When the government enacted the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) initiative in 2010, they did so as a means of replacing outdated regulations with new rules designed to make trucking safer for drivers, fleets, and shippers and receivers. One of the inevitable results of CSA was more scrutiny of flatbed drivers who now have even greater responsibility for making sure cargo is safely secured.
Severe winter weather is just weeks away in parts of the country where storms can begin in late November and last all the way through March. In the past, we have written blog posts detailing safe winter driving tips and how to apply tarps and other cargo control components in winter weather. In this post, we want to focus on some of the equipment drivers should have on hand if they are planning to haul flatbeds over the next several months.
Obviously, tire chains and a good selection of high-quality flatbed truck tarps are prerequisites for winter weather. Departing without them wouldn’t be a good idea. But what else does a trucker need? Are there any other pieces of equipment truckers should be considering about above and beyond tarps, ratchet straps and bungee cords? Absolutely.
Here are five things you should have on hand for winter flatbed driving:
1. A Heavy-Duty Tool Box
No flatbed trucker should ever think about hitting the road without a solid, heavy-duty toolbox on board. During the winter, it’s worth carrying the extra weight to have a second tool box. The tool box is the prime storage area for everything from tarps to bungee straps to those extra hand tools that might be necessary to keep a truck going in bad weather.
We obviously recommend aluminum as the construction material of choice. Aluminum is lightweight on one hand, durable on the other. If you have room on your truck, two tool boxes would be