Could You Use a Cargo Control Cheat Sheet?

Our position as a supplier of cargo control equipment to the trucking industry affords us the opportunity to hear a lot of stories. Some of those stories involve roadside inspections that pit truck drivers against police officers and DOT inspectors in a battle of wills. It’s funny, but we have never gotten the impression that inspectors are purposely trying to make the lives of truck drivers miserable.

In our regular perusal of trucking industry news, we ran across a CDL Life article featuring a cargo control cheat sheet developed by an Indiana state trooper. It reminded us that there are police officers who genuinely want to help truckers avoid violations. The trooper who put out the cheat sheet seems to be one of them.

Our question to you is this: could you use the cheat sheet? Being that we are not truck drivers ourselves, we cannot answer the question for you. But even with our limited knowledge, the cheat sheet looks like it could be very useful.

Working Load Limits Chart

At the top of the cheat sheet is a chart that acts as a handy reference for working load limits (WLLs). The chart is based on standard sized chains from grades 30 through 100. These would be chains used to tie down coil, heavy equipment, and the like. Below that chart is a second, smaller chart with references to webbing straps.

We assume that truckers could use both these charts as a quick reference to determine whether they are using enough tie-downs or not. We realize that federal law requires a certain number of tie-downs based on the weight of a particular load. Drivers are also required to deploy those tie-downs in such a way as to prevent all forward and lateral movement.

To work out the math, the cheat sheet includes a handy table that a driver can fill out by hand. This facilitates doing the math necessary to make sure he or she gets it right. The chart accounts for:

•Operating weight
•Chain WLL
•Number of chains
•WLL percentages
•Current WLL load
•WLL still needed.

We imagine that using this table would offer a clear visual representation of what is actually going on. We can see how it might be helpful to those truckers trying to understand the tie-downs they need to maintain compliance.

Cargo Control Checklist

Underneath the WLL information is a checklist that asks drivers five basic questions. Those questions are as follows:

•Have you covered 50% of the weight of the load?
•Have you covered the length of the load?
•Have you determined if there is a specific commodity item?
•Are there any edge protection violations?
•Is the load prevented from shifting during transport?

We do not claim to know what all that means, but we trust truckers do. If there are any questions, the trooper who put the cheat sheet together went to the trouble of including the specific regulations pertaining to all five questions. There is no reason any trucker should use this checklist as intended and still get it wrong.

Kudos to the Indiana state trooper who did the work in preparing this cargo control cheat sheet. We hope it turns out to be a very useful tool to flatbed truckers. Heaven knows they could use as much help as they can get to maintain cargo control compliance.

For our part, we are here to supply truckers with the chains, straps, binders, and any other equipment they need to secure their cargo for transit. We offer high-quality products at great prices.


How Headache Racks Save Lives

A good-looking headache rack polished to brilliant perfection can make any tractor look like a million dollars. After all, what’s more attractive on a truck than lots of clean and polished chrome? That said, headache racks are not really intended to be showpieces. They provide a vital function. Indeed, headache racks save lives.

No one is really sure where the term ‘headache rack’ comes from. Some say it is so named because it prevents head injuries to flatbed drivers should cargo break loose and slam into the back of the tractor. Others say the name comes from the tendency of truck drivers to hit their heads on the racks when hooking and unhooking trailers.

Regardless of the origins of the name, the point of the headache rack is to protect the back of the tractor from shifting cargo. A headache rack can be nothing more than a steel plate welded to the frame of the truck in just the right position. However, it can also be much more. Headache racks can include cabinets and hooks that increase a tractor’s storage capacity.

Death Mere Inches Away

Neither federal nor state law requires tractors to be fitted with headache racks. Drivers are free to use trailer bulkheads or extra tiedown straps to secure cargo in the absence of a headache rack. Still, a headache rack is a very good idea for any tractor the tows flatbed trailers.

Take the 2014 case of a truck carrying steel girders through Tualatin, Oregon. The truck was cut off by another tractor-trailer, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes. At that very moment, he heard the sound of screeching metal. Knowing what was about to happen, the driver ducked down and hoped he would live to tell the story.

Thankfully, he did. A steel girder crashed through the right side of the cab, missing the driver by mere inches. The truck was not equipped with a headache rack. For that driver, death was just inches away; just a few inches to the left side and that would have been it.

