The Difference Between a Bulkhead and Headache Rack

The terms ‘bulkhead’ and ‘headache rack’ are used interchangeably in the trucking industry. That’s fine. Truck drivers understand what others are talking about by the context of their conversations. For the rest of us though, there is a significant difference between the two pieces of equipment. That difference can help us to better understand how drivers use headache racks and bulkheads to protect themselves.

For all practical purposes, a headache rack is a semi-permanent aluminum alloy panel affixed to the back of a tractor to provide protection against shifting cargo. The headache rack essentially prevents shifting cargo from penetrating the tractor cab.

A bulkhead does much the same thing except for one major difference: a bulkhead is affixed to the trailer rather than the truck. Furthermore, bulkheads do not have to be permanently affixed. They can be installed or removed as loads dictate.

Bulkheads and Flatbeds

A bulkhead on a flatbed trailer is mounted directly on the end of the deck near the tractor. It stands roughly 4 feet high and is made with a strong yet lightweight aluminum alloy. Cargo can be loaded flush with the bulkhead or with a bit of space between the two.

It is common to see bulkheads on flatbed trailers dedicated to local routes. For example, think of a local construction company whose trucks never travel more than 50 miles or so to a given destination. Its tractors are not likely to have sleeper cabs or headache racks. In the absence of a headache rack, the bulkhead provides additional protection.

Over-the-road flatbed drivers are more likely to have headache racks. Bulkheads are used on a case-by-case basis. If a bulkhead is appropriate when carrying things like steel girders or timber, drivers will not be afraid to use it. Where it’s not necessary, a driver may choose to forgo a bulkhead to save on weight.

Bulkheads and Dry Vans

Bulkheads are most typically thought of in relation to flatbed trailers. However, bulkheads are used in dry vans as well. A dry van is a trailer with walls and a roof. So why would a driver need bulkheads inside such a trailer? There are a couple of reasons.

There are some dry van loads more prone to shifting than others. In such cases, using a number of removable bulkheads can help keep cargo more secure. A good example is a trailer filled with rolling carts of linen. Bulkheads are a better option than load bars because they go from floor to ceiling.

Another use for bulkheads in dry vans is keeping different kinds of cargo separate. For example, there might be a moving company that specializes in ‘renting’ just the amount of trailer space a person needs to move long-distance. Because several different customers will have their personal belongings on the truck, loads are kept separate with lockable bulkheads.

Bulkheads for Other Purposes

Mytee Products carries bulkheads for the trucking industry. But trucking is by no means the only industry to use bulkheads. In fact, bulkheads were around long before trucks were invented. They have been used ever since man began building boats and putting them in the water.

Bulkheads in ships, planes, and rail cars are multipurpose panels. Not only do they help manage cargo, but they also provide structural integrity. It would not be possible to build the huge boats and airplanes we now build without using bulkheads.

Bulkheads are just one of the many products we offer the trucking industry. If you are in need of one for your truck, we invite you to contact Mytee Products. We’ll get you hooked up.