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-   -   Towing 101: what NOT to do when towing a BIG coach (https://www.wanderlodgeownersgroup.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32257)

pairodice 09-10-2018 08:17 AM

Towing 101: what NOT to do when towing a BIG coach
Our 1998 Newell 45' coach had engine cooling problems and rather than risk blowing an engine decided we would get a tow.
We called Coach-Net (who were very friendly and offered all kinds of assistance) and told them the problem. After several hours talking with different people and tow truck companies Coach-Net suggested that they had many coaches towed successfully on a 'dolly' style truck - one that has a large extending arm on the rear that rests the coach on a cradle. They informed us that there would be no lowboy that could tow us even though we were willing to pay the difference in cost (the driver reiterated that the other problem would be height since the lowboy would add about 3 ft to the total height and make overpasses very difficult). Against our better judgement we agreed to let a large, well known company come and get our coach and tow it 60 miles back to a repair shop in Nacogdoches, TX.
I assisted the driver and even helped him with the dolly to be sure it was secure (It was as far as I could tell). He placed the airhose down the side of the coach through tie wraps in the door handles (it worked great!) - this was to to keep the coach air up and also to release the brakes while towing. The coach transmission was in Neutral.
Newell had suggested using the little 1/2" space at the bottom of the door to put the hose into, we tried but could not make the hose stay in and get the doors down at the same time (in retrospect, maybe we were supposed to leave the door DOWN and push the hose in the crack between the door and the coach...)

We headed out towards Nacogdoches at about 7pm - it was getting dark and had been raining on us for a while.
About 30 minutes into the trip the tow truck made a very wide turn (a good thing) onto a freeway on-ramp. The driver called on the radio to me that he was going to stop and adjust the straps - my wife says she noticed the strap on the driver side had popped and come loose but I did not see it.
I pulled my Jeep (thank GOD) around to give the driver some more light and we sat in the Jeep waiting for him and trying to keep cars stopped on the ramp. There were probably 10 to 15 cars and truck at the bottom of the ramp at this time behind us. The driver proceeded to let down the lift holding the coach and for some reason he dropped it all the way to the ground. As soon as the coach wheels touched the ground the coach rolled rearward and jumped over the back of the dolly.
I jumped out of the Jeep and ran to catch the coach. The driver had run (as you see in the video down the driver side of the coach and around thinking he would let the door come to him as the coach came down the hill). I ran and caught the door first. The next thing to come into my mind was 'did I LOCK the coach'??? I jumped up onto the steps which thankfully had not pulled all the way in and were sticking out some so I was able to get a decent footing on them. I pulled myself into the coach and started heading for the front to hit the brakes. I had no way of telling which way the coach was heading but I KNOW there were a lot of people down in their cars at the foot of the ramp and they were NOT moving! The coach was now careening pretty much out of control. Just as I reached the front the coach hit something and made a loud noise and shifted hard to the right and I fell over, knocking a small table over in the process. I managed to finally get to the wheel and hit the brakes! The coach came not to a screeching halt but rather to a quiet halt. I faintly remember some tire squeal but not much.
Once I caught my breath and the adrenaline stopped screaming I went outside to see the damage.
The coach was up on the embankment on the side of the freeway in a lot of grass and mud.
Miraculously, no persons or cars anywhere around the coach and there were no culverts or big highway signs in the path.

The coach had crossed completely across a two lane entrance ramp and ran up into the grass and mud on the side of the freeway embankment.
ALL of the possible outcomes were running through my mind - we could have hit all those cars at the bottom of the entrance ramp, we could have hit a road sign or a culvert.
The tow truck driver came and checked on me and I think he was more upset than I was. I kept saying 'no one was hurt and the bus is just a thing' it was not a big deal to me as long as everyone was safe and sound. He kept saying "I'm going to lose my job". I guess I should have been really angry but I wasn't. I just wanted to get the coach to Nacogdoches and end an already highly stressful day.
So once everyone calmed down for a while we took our time getting the coach unstuck. The tow truck driver hooked a chain to the coach and I was in the cab steering. He asked to let go the brakes and I guess I was still in shock because I just let my foot off the brake (which I had probably been holding the whole time!) and waited as the chain strained, the back wheels creaked a little and the chain snapped like a piece of spaghetti. At least I know my service brakes work well.
Once the driver got another chain on the coach he pulled the coach out (I released the service brake this time!) and I steered the coach to the side of the entrance ramp and up and over the hill to a downward sloping section off the main road.
We re-hooked the coach up to the dolly and strapped it down good and proceeded on our way by about 10:30pm.
We arrived at the Foretravel parking lot about 11:30 or maybe midnight and backed in and hooked the coach up.
I surveyed the damage all around the coach but will let Foretravel or Motorhomes of TX do a full PMI inspection (if they still do that) to make sure there is no further damage to the coach.
The only damage I see is a 6-inch crack in the fiberglass near the front outer headlight on the driver side and there was a plate from the bottom of the generator that was on the side of the road at the scene (I forgot to grab it in the fray).
The airbags are kind of wonky and maybe the leveling valves will need to be checked.
Honestly the biggest thing worrying my wife before we started was 1) bending the coach in half 2) all the stuff inside shifting and breaking (like plates and vases with plants). Neither of these happened at all! Very little moved inside the coach and the tow truck driver did a good job keeping the coach balanced so the the back end never scraped the receiver hitch except once going around another turn later in the trip.
All this made for an extremely long day (5am to past 12 midnight) and we were both exhausted but extremely thankful to be able to spend the night in our home - our beautiful Newell was home at Foretravel (which has always seemed like home to us anyway) and now was ready to go to the body shop for estimates and the engine repair shop to get the cooling system sorted out.