A Headache Rack for Every Truck

One of the best things about headache racks is that there is one for every truck. The racks Mytee Products sells are standard sizes and can be fitted to almost any tractor. But even if none of the models work for your truck, you’re not out of luck. You could have a custom headache rack built just for your rig. You could buy one of our racks and have it modified to meet your needs.

Here’s something else to consider: not all headache racks are designed only to protect the back of the truck. There are cab-over models that can protect the occupants in the event of a rollover. You don’t see these kinds of headache racks on tractor trailers, but they are common for utility vehicles.

A case in point is a truck operated by firefighters fighting a blaze in Colorado earlier this year. The truck was essentially a heavy-duty pickup truck with specialized equipment mounted on the back. Its headache rack covered both the back of the cab and the top of the truck.

While traveling a mountain road thick with smoke, one of the front tires left the roadway and sent the truck plunging down a ravine. Though the vehicle was all but totaled, both driver and passengers walked away from the accident with only minor scrapes, scratches, and bruises.

Headache racks sure do look fine when cleaned and polished. But they also save lives. Which is more important in the long run?

 


Ag Tire Life Is Ultimately About Air Pressure

Tractor and wagon tires take an awful lot of punishment on the farm. They are some of the toughest pieces of equipment farmers own. Surprisingly though, the most important factor determining tire life is not the work tires do or the conditions they are subject to. No, ag tire life is ultimately about air pressure.

Rubber casings and steel belts obviously play a significant role in tractor and wagon tire performance. But casings and belts are really just a house for air. It is the air inside the tires that supports the weight of a tractor or wagon. It is the air that gives an otherwise soft tire its solid structure. Maintaining correct tire pressure maximizes life; not maintaining pressure reduces life. It is all pretty simple.

Tire Pressure During Winter

Your average tractor owner knows enough to check tire pressure during the spring, summer, and fall. After all, the owner is using the tractor just about every day. It is winter that causes the most problems for tire pressure. Tractors and wagons put in storage can be forgotten until the snow melts and the ice thaws. That’s a mistake.

A good rule of thumb is to check tractor and wagon tires at least twice a week over the winter. Note that temperature plays a crucial role in tire pressure. As temperatures fall, so does tire pressure. It goes back up as the temperature rises. What does this tell you? It tells you that prolonged periods of sustained cold could make your tires soft enough to affect both tread and sidewall. Air should be added when temperatures begin to rise.

It is interesting that tractor tires do not hold a lot of air to begin with. Anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds is normal. In terms of cold temperatures though, tractor tires tend to lose a pound of pressure per square inch for every 10° the temperature falls. The time of biggest concern is that the point of the first cold snap of the season.

Liquid Filled Tires

There are times when tractor and wagon owners decide to fill their tires with fluid to keep them in better shape for the winter. That’s not a bad idea for preserving sidewalls and maintaining a good footprint. Yet tires should never be filled with water. Water expands when it freezes, which could be hazardous for tractor and wagon tires.

Experts recommend being very careful when buying used tires from warm weather climates. Let’s say you are buying tires from Florida or Southern California, where freezing is near impossible. The seller you are purchasing from may have filled tires with water, not even thinking about it. One hard freeze on your property in Ohio could mean big problems.

We Recommend New Tires

Here at Mytee Products, we understand that circumstances sometimes dictate purchasing used tires. We recommend buying new whenever possible. New tires are going to offer many more years of reliable service as long as they are taken care of. You never know how long used tires will last.

You might already be making plans to put your tractor and wagons away for the winter. In a couple of more weeks, you’ll be ready to set aside working in the field in favor of getting some of that back-office work done. Just remember that your tractor and wagon tires need to be maintained over the winter. Check air pressure at least twice a week. And if you are going to use liquid to fill your tires, make sure you use something that won’t freeze.


Why Vehicle Inspectors Practice What They Do

Truck drivers across North America were subject to the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Roadcheck inspections back in June (2018). You know exactly what we are talking about if you drive a truck for a living. But did you know that inspectors actually practice what they do? They do it to be better at what they do, though some practice in order to compete.

There’s a lot more that goes into truck inspections than meets the eye. In terms of cargo control, truck drivers are all-too-familiar with inspectors checking everything from the number of tie-downs to the actual physical condition of webbing straps and chains. They check hooks, winches, anchor points, bungee straps, and even whether truck tarps are secured well enough to keep them in place.

