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Heavy Vehicle Loads: Tips for Loading Ramps and Step Decks

Loading heavy vehicles onto a step-deck trailer is one of the most dangerous jobs in flatbed trucking. Both truck drivers and yard workers have to be especially careful during the loading process. They also have to make sure that they have the right tools for the task, especially heavy-duty loading ramps capable of safely handling the load.

Loading ramps come in multiple configurations based on manufactured design and driver need. Yet they all have a couple of things in common. Knowing the basics of how loading ramps work sets a driver up for safely loading heavy vehicles. We are talking front loaders, cranes, and other pieces of heavy machinery here.

Below are a few tips for loading heavy vehicles onto a step deck trailer. If you have any questions about using your loading ramps, please consult the documentation supplied by the manufacturer as well as federal guidelines from both OSHA and the FMCSA.

Use Two Ramps If Necessary

Light-duty vehicles can often be loaded onto a step-deck with just a single ramp under each axle. Heavy vehicles may require two ramps to spread the weight across a longer loading area. This is where ramp stands and pins come in handy. Start with a level loading area, then attach the first ramp on either side of the trailer extending out to ramp stands. Using adjustable ramp stands will be discussed in just a moment.

Next, extend each of the two secondary ramps from the stands down to the ground. Using a second ramp under each wheel extends the surface area of the load by two times. This will make for easier loading at less of an angle.

Introduce Camber for Low Center Vehicles

Vehicles with a low center of gravity may be more difficult to move the farther up the ramps they go. One way to facilitate a safer and more efficient process is to introduce camber to the loading ramps. This is done using adjustable ramp stands. If your ramp stands have multiple positions secured by pins, they are ideal for this purpose.

Under normal conditions, both ramps on either side of a single stand would be at the same angle. By raising the stand one or two notches, you create a scenario in which the upper ramp is at a lower angle while the lower ramp is at a higher angle. This camber should make it easier to move low center vehicles even as they approach the top of the ramp.

Use Blocks at the Back of the Trailer

Heavy vehicles can cause the back of a trailer to bottom out on loading. Not only is this bad for truck and trailer, it presents a dangerous situation that could send the load toppling off the ramps. The way to avoid this is to put blocks underneath the trailer’s rear bumper structure. This will keep the trailer stable throughout the loading process. Make sure the loading surface is hard enough to prevent the blocks from sinking under the weight of the load.

Using Ramps as Levelers

Some step-deck arrangements require drivers to use their loading ramps as levelers once the load is on the trailer. This is not something we can describe in detail as every load is different. The one thing we can say is to be safe while you are doing this. If you do not know how to use ramps as levelers, talk with somebody who does. Their knowledge and experience could save you from serious injury, or even worse, as a result of misusing loading ramps.


Tips for Buying Headache Racks Online

Mytee Products is thrilled to be able to offer our customers a range of heavy-duty headache racks that offer both protection and extra storage options. Customers can purchase our headache racks in person, at our Ohio headquarters, or online. We make both options available because we understand that truck drivers need flexibility.

Perhaps you are thinking about a new headache rack for your truck. If so, we invite you to stop by and see us in Aurora next time you’re passing through Northeast Ohio. If you can’t get to our warehouse, you can still order what you need online. We have a great selection.

Buying a headache rack online does come with a few risks. Therefore, we want you to be smart about your purchase. Below are some tips you should find helpful. If you are not planning to buy from Mytee Products, we urge you to be extra cautious. It would be a shame to invest a lot of money in a headache rack only to find that what you purchased doesn’t suit your needs.

Measure Twice, Then Measure Again

The construction trades have a saying: “measure twice, cut once.” The point of the saying is to remind tradesmen to be absolutely sure about their measurements before they begin cutting materials. Otherwise, improper measurements can lead to all sorts of problems, including waste and poor fits.

There is a similar principle when it comes to headache racks. Although headache racks tend to be universal for the most part, your rig might be an exception to the rule. Perhaps you already have other pieces of equipment affixed to the back of your truck that could get in the way of a new rack. Or maybe you want your headache rack positioned a certain way. Here’s the deal: measure twice, then measure a third time – just for good measure, so to speak. Know exactly what you need before you place your order.

