How To Avoid The Top 5 Cargo Control Violations

In the run-up to the 2018 CVSA Roadcheck, it is part of our responsibility to customers to get them ready by way of cargo control supplies and education. This post is geared toward the education aspect. It covers the top 5 cargo control violations in America. You don’t want to be found guilty of any of them during the annual Roadcheck.

It has been estimated that up to 17 trucks are inspected every minute during the annual Roadcheck event. Keep in mind that the Roadcheck is conducted all across North America. Whether you haul flatbeds, dry goods vans, tankers or reefers, the chances of you being stopped and inspected during the first week of June is pretty high.

The best way to protect yourself is to make sure that you are fully compliant with cargo control rules. If you are not sure what those rules are, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a driver handbook that lays it all out. For our part, we offer you the top five cargo control violations based on 2017 statistics:

1. Failure to Prevent Shifting or Loss of Load

Loads must always be secured to prevent them from shifting, falling, leaking, blowing, or otherwise leaving the confines of the vehicles carrying them. This means different things for different truck drivers. For the flatbed driver, it means that nothing can be allowed to fall off the trailer. Furthermore, nothing on the trailer should be allowed to shift during transport.

The obvious way to prevent being found in violation is to properly contain you loads. If you are not using a bulkhead, get one. Otherwise you will need to use extra tie-downs to keep loads in place. You might also consider a side kit for loads that might be a bit more challenging to contain.

2. Failure to Secure Equipment

Not only does your cargo have to be controlled, so does any and all equipment you’re carrying on the truck. That means hand trucks, chains, hand tools, etc. Anything that could potentially fall off your trailer must be properly secured.

3. Worn or Damaged Tie-Downs

Federal law prohibits the use of tie-downs or other cargo control equipment that is damaged or sufficiently warm. And because normal wear is in the eyes of the beholder, law enforcement tends to err on the side of caution. Please make a point of replacing any worn or damaged tie-downs right away. Even after the Roadcheck is over, your truck could be taken out of service if an inspection reveals worn or damaged equipment.

4. Insufficient Tie-Downs

The law also stipulates just how many tie-downs are necessary for a given load. You can find all the numbers in the driver handbook mentioned earlier in this post. Suffice it to say that your truck will be taken out of service if the number of tie-downs deployed is deemed insufficient.

Know that you have to have the right number of tie-downs AND they have to have appropriate working load limits. Getting either one wrong could result in a violation.

5. Loose Tie-Downs

Lastly, law enforcement don’t like to see loose tie-downs. So whether you’re using chains, straps or a combination of both, everything needs to be tight and secure. Be sure to inspect your tie-downs before initial departure, then again within 50 miles of the start of your trip. Check them every time you stop after that.

Don’t be found in violation during this year’s Roadcheck event. Pay attention to cargo control and do what the law requires. Both you and law enforcement will be the happier for it.

 


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.