Pulling out vehicles stuck in mud requires the right equipment and proper technique, in order to avoid vehicle damage and physical injury.
Pulling out vehicles stuck in mud requires the right equipment and proper technique, in order to avoid vehicle damage and physical injury.

Some jobs are best left to professionals. That's often true when pulling farm machinery, fertilizer and spray applicators and trucks out of soft soil or ditches, says a Purdue University specialist. Although discussion of this topic seems far from necessary with the continuing drought in some areas, rain will arrive someday and wet roads and fields have actually been a problem in the South already.

Performed improperly or without the right equipment, the seemingly simple task of extracting equipment from mud can result in costly damage and, possibly, physical injury, said Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue Pesticide Programs. Whitford is the lead author of a new Purdue Extension publication on the topic, Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely: How to Avoid Expensive and Painful Incidents (publication No. PPP-98).

The 96-page publication is available for free download or $5 in printed form from Purdue's The Education Store. The book can be ordered online at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=PPP-98.

"Everyone's pulled out stuck equipment, and maybe it's always worked. But just because you can doesn't mean you should," Whitford said. "You've got to think about whether you have the equipment capable of doing the job and what kind of vehicle you're using to do the pulling. If you don't it can lead to serious injury or death and, if chemicals are involved, possible environmental contamination."

In the book, Whitford and his contributors recount real-life stories of people who were hurt when towing chains or straps broke and flew back into the cab of the pulling vehicle. In some cases the pulling vehicle lost bumpers and axles or sustained body damage.

"You might spend several hundred dollars for a professional wrecking service to extract the stuck machinery, but that's nothing compared to losing potentially thousands of dollars if you do it yourself and things go wrong," Whitford said. "And, of course, you can't put a price tag on someone's life."

Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely covers assessing the stuck machinery situation, choosing and inspecting pulling equipment, checking attachment device ratings, communicating with the recovery team and what to do if tragedy strikes.

"There's a chapter where we go into the four 'zones' of extraction and forces of resistance," Whitford said. "There's the stuck zone, where the vehicle to be pulled is located; the tow zone, the truck or tractor that's going to be doing the pulling; the danger zone, which is the hookup between the stuck and pulling vehicles where the stress is concentrated; and the clear zone, where we make sure there are no people near you in the event something breaks.

"Gathering all this information at the scene takes a couple of minutes and will help us know if we can do the job safely."

The full-color book contains photographs illustrating the right and wrong ways to pull out stuck machinery and how to examine pulling equipment.

Others who contributed content to Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely were Steve Hawkins, assistant director of Purdue Agricultural Centers; Dennis Nowaskie, superintendent of Southwest-Purdue Agricultural Center; Doug Busdeker, area general manager of farm centers for The Andersons; Mike Depoister, owner of TriPower Towing and Recovery; Steve Queen, safety and risk coordinator for Trupointe Cooperative; and Jamie Southard, safety and regulatory director for Effingham Equity.