Students Modify and Build a Custom Headache Rack

When students at Laurel Oaks High School in Wilmington, Ohio got their hands on a 2013 International Pro Star, they were given an opportunity to do something truly special. The students spent months customizing the truck before sending it to the recently-held Cavalcade of Customs Auto Show in Cincinnati. Needless to say, the truck was a big hit – both with show attendees and school administrators.

One of the things we appreciate about the students’ efforts is that they went to the trouble of building a customized headache rack for their rig. The choice to do so shows us just how ingrained it now is within the trucking industry to put headache racks on the backs of tractors. It wasn’t always this way. So building a custom headache rack enabled students to learn about its function as an indispensable part of trucking.

Learning the Tools of the Trade

The truck was originally purchased in 2017 to give students in the high school’s diesel program the opportunity to learn by working on a late model vehicle. But instructor Gary Bronson saw a lot of potential above and beyond just diesel mechanics. He took the class through the process of replacing brakes, wiring new lighting, and even completing the truck’s required safety inspection. In all of it, students had the chance to learn the tools of the trade.

Outside of the diesel program, other students worked hard on customizing the truck for the Cincinnati show. The school’s welding students were the ones responsible for customized headache rack. In the process of designing both it and the truck’s rear fenders, students were able to learn firsthand how to use a CNC plasma cutter. That is pretty impressive for a high school program.

Even digital arts and computer science students pitched in to get the truck ready for the show. They were responsible for designing the truck’s paint scheme and the graphics that were printed on a banner displayed with the truck at the Cincinnati show. All in all, the work these students did is nothing short of amazing.

A Functional Headache Rack

To see the headache rack in pictures is to see something that doesn’t look like much. But if you’re a trucker, that’s what you want to see. A headache rack is functional first and foremost. You worry about aesthetics later. And in terms of function, the students hit the nail right on the head.

Their headache rack sits flush against the back of the sleeper cab and pretty much runs its height. The truck itself has fairings on either side to improve aerodynamics, so the students designed the headache rack to fit nicely within their profile. This adds to the fuel efficiency of the vehicle without taking away from the functionality of the headache rack.

We don’t see any kind of cables or air hoses in the picture but that’s only because there is no trailer attached to the truck. However, we can clearly see the fittings built into the headache rack. Students undoubtedly had to learn what each of the fittings was for and how to build them into the rack.

Our hats are off to the students at Laurel Oaks and their dedicated instructors. What they have done with this truck is incredible. Without the Laurel Oaks Banner displayed on the back of the tractor, you would not know the truck was customized by high school students learning the trades that will fuel their futures. From the headache rack all the way to the custom fenders and artwork, this is truly a special truck.


Hay, Moisture Testing, and Drought Conditions

Imagine being a hay farmer trying to survive under drought conditions. When there’s ample rain, farmers can get at least two cuttings per year and sometimes three. Then their biggest concern is making sure moisture content isn’t too high. But under drought conditions, moisture content is the least of their concerns.

A farmer who buys one of our moisture testers uses it to make sure stored hay does not get too moist or too dry. Moisture content is important to the quality of the hay and, subsequently, the satisfaction of the customer who buys it. But under drought conditions, everything changes. If farmers don’t get enough rain, they can’t even grow a decent crop to begin with.

That appears to be the case in Southwest Colorado this spring. The late winter and spring have been so dry that some farmers have already decided to do just one cutting this year. Some vegetable producers are only working an eighth of their land while cattle producers are reducing the size of their herds for lack of water. It is not a good situation.

Two Ways Around Drought

Drought is nothing new in agriculture. Indeed, some of the longest running family operations in the country have made a practice of planning for drought for hundreds of years. So what can they do, exactly? There are a couple of possibilities, beginning with field irrigation.

Irrigating fields is one way to get around mild to moderate drought conditions. It doesn’t necessarily need to rain as long as the irrigation system is working. But even this method has it downsides. For instance, what do you do after several years of persistent drought leading to water rationing?

Another option is to rotate fields. Field rotation used to be a common practice in the days before large-scale, commercial agriculture. Today though, not a lot of farmers practice it. They really should.

Consider the case of Montana farmer Ray Bannister who operates a 250-head ranch near the town of Wibaux. He began rotating his fields more than 20 years ago and has never had a problem producing hay – even under drought conditions. Bannister explains that allowing a field to rest for one year produces of bountiful crop the next. So that’s what he does.

His hay fields are rested every other year. As for the grazing field, he allows the cattle to severely graze before letting the field rest for 23 months. Bannister says that in the decades he’s been practicing field rotation, he’s never had a problem growing hay or having adequate grazing fields.