The moral of this saga is:
I will never rush that decision again - I don't care if it takes a week to get the correct truck to us - I WILL WAIT and will gladly pay whatever difference the insurance does not take care of.

The one other important lesson is to have plenty of Angels guarding over your vehicles at ALL times!

The other big thing was there were NO safety chains attached - the driver later said he could not find anywhere to put them. There has GOT to be a good secure place to put safety chains on the front end - I will check with the FT service techs today (I need a list to ask them). Should I contact a Lawyer??? I still have not heard boo from the tow company even and apology - it's Monday morning so we'll see if they call today. I am going to contact Coach-Net and send them this story...

Newell after-hours Tech Support recommended requesting a lowboy as the best way to haul the coach, the dolly was second and NEVER use any type of frame mount or anything that attaches to the A-Arms (it will BEND them). The bigger problem is finding one BIG enough to get a 45' coach onto.

I truly believe if the driver had not dropped the coach all the way to the ground and just tightened the straps after the corner we would have been fine. You can see it in the video - the coach was perfectly stable on the dolly. I hate to blame the driver but it was his fault for sure. He will probably lose his job over this and we are praying he doesn't - everyone makes mistakes but this one could have had huge consequences if it had gone the other way. Thankfully we are safe and sound and no harm was done other than damage to the coach.
If the driver had ran a ratchet strap around the underside of the wheel/tire and then around the inside of the dolly vertically and attached it to the inside ratchet strap that the coach would not have gotten away when he dropped it to the ground. The reason it jumped the dolly is because the tire hung BELOW the bottom of the dolly and when it was dropped the tires hit the ground, bounce just enough to jostle the coach and get it rolling.

I use the coach in Atlanta to work out of when I am there as my office or my home away from home instead of renting an apartment so it DOES cost me money not to have use of it since it is much cheaper for an RV Park for the months I am there.

Here is a quick glimpse into what happened YouTube style... this was the scariest moment of my life and then it got worse...
Just remember there is NO one in the coach and the coach is in Neutral with the axle pulled for towing. Posted on YouTube https://youtu.be/8THoWSHzBAs

badandy 09-10-2018 08:50 AM

Incompetence! That rig should have been able to tow it just fine, but the guy screwed up big time. While I feel bad for the guy, too many people get away with stuff like this all the time. If you weren't there to witness this happening and the guy got it stopped you would have been none the wiser. I wouldn't sue them, but I would have made sure the tow truck driver never forgot that day with either my fist or my words, not sure which.

wasper67 09-10-2018 09:56 AM

WOW...Thank you for sharing!

irmagoo 09-10-2018 10:18 AM

scary for sure glad you were not hurt badly getting into coach ...

4-Liberty 09-10-2018 11:36 AM

Wow! What a hair raising moment not to mention the effects adrenaline can have on us older folks ( heart attacks) at moments like this.

Please keep us posted of the sequels to this experience and how the vendors interact with you as a result of something that was no fault of your own.

That indeed could have had tragic consequences. But it didn’t , thank God!

You handled yourself like a gentleman , with certainty, I can say I would have decompensated to some lower life form:rolleyes:

Bumpersbird 09-10-2018 11:43 AM

Upsetting at best
This is one reason why towing is expensive
Insurance costs must be high
I would think they will make you whole
If not then go to the next level
If they get difficult I’d hit them with both barrels and go after everyone,
I know that’s not nice but we didn’t make the rules
Incompetents has a price where safety is an issue
No safety chains
No wheel chocked
Parked on an incline
Lucky you weren’t parked behind the coach
Lucky you weren’t hurt getting into the coach
Lucky Lucky Lucky Lucky Lucky no one was hurt

giderich 09-10-2018 11:49 AM

First the test then the Lesson
The real lesson here is do not attempt to take a road trip in a coach that is not road worthy!!! You knew you had cooling troubles and took the coach on the road anyway.

Do the maintenance before leaving home and you will be less likely to have trouble on the road putting yourself and other innocent bystanders in danger.

May be time to sell that Newell and buy a class C with a warranty.

Randy Dupree 09-10-2018 12:04 PM

We will not talk about lawsuits and all of that here on WOG.
If we do,we close the thread,simple.

Adrian,we have talked on WOG for years about towing.
Yes,Landall is best.
Yes,it will be over height,but Landall guys know about that and they have blanket permits that cover it.
Its an everyday deal.

4-Liberty 09-10-2018 12:28 PM

Dick, your analysis of the situation seems a bit harsh toward the owner....:confused:

Randy Dupree 09-10-2018 12:34 PM


Originally Posted by 4-Liberty (Post 428282)
Dick, your analysis of the situation seems a bit harsh toward the owner....:confused:

I bet Dick had his grin on when he posted that!

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