Choose a Trusted Brand

Brand means a lot in the trucking business. As such, your choice of headache rack should come from a brand you know and trust. The best brands generally offer the best quality and performance over the long run. And yes, the best brands cost a little bit more. But this is one area in which getting what you pay for is important.

Remember that your choice of headache rack could end up being a lifesaver at some point down the road. You can buy cheap, but then you might also be risking life and limb as a result. Just be willing to spend whatever it takes to give you the level of protection you are after.

Avoid Buying Used

You might be tempted to save a little money by purchasing a used headache rack from an online classified site for one of the popular auction sites. We won’t disagree that buying used can be a big money saver. But there are risks that come with doing so. First and foremost, you never know what you’re getting if you don’t have an opportunity to inspect the product first.

Another risk that comes with buying used is not being able to return the headache rack that’s damaged, malfunctioning, or just doesn’t fit your rig. Is that a risk you are willing to take to save a few bucks? Buying used is entirely up to you, but it’s not something we recommend.

A headache rack is an important piece of safety equipment every tractor should be equipped with. If you are in the market for a new one, please take a few moments to check out our inventory.


Installing Headache Racks and Bulkheads: A Smart Move

Every now and then if you look up an online trucker forums, you will come across questions from new flatbed drivers asking whether headache racks and bulkheads are required by law. The questions are reasonable given the rules instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to regulate cargo control. Thankfully, the questions are easy to answer.

Headache racks and bulkheads are not required by federal regulations. However, using them is still smart as it protects cargo and prevents damage. If a truck owner has the opportunity to install one or both without causing major inconvenience or financial stress, it would not make sense to decline said opportunity.

What the Law Says

A quick perusal of the FMCSA Driver’s Handbook makes it clear that truck drivers are required by law to make sure cargo is properly secured. This includes doing whatever is necessary to prevent forward movement. In a flatbed situation, that means making sure that either tie-downs or some sort of barrier is in place to prevent cargo from moving forward on the trailer.

The handbook includes numerous illustrations along with hard numbers demonstrating what the law requires. It shows the difference between preventing forward movement with a bulkhead and doing it just with tiedown straps instead. The important thing to know is that the law requires a certain number of tie-downs, based on the length and weight of the cargo, if no bulkhead or headache rack is in place.

Drivers also have to pay attention to the working load limits (WLLs) of their tiedown straps. These limits are part of the calculation necessary to determine the number of tie-downs necessary to prevent forward movement of cargo. Too few tie-downs equal a violation.

Meeting the Demands of Customers

Although federal law does not mandate the use of headache racks or bulkheads, there are some shippers who are particular about their usage. Two good examples are rail and pipe loads. A shipper may insist that an owner-operator utilize a bulkhead just for an extra measure of safety.

Such requests do not seem unreasonable for certain kinds of cargo. A contained, rectangular load is fairly easy to secure against forward movement with straps over the top and around the front. But it is not so easy for a load of pipe. And whether or not a truck driver agrees, shippers insisting on bulkheads are not going to release a load until they are confident it will be secure during transport.

From our perspective, insisting on a bulkhead or headache rack for certain kinds of loads is no different than shippers insisting that tarps be used. Their main priority is to protect cargo and limit liability. Preventing forward movement via a bulkhead or headache rack may be the best way to do it in their eyes.

Buy What You Need from Mytee Products

Given the federal mandates for securing cargo and the fact that some shippers insist on bulkheads or headache racks, it just makes sense to install one or both on your equipment. You will be pleased to know that Mytee Products has everything you need. We carry both headache racks and bulkheads, along with the appropriate mounting systems.

Headache racks and bulkheads may not be required by law, but it’s still smart to use them. Both prevent forward movement of cargo and protect you as the driver. Both represent an affordable way to protect yourself as well as your investment in your equipment. After all, it doesn’t take much to cause a big problem. Just a little bit of forward movement could cause you a big headache you don’t really want.

 


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.


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.