Inspectors also check the physical condition of the trucks they are looking at. They check everything from tires to breaks and operating lights. And of course, don’t forget hours of service rules and the new ELD mandate. They are looking for anything that could pose a danger on the road – no matter how minor.

Training to Compete

A large number of truck inspectors gathered in Columbus, Ohio this past summer to participate in the CVSA’s North American Inspectors Championship. According to news reports, there were more than four dozen inspectors representing the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, all competing by way of a written test and hands-on demonstrations.

They were competing alongside truckers involved in the National Truck Driving Championships. While truckers were practicing everything from cargo control to turning and backing, inspectors were practicing all the steps that go into doing what they do. When it was time for the competition to commence, both drivers and inspectors hoped to be at the tops of their game.

A truck driver uses chains and straps to securely tie down a load. Drivers practice load tie-down in order to increase their efficiency in the real world of work. The more efficient they are at cargo control, the more time they have to keep the wheels rolling. It is just common sense.

Inspectors are in a similar situation. They practice the skills necessary to conduct complete inspections that are simultaneously efficient. The more trucks they can get in and out of inspection stations, the more they can look at in a given day. This keeps the trucks moving and the roads safe.

Knowing the Regulations and Physics

For both trucker and inspector, the key to success is knowing the regulations and physics of cargo control. Federal law, at least in the U.S. and Canada, is very specific in detailing how truck drivers are supposed to secure cargo to their trailers. One look at the FMCSA’s trucker handbook says it all.

Truckers need to be familiar with the rules so that they maintain compliance. They also need to be familiar with physics. Why? So that they can deploy their cargo control materials in the right way. No webbing strap or chain will do its job if it is not deployed properly.

As for inspectors, they need to have that same knowledge of regulations and physics. It is their job to make sure truckers are complying. If they don’t know what’s going on, they cannot possibly do their jobs.

Truck drivers, you now know that those inspectors you deal with all the time practice what they do. They not only practice to compete, but also to make sure they always operate at the highest possible level. It’s probably not a good idea to put them to the test. They know what they’re doing.

 


The Snow Is Coming – Stock Your Tow Trucks Now

An interesting series of events occurred in St. Paul, Minnesota in the spring of 2018. The region was subject to its sixth snow emergency of the season thanks to a whopper that descended on the Twin Cities in mid-April. What happened on the city’s streets over the weekend of April 14 serves as a reminder to tow operators that snow is coming and it might be a lot of it. So, get your trucks stocked with towing supplies now.

Towing vehicles during snow emergencies is standard operating procedure for most major cities. It just makes sense. Snow plows cannot clear the roads effectively if they are littered with cars. Moreover, plows traveling down the street will block in any cars that are not moved. Cities tow for both the benefit of plow operators and car owners alike.

You Will Be Called On

What happened in St. Paul may have been unusual, but that doesn’t change the fact that tow truck operators across the country will be called on this winter to clear streets during snow emergencies. It is part and parcel of the towing game in urban environments. The only question that remains now is whether tow operators are prepared for the coming workload.

Mytee Products cannot help with driver training, truck maintenance, insurance issues, etc. But we do stock an entire inventory of towing supplies. We are here to help you make sure your truck is fully stocked in advance of the coming winter. And if your company owns multiple trucks, you can buy all your supplies from us.

Be sure to check your inventory of towing straps. Not only should you have an ample number, but each of your straps should be in good working order as well. Check towing straps for wear and tear and broken buckles or hooks. Check your towing chains as well. Towing chains can rust over the summer months while in storage, so give each chain the once over.

Don’t Forget the Lighting

We encourage tow operators to also pay attention to lighting. In most states and local municipalities, tow trucks are required to be equipped with some sort of lighting to designate when the truck is engaged. For most tow truck operators, that means amber dome lights or light bars mounted to the roof of the truck.

If your state or local municipality also requires temporary lights attached to the towed vehicle, we have those too. Temporary lights are fixed to the towed vehicle by way of powerful magnets. They are also connected by cable to the truck’s electrical system so that they work in sync with the truck’s break lights, tail lights, and turn signals.

Winter is coming, and it is coming fast. That’s good news if you’re a tow operator who relies on the extra business of the season to boost revenues. Just don’t be caught off guard. Make sure your truck is fully stocked before the first snow emergency is declared in your local area.