The Father of Tow Trucks

Tow trucks have been the essential vehicles when it comes to roadside recovery. This vehicle is invented by Mr Ernest W. Holmes Sr., who is known as the father of tow trucks. As a mechanic in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one day in 1916 he received a call from his old business school professor, John Wile. John had driven his Ford Model T off the road and it ended up getting stuck in a creek bed. Holmes and his six other men spent hours trying to recover the vehicle. Eventually after 8 grueling and laboring hours they eventually got the Ford Model T out of the creek.

An idea sparked in Holmes’ mind, he wanted to invent a vehicle that can do much better job when trying to pull a car. Holmes called up for his two friends; L.C. Decker and Elmer Gross, and together they went about developing the vehicle. Their first prototype wasn’t successful, and Holmes kept on trying to perfect the invention. Finally, in his improved version, he added a pair of outriggers to provide stability while holding other vehicles. In November 1917, Holmes filed for a patent which he secured in January 1918.

Upon acquiring his patent, Holmes went ahead in building his own line of Holmes Wrecker tow trucks. He would sell to garage operators and mechanics. His company went on to become one of the most successful company, which at its height held 75 percent share of the tow truck industry. Holmes passed away in June 1945, and his oldest child, Ernest Holmes Jr., was elected to take over the control of the company. His family ran the business until 1973. The company was later bought over by currently the world’s largest manufacturer of towing and recovery equipment; Miller Industries.

Today, the tow trucks are continually refined and developed by the manufacturers. They made a variety of diverse types of towing equipment to meet different needs. However, we need to thank Mr Ernest Holmes Sr. for his ingenious invention. It is because of his idea that developed the towing industry, which later give rise to the towing industry. It is also because of this invention that when vehicles break down, people do not have to rely on labor or inefficient ways to recover vehicles.

To commemorate his contribution, and those who have devoted their hard work and lives in the towing industry, the International Towing and Recovery Museum is set up in 1995 in downtown Chattanooga, approximately three miles from where Ernest Holmes, Sr., fabricated the first wrecker in 1916. The museum later moved to its current location on Broad Street in 2006.