. By addressing these issues early on, you can prevent costly breakdowns and avoid downtime during critical projects.


Extended Lifespan: 

Proper maintenance and care can significantly extend the lifespan of your excavator. By keeping all components in optimal condition, you can maximize the longevity and performance of your equipment.


Ensured Safety: 

A thorough inspection ensures that your excavator is safe to operate. Technicians can identify any safety hazards and take the necessary steps to rectify them, reducing the risk of accidents or injuries on the job site.


When choosing a professional service provider, look for reputable companies with a proven track record in excavator maintenance. Consider their experience, expertise, and customer reviews to make an informed decision. By prioritizing regular inspections and maintenance, you can keep your excavator in optimal condition and minimize the risk of unexpected breakdowns. Don't underestimate the importance of professional assessment and repair services to keep your equipment running smoothly for years to come.

In Summary

Getting an excavator unstuck from mud or soft soil can be challenging ,  but with the right tools ,  techniques ,  and preventative measures ,  you can minimize downtime and increase productivity. By following these tips and being prepared ,  you'll be well-equipped to handle any stuck equipment situations. 

Inspect your job site and mark off areas with sticky soil or mud to prevent equipment from getting stuck.

Regularly clean your equipment and opt for tracked excavators or compact track loaders to improve traction in wet conditions.

Equip your toolbox with durable recovery tools like heavy-duty tow straps and winch straps that can handle the weight of your machinery.

Utilize digging and traction techniques to free your excavator from the mud, such as using boards for added grip.

Proper attachment and connection of recovery tools are crucial for protecting your equipment during the towing process.

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