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.

 


Tow Operators Have to Be Ready for Anything

What does a typical day for you look like? If you are a tow operator, there is no such thing as a typical day. Between cars that will not start, and heavily-damaged vehicles involved in accidents, you have to be ready for just about anything. Even a truck spilling a load of potatoes on the highway is not out of the question.

Those of us who don’t work in the towing and recovery industry tend to think of towing as little more than recovering cars with dead batteries or faulty starters. We may give a slight nod to recovering cars off the side of the interstate following an accident, but most of us have never given any thought to recoveries involving tractor trailers, construction equipment, or dozens of mangled vehicles involved in a multi-vehicle collision during the middle of winter.

To do their jobs right, tow operators need a virtual library of knowledge accompanied by practical experience and the right tools. We can help where the tools are concerned. Mytee Products offers a full catalog of products ranging from towing chains and hooks to hauling straps and emergency towing lights.

The Right Equipment for Those Big Jobs

We hear plenty of stories from tow operators who visit our showroom in need of a few towing supplies. Many of those stories involve pretty big operations requiring multiple tow trucks and drivers. The big jobs are some of the most dangerous that tow operators work on.

For example, the potato truck referenced at the start of this article wasn’t made up. The accident really occurred just outside of Aiken, South Carolina. News reports say a local driver ran a red light and proceeded to collide with an 18-wheeler. The impact sent the semi into a ditch, its load of potatoes emptying out onto the highway.

Potatoes strewn everywhere was not the big issue for the towing company that responded. The spuds could easily have been cleaned up and taken away. No, the real problem was getting the trailer out of the ditch. A photograph of the accident scene shows a rather large tow truck with a hydraulic beam and winch attempting to pull the trailer back onto the roadway.

These kinds of jobs require specialized equipment. For example, it would be inappropriate to hook a chain between the tow truck and trailer in an attempt to drag the trailer back onto the road. The heavy-duty winch and steel cable capable of moving the trailer while the tow truck remained stationary was the safest way to extract the damaged trailer.

Operators Need a Variety of Tools

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned over the years of serving the industry is that tow truck operators need a variety of tools to do what they do. It’s not enough just to have a small selection of towing straps and chains on board. Operators need a full arsenal of weapons, so to speak, if they are truly going to be prepared for anything.

An easy job might be as simple as hooking a broken-down car underneath its front axle and using wheel nets and a chain to keep everything in place. A more complicated job might require a combination of steel winch cable, a couple of heavy-duty chains and hooks, and even a snatch block or two. The tow operator never really knows until he or she arrives on-site.

No, there is no such thing as a typical day for tow operators. They need to be prepared for anything and everything. That means having the right tools on board.

 


Checking Tractor Tires Should Be a Daily Exercise

There is an awful lot to keep you busy on the farm at this time of year. So much so that it’s not hard to neglect your tractor and wagon tires. You get up in the morning, get a good breakfast, and get right to work. Checking the condition of your tires is a task that can easily fall by the wayside.

According to Ag Pro’s Sonja Begemann, checking tractor tires should be a daily exercise for growers. Between the weather, the busyness of planting season, and the punishment of open road driving, this time of year puts a lot of wear and tear on tractor tires. Begemann recommends frequently checking tires to “avoid unexpected, preventable issues between planting, and harvesting.”

Begemann’s words are good advice. She isn’t the only one that recommends daily tire checks. Several people she interviewed for her piece agree. One engineer told Begemann that air pressure is one of the most important things to check on a daily basis.

Tire Pressure Affects Wear

Tire pressure that is too high does not necessarily result in critical damage right away. However, it does cause uneven tread wear. Over time, this uneven wear can reduce the life of even the best tractor tires on the market. Under some conditions, excessively high air pressure can also mean less traction out in the field.

A bigger problem for tractor tires is pressure that is too low. You might want low pressure in the field in order to maximize traction in wet, soggy conditions. But low pressure is a tire killer on both the open road and hard soil. If you have to take your tractor from one field to the next on a paved surface, make sure your tire pressure is where it’s supposed to be before you embark.

