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Tips for Using Loading Ramps in Winter Weather

Flatbed trucking does not take a break during the winter. It may slow down for certain kinds of loads, but flatbed truckers keep the wheels moving year-round. That means they have to adapt the way they work to account for potentially dangerous winter conditions. Consider the possibility of using trailer loading ramps to get a piece of heavy construction equipment onto the back of a trailer.

Regardless of weather conditions, loading ramps should be deployed with care. That’s why manufacturers recommend being extremely cautious. In the winter time though, the hazards normally associated with loading ramps are exacerbated by snow, ice, and even cold temperatures. Truck drivers have to be extra careful.

 

Below are some helpful tips that could make a real difference should you have to use your loading ramps during the coming season.

1. Wear Heavy-Duty Gloves

You should always be wearing gloves when you are working with your loading ramps. In the winter though, gloves are even more important. Cold temperatures can make your hands go numb pretty quickly. A good pair of gloves, would prevent any physical harm.

The other thing to remember is that loading ramps themselves will be extremely cold. Working without gloves could lead to frostbite. If your skin is wet or damp when you first touch a loading ramp, it could freeze to the surface of the metal. That would not be a fun situation to be caught up in. The point  here is that heavy-duty gloves are non-negotiable during the winter.

2. Ramps Should Be Free of Ice

Before any loading takes place, your ramps should be completely free of ice and snow. You can use a commercial deicing product in the form of a liquid or spray to keep them clean. Some truck drivers carry a rubber mallet in the toolbox instead. A couple of whacks with the mallet will get rid of ice pretty quickly.

3. Look for Clean, Dry Surfaces

You know enough about truck loading ramps to look for flat, level surfaces on which to deploy them. The flat and level rule still applies during the winter. But let us go one step further. You should also look for surfaces that are clean and dry. Otherwise you risk the very real possibility of your loading ramps shifting on you.

Where loading ramps meet the ground, you should have a clean and dry surface to work with. If there is any snow or ice in the way, remove it first. The extra work involved here is worth it from a safety standpoint. Just ask anybody who has lost a load underneath loading ramps that shifted on the ice.

4. Consider a Single Piece Ramp

Winter is a good time to use single piece ramps instead of dual ramps. A single piece ramp is not always possible, but you should consider it for those jobs when it’s doable. A single piece ramp is just safer. Fewer things can go wrong because you are only working with one ramp. Obviously, you’re not going to carry a single piece ramp in your trailer. That means you will have to ask the shipper or receiver if they have one.

Winter weather is fast approaching. Please be cautious and account for current weather conditions while you work. Everyone wants you to be safe out there, including the entire Mytee Products team.


Don’t Ignore the Fundamentals of Loading Ramp Use

The Drive’s Max Goldberg put together a great piece in April of 2017 detailing the hazards of loading cars onto trailers incorrectly. His post was both informative and amusing at the same time. It included a series of YouTube videos that show just what can go wrong if you attempt to load a flatbed trailer without knowing exactly what you’re doing.

In fairness, each of the videos appears to show amateurs who don’t do this for a living. But even professionals can learn a thing or two by watching. Needless to say that driving a vehicle up a set of trailer-loading ramps and onto the deck is not as easy as it looks. The laws of physics offer too many possibilities for things to go wrong.

Secure Your Truck and Trailer First

One of the videos in Goldberg’s post shows two men attempting to load a pickup truck full of used tires onto the back of a trailer hooked to a second pickup. The spotter sizes things up before speaking to the driver of the tire-filled truck. It is not until the driver begins moving forward that trouble ensues.

Apparently, the spotter failed to secure the other truck and trailer. As soon as the tire-filled truck began moving up the trailer loading ramps, the entire rig started moving forward. It eventually jackknifed and pinned the second truck to a light post.

The obvious lesson here is to make sure your truck and trailer are secured before you begin loading. That means engine off, brakes applied, and blocks in place. The last thing you need is for your rig to shift while your loading ramps are engaged with a full load.

