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Big Truck Extrication - Part 3: The Extrication

Big Truck Extrication - Part 3: The Extrication

David Pease, Carolina Fire/Rescue/EMS Journal

In the last two articles we have looked at how trucks are constructed, the types of trailers they may be pulling, the tremendous weights that may be involved, the hazards that come from dealing with large trucks, assessing and approaching these types of crashes, and how to look at some basic stabilization methods. Now we are going to look at some basic extrication techniques for large trucks. You will find that a lot of your basic vehicle extrication skills and knowledge will also apply to these types of accidents.

When preparing to start your extrication first shut off the engine and disconnect the battery system. Remove the negative cable first to prevent an accidental spark, and wrap the end with some tape to prevent any polarization. The first big challenge when extricating on large trucks is the fact that you may have to be working at elevations of up to 10 feet.

This is going to be different than what you may be used to doing on standard vehicles. There are several options for gaining the height you need. You can work straight off of ladders which we all carry on our rigs. Caution must be taken to make sure that you secure the ladders while standing on them to extricate. You may be working with heavy hydraulics or reciprocating saws that can recoil if they get caught up in some tough metal.

Another option is to build several block cribbing platforms and place a ladder between them. You can then place a backboard on the ladder and you have now essentially created a scaffold system. You may be able to work off of a rollback wrecker or flatbed, if you can get it close enough to the truck. No matter what you end up using, you will have to work from heights you may not be use to, and safety should be your prime concern.

If the cab of the truck is not crushed down, the windows will be your best choice of access. Of course, you should always try the doors first, as this may be all it takes to gain entry. The old cliché “try before you pry” still holds true. If the doors are not an option, then utilize the front widow. The windows are large and usually separated by a center post that can also be easily removed.

If the glass is gasket mounted, removing the front window will be fast an easy. If you cut the center post it will give you a large access for gaining entry and removing your victim. Anytime you can use the windows, this gives you an excellent opening that comes ready made.


The doors on a truck will either be your standard type hinge or a piano type hinge. Standard hinges can be dealt with in your typical door removal technique, while the piano hinge may be better removed by cutting it with a reciprocating saw. The latch can be removed using the same techniques as with standard vehicles. However, the handle and the latch may not always line up, so you may have to work your way down the door frame with your spreaders to reach the latch mechanism. Some of the truck cabs will have small or can have quite large sleeper compartments.

Read the other parts of this column:
- Big Truck Extrication – Part 1: Anatamy 101
- Big Truck Extrication – Part 2: Assessment and Stabilization