The damage from under inflation during open road driving can be significant. You can lose a good portion of tread or even blow out the sidewall.

Other Things to Check Frequently

Beyond tire pressure, Begemann recommends growers check a number of other things. At the top of the list is damage to the outer surface of the tires themselves – particularly the sidewalls. Tire sidewalls take a tremendous amount of punishment in the field. All it takes is a single cut or crack to be a big problem.

Begemann suggests also frequently checking:

1. Tread Depth – The general rule is to replace your tractor tires when they have less than 20% of their tread remaining.
2. Tread Damage – Stubble has a way of piercing tread rubber and causing damage. A little damage is tolerable; extensive damage may require replacement.
3. Ground Contact Area – Begemann says there should be “no gap between lugs and the ground”.
4. Valve Stems – Valve stems can be damaged in the field. They are also subject to normal wear and tear as a result of corrosion and debris.
5. Lug Nuts and Bolts – Check lug nuts and bolts while you are checking your tires. Make sure everything is secure before you depart.

Begemann reminded growers that the amount of punishment tractor tires can take depends on how they handle their tractors. More cautious driving tends to result in longer tire life. Of course, there are other factors that can affect tire life as well. The condition of the grower’s fields, how often the grower has to take a tractor on public roads, etc.

You should be checking your tractors tire every day if you want to maximize tire life. When it is time to replace your tires, Mytee Products has what you need.

 


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?

 


Fence Installation: Getting It Right More Important than Speed

A father and son from New Zealand recently competed in a fence installation contest that resulted in the younger competitor beating the older. Apparently, the competition is an annual event at the National Agricultural Fieldays in Hamilton, New Zealand. And while speed may be important to winning the Golden Pliers competition, getting it right is more important in a real-world setting.

Here at Mytee Products, we sell a complete inventory of fencing materials including energizers and wire rope. We are careful to encourage customers who visit our Ohio showroom to take their time and do things right. Getting it right is more important than speed when you are installing a fence designed to keep your cattle in.

The Student Becomes the Master

Getting back to the New Zealand competition for just a minute, 47-year-old Shane Bouskill apparently decided to retire from competition after being beaten by his son Tony. The younger Bouskill, just 28 years old, won the competition in grand fashion. He brought an end to his father’s four-year reign as champion.

Tony’s father was already planning to retire even before this year’s competition got underway. But he convinced his father to give it one more shot. Shane Bouskill ultimately finished fourth. The two teamed up in a separate pairs competition which they won for the second straight year.

A day after the competition, Tony was back to work installing fences for customers. He said he’s not sure if his father will retire only from competition or from fence building entirely. In either case, father and son do very well for themselves building fences for farmers, cattle ranchers, and anyone else who needs them.

Building a Fence the Right Way

Fence building competitions aside, there are right and wrong ways to install electrified fencing. A property owner going electrified rather than barbed wire has a few considerations to think of. For example, the chosen energizer for any given fence has to be proportional to the amount of fence being powered. Attempting to power too much line with an inadequate energizer results in ineffective fencing.

Other things to consider include:

” The Number of Posts – Electrified fences do not require as many posts as barbed wire because the tension on the wire rope is not nearly as high. But that does not mean property owners can skimp. They still need the right number of posts correctly positioned in the ground.

” System Grounding – Electrified fencing needs to be properly grounded in order to function. It is not uncommon for inexperienced property owners to damage their systems due to improper grounding.

” Number of Lines – Electrified fencing doesn’t require as many lines as its barbed wire counterpart. Still, a fence cannot have any big gaps between lines if it’s going to be as effective as possible. Three to four lines is generally recommended.

” Backup Power – The one downside to electrified fencing is that electricity can be knocked out in a storm. It is wise to design a fence with backup power in mind. Whether that means a solar-powered energizer, battery backup, or running a generator during power outages is less important than actually coming up with a workable solution.

It is great that the Bouskills can install electrified fencing in record time. But once the annual competition in New Zealand is over, father and son go back to work with a focus on doing things right. If you have to choose between speed and a by-the-book installation, always go with the latter. Getting it right is always more important than doing it quickly.