Always Load on Level Ground

Another video depicts someone attempting to load a pickup truck on a surface that isn’t level. The loading ramps appear to have a hinge that allows them to be positioned at different angles for just this purpose. But that doesn’t make them safe. As the truck begins making its way up the ramps, the front axle passes over the hinge and that’s the end of it. The rear end of the ramps kick up and dig into the frame of the truck.

Loading on a level surface is a no-brainer. Loading ramps are only as sturdy as they can be on level ground. Loading on a surface that isn’t level is tempting fate, as that pickup truck driver discovered.

Use Spotters and Hand Signals

A couple of the videos clearly show that using more spotters would have been helpful. Along with those spotters go hand signals that allow them to communicate with the driver without speaking. This is something experienced flatbed drivers are intimately familiar with. The more spotters, the safer the loading process.

Secure Those Loading Ramps

Finally, one of the videos depicts someone attempting to load a car into the back of a dry van. We assume this was a household move. At any rate, the car makes it about three-quarters of the way up the ramps before stopping for a brief second. The driver then accelerates, causing the rear wheels to kick the loading ramps out. Now the car is hanging off the back of the trailer.

What can we learn from this video? That trailer loading ramps should always be firmly and securely affixed before loading begins. Loading ramps built for flatbed trailers come with pins for this very reason. You should never attempt to run a load up a set of ramps if those ramps are not firmly secured in place.

 


That Moment Your Expensive Headache Rack Pays for Itself

CTV news in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) aired a shocking story back in December 2014 following an accident involving a flatbed rig carrying steel beams on Highway 1. The truck driver was lucky to walk away with only minor injuries in what could have been a fatal incident. His experience serves as a reminder of why headache racks are so important.

The tractor-trailer headache rack is a lot like those drop-down oxygen masks in commercial airliners. They are there if you need them, but you hope you never have to actually use them. But life doesn’t always go that smoothly.

All across the country there are tractor-trailer drivers who do their jobs with the peace of mind that comes with being protected by a headache rack. But there are trucks not fitted with headache racks. More often than not, they are used mostly for local delivery operations.

A Life-Saving Investment

We get it that some motor carriers do not believe investing in headache racks is a wise use of valuable financial resources. If you’re running a local or regional operation that dictates most of your trucks travel fewer than 100 miles per day, it’s easy to view the headache rack as an unnecessary accessory. But the moment a headache rack saves a driver’s life, you realize just how important the investment really is.

For the record, the driver in the 2014 Vancouver accident was not charged in the mishap. Local police said that his load was properly secured and that his truck was not overweight. Still, two of the steel beams on his trailer shifted forward when he hit the brakes too hard on an off-ramp.

One of the beams slammed through the back of the truck, the front windshield, and across the hood. The front of the beam landed on the pavement while the rear of the beam remained inside the cab. In what can only be described as a miracle, it completely missed the driver’s head. Just a few inches to one side and the driver could have been decapitated.

The point to make here is that even a properly secured load can break free under the right conditions. Here in the States, flatbed truckers have to use extra straps when there is no bulkhead on the flatbed trailer, but even extra straps are not foolproof protection. The headache rack isn’t foolproof either, but having one is still safer than not having one.

Added Storage Space to Boot

From our perspective as a dealer in trucking equipment and supplies, we see an added benefit to outfitting all your trucks with headache racks. That benefit is extra storage space. As long as you’re investing in headache racks, you might just as well spend a little more on models that include storage space for straps, chains, bungee cords, and more.

It is true that you can get just a plain headache rack with no storage built in. And if budget were your primary concern, that would be understandable. But you still need storage space for all those cargo control supplies your drivers use to keep their loads secure. All those things have to be stored somewhere.

A headache rack with built-in storage reduces the need for externally-mounted toolboxes. They definitely eliminate the need for you to store equipment on the back of the trailer; equipment that also needs to be tied down to keep it secure.

That moment a headache rack saves a driver’s life is the moment you realize how important headache racks are. So, are your trucks properly equipped?

 


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.