When the Hay Does Grow

The farmers in Southwest Colorado will hopefully get at least one hay cutting this year. And when that cutting comes, they will still have to pay attention to moisture content. This year, the biggest challenge will be making sure hay doesn’t dry out. That’s where one of our moisture testers comes into play.

A hay moisture tester consists of an electrified rod and a meter. You insert the rod into a bale of hay and turn the power on. The rod sends electrical current through the hay and receives it on its return. Moisture levels are measured based on the level of resistance to that current.

For the record, we also carry a variety of grain testers. Regardless of whether you are farming hay or corn, you know how critical moisture content is to the finished product. Don’t leave your crop to chance by guessing on its moisture level. Invest in a new moisture tester and know for sure what you’re dealing with.

 


Tips for Using Loading Ramps Safely

Truck drivers with loading ramp experience know that it is all about physics. The laws of physics dictate that it’s easier to roll something up a ramp than lift it straight up. But the same physics that make loading ramps so efficient also constitute their greatest weakness. Therefore, it pays to know the physics in order to use loading ramps safely.

Loading ramps make moving objects to a higher point easier by distributing the weight of the load across a larger area. Furthermore, pushing or pulling an object up a set of ramps requires less work than lifting that same item. Thus, you can get some pretty heavy objects onto the back of an open deck trailer with a pair of inexpensive loading ramps from Mytee Products.

With all of that said, here are some tips for using loading ramps safely:

1. Work on a Level Surface

Whenever possible, you should work on a level surface. Your trailer deck should be parallel with the ground and the ends of the ramps touching the ground should not be lower than the trailer’s rear wheels. A level surface provides for maximum efficiency during the loading process. It also reduces the risks of the load tipping backward or falling off the side of the ramps.

2. Watch the Load Angle

As efficient as loading ramps are compared to direct lifting, they are not capable of working miracles. Loading can be terribly unsafe if the ramp angle is too high. Therefore, watch the load angle. Keep it as low as possible on every single job.

This might facilitate purchasing new loading ramps if your current set is too short. Also bear in mind that you will need longer ramps and a lower angle for heavier loads. Remember the physics. The key is to get your load up onto the deck with as little work as possible. Load angle influences the amount of required work more than any other factor.

3. Send the Drive Wheels First

It doesn’t matter which direction you load all-wheel drive vehicles in. But if you’re loading a vehicle with only two-wheel drive, send the drive wheels first. This means a front-wheel drive vehicle goes up the ramp forward; a rear-wheel drive vehicle goes up in reverse. Again, it is all about physics.

If the drive wheels are to the rear of the vehicle as it’s loaded, those wheels are pushing the load rather than pulling it. This creates a natural pivot point over the axle. Too steep an incline or too much power to the engine could flip the vehicle backward. On the other hand, it’s impossible to flip backward if the power wheels are in the front.

4. Make Sure Ramps Are Tightly Secured

Even keeping the drive wheels to the front of the load doesn’t eliminate all risk of tipping over. There is a point just after the drive wheels reach the deck where the entire setup is inherently unstable. If ramps are not securely fastened to the back of the trailer, they could slip away and send the load crashing to the ground.

Always make sure your loading ramps are properly secured before you begin loading. What’s more, don’t cut corners here. Loading ramps come with fittings and pins for this very reason – use them for their intended purpose.

Loading ramps are must-have tools for open deck drivers. If you own a pair, please do right by yourself and your shippers by always using them safely. If you need a pair, Mytee Products has what you’re looking for. We carry a complete line of loading ramps and accessories.


Electric Fencing: When You Need a Fence Fast and Cheap

Imagine owning a herd of bison and suddenly learning they would have to be moved to a new piece of land. You buy the land, but then what? You have to build fencing to keep the bison in. That’s just what restaurant owner Connie Hale experienced earlier this year.

Hale keeps a herd of bison but due to a change in rent, she quickly had to buy a new piece of land and move her animals. Being a busy business owner didn’t leave her any time to actually work on the land, so in jumped the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and the Virginia Tech Department of Agriculture.

They immediately went to work to build an electric fence covering a large enough area to contain the animals. Once that fence was done, they began working on the rest of the property.

Connie Hale’s story is not all that unique. Both large cattle ranchers and hobby owners can find themselves in a world of hurt if they need a new fencing solution quickly. Thank goodness for electric fencing. With the right supplies and a little bit of time, you can put up a good electric fence fairly quickly.

