Carnell Duvall didn't set out to become an inventor, only to solve safety problems faced by operators of so-called "rollback wreckers" widely used by wrecker service operators.
Duvall is a tow truck operator with more than 44 years of experience in the southeastern Oklahoma community of Quinton. Rollback wreckers hoist disabled or wrecked vehicles onto their long bed instead of hooking a cable to them and hauling them behind the wrecker.
"Rollbacks are great, but have three faults when working accidents," Duvall said. "Length, safety and winching stability."
When working accidents, Duvall was often forced to block all lanes of traffic as he positioned the 40-foot long rollback wrecker to hoist a wrecked vehicle from the side of the road. It put him and his equipment in jeopardy from oncoming traffic.
So, he began to work on a solution to the faults that he saw in the wrecker, and eventually came up with a hydraulic device attached to the side of his vehicle. It winches wrecked vehicles to the side of the road through a remote control, keeping both wrecker and the operator out of harm's way.
With little professional help, the long-time tow-truck operator created a working prototype of what ultimately became the Rollback Sidewinder in September 2001. Less than two years later, he was awarded a U.S. patent for the device.
"I didn't start out to build a machine to get a patent," Duvall said. "It just worked out that way. The product just worked better and better, and everyone said I should patent it."
Although he considers himself a "creative craftsman" rather than inventor, Duvall's rollback device has become an example of the success of Oklahoma inventors, said Dan Hoffman, president of the Oklahoma Inventor's Congress.
Hoffman cited other recent Oklahoman inventions that have achieved some measure of success:
The Trooper Trap invented by Oklahoma state trooper Alan Beaty;
The Bio-Mixer 1200 fluid mixer invented by Oklahoma City engineer Sam John, who also has invented a device called the NeoLite 3200, which provides light therapy in a blanket or vest for newborns that have jaundice;
The Trailer/Vehicle Alignment System invented by Bob Cook and Roy Blasius;
The Garage Butler invented by Tulsan Jim Quintus, which Hoffman describe as probably the most commercially successful of Oklahoma's most recent inventions.