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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?

 


Cab Rack or Headache Rack: Does the Name Really Matter?

Truck drivers who come to the Mytee Products website looking for a shiny metal rack to mount to the backs of their cabs will find what they’re looking for under the ‘headache racks’ section of our website. Yes, we call them headache racks. Others call them cab racks. Does the name really matter? That depends on who you ask.

No one really knows how the headache rack got its name. We can only surmise that the name comes from the rack’s ability to protect a driver from cargo that shifts forward during transit. But that’s assuming the headache rack name first applied to the racks on 18 wheelers. But maybe that is not the case.

At any rate, the point is that we all know what headache racks do regardless of what they are called. The name is only important if you draw a distinction between pickup truck and 18-wheeler models. Some people do see a difference.

Big Rigs vs. Pickup Trucks

Say the word ‘truck’ among a group of people and those around you will not necessarily know if you are talking about a big rig or a pickup. The word is rather generic. As such, differences between trucks have given rise to different opinions about headache racks and cab racks.

For those who see a difference, the headache rack applies to a pickup truck while a cab rack applies to a big rig. Why? Once again, no one knows for sure. One possible explanation is that manufacturers of aftermarket parts for pickup trucks have co-opted the headache rack term. Not wishing to be associated with pickup trucks, manufacturers of big rig racks have settled on the cab rack name.

Let us assume such a distinction is worth maintaining. That would suggest a significant difference in the two kinds of racks. A headache rack made for a pickup truck is going to be much smaller – and that is just for starters. It is also not going to be capable of withstanding as much force. You wouldn’t expect it to, given the comparably light loads pickup trucks carry.

On the other hand, a cab rack on the back of an 18-wheeler is going to be a lot bigger and stronger. It has to be able to withstand the force of thousands of pounds of cargo being slammed against it. But there is another difference too: a big rig’s cab rack also has to offer some storage functionality as well.

A Place for Those Chains and Straps

Tractor trailers are limited in terms of their total allowable weight. So if you’re adding a headache rack to the back of your Peterbilt, for example, you have to account for the weight of the rack when calculating the total weight of the rig. You want to keep the weight as low as possible in order to maximize the amount of cargo you can carry. As such, you expect your headache rack to do dual duty.

There are some tractor-trailer racks that are nothing more than steel plates with a couple of hooks for hanging chains and straps. But there are others with built-in storage space for everything from chains and straps to ratchets and winches. Some have storage compartments large enough to accommodate truck tarps. You will not find that kind of storage in a pickup truck model.

In the end, the name doesn’t really matter as long as you get what you need. Mytee Products has what you are looking for. We invite you to browse our selection of headache racks and toolboxes.


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?