Benefits of Electric Fencing

Why would someone choose electric fencing over traditional barbed wire? Because electric fences are better. There’s just no two ways about it. Check out the following advantages of electric over its barbed wire cousin:

Speed – There is no question that you can put up an electric fence faster than a barbed wire fence. You do not need nearly as many posts, the posts don’t have to be driven in so deeply, and you’re not fumbling with cumbersome rolls of wire.

Expense – The costs of electrified fencing have come down quite a bit in recent years. Again, it comes down to the number of posts you need. Fewer posts means a lower overall cost. Electrified fencing rope is also cheaper than barbed wire.

Safety – Barbed wire is not necessarily the safest for ranch animals. Barbed wire is sharp and painful to make contact with. By comparison, electrified fencing is very safe. Any animal touching an electrified fence receives a minor but very effective shock.

Maintenance – Electric fences are a lot easier to maintain. You can easily change out sections of damaged wire with very little effort. And as long as you make sure your energizers are kept in good working order, you will not have to worry about the effectiveness of your fence.

 

Electric Fencing can be Customized

Another great benefit of electrified fencing is that it is easily customized. Take the case of Norm and Donna Ward of Alberta, Canada for example. The two veteran ranchers own quite a bit of land in Canada’s heartland on which they raise beef cattle.

Due to the Ward’s philosophy of sustainable ranching practices, they are constantly rotating their grazing fields. But rather than dividing up the ranch into a bunch of smaller parcels, Norm decided it was better to come up with a customized fencing solution that allowed him to move his fences as needed.

He came up with the prefect tool by building a specialized trailer for carrying his posts and fencing wire. The trailer is pulled with a tractor or truck, reeling out the fence as he goes. He says he can fence an entire quarter section in less than 3 hours.

Electrified fencing is fast, cheap, and extremely easy to deploy. It is the obvious choice regardless of the size of your land or the scope of your operation.

 


Bulkhead or Penalty Strap: You Make the Call

The common trailer bulkhead can be viewed as a multipurpose tool. A driver can use it as an anchor point for tarps or the starting point for installing a side kit. But at the end of the day, the primary purpose of the bulkhead is to prevent forward movement of cargo. For the flatbed trucker, it is either bulkhead or penalty strap.

We are not quite sure where the term ‘penalty strap’ comes from, but it does a good job of describing how some truck drivers feel about having to use extra tie-downs to prevent cargo from shifting forward. Extra tie-downs means extra work. To that end, a driver might feel that he or she is incurring some sort of penalty for choosing to not use a bulkhead.

There is no right or wrong choice here. It is a matter of driver preference. Knowing the finer points of both options gives drivers a clear understanding of what is best for them.

The Kinds of Loads Carried

Let’s face it, some loads are easier to secure with penalty straps than others. A load of brick stacked on wooden pallets does not need a whole lot of extra effort to prevent forward movement. Do a few calculations, grab an extra strap or two, and the driver is good to go. Not so with a load of rail.

Rail doesn’t benefit as much from gravity and friction as brick does. Therefore, preventing its forward movement is a little more complicated. The extra time and effort it takes to deploy penalty straps could easily be avoided with a bulkhead.

Doing the Math at Load

A good case for installing a bulkhead is to avoid having to do the math at loading time. For instance, check out these starting calculations:

A load of 5 feet or shorter and a weight of 1,100 pounds or less = 1 tiedown.
A load of 5 feet or shorter and a weight in excess of 1,100 pounds = 2 tie-downs.
A load between five and 10 feet, regardless of weight = 2 tie-downs.                                                    A load longer than 10 feet = 2 tie-downs with an additional tiedown for every 10 feet.

These numbers just tell the driver how many tie-downs to use. The driver also has to consider the working load limits of each strap. It is a lot easier just to install a bulkhead with a high enough rating to cover most of the loads the trucker will haul.

Straps and Chains Wear Out

One final consideration is that straps and chains wear out. It is conceivable that a trucker can use the correct number of tie-downs and properly account for working load limits and still be found in violation. That’s because inspectors can take straps and chains out of service if they observe what they believe to be unacceptable wear and tear.

Bulkheads are subject to wear and tear as well, but not nearly as much. Therefore, it stands to reason that taking penalty straps out of the equation in favor of a bulkhead reduces the chances of being found in violation. The fewer tie-downs in play, the fewer opportunities for wear and tear to cause problems.

We understand that there are very valid reasons for declining to use a bulkhead on a flatbed trailer. Yet, there are some very definite advantages to choosing a bulkhead over penalty straps. It’s really up to each driver to decide what’s best for him or her. Should you decide to go the bulkhead route, Mytee Products can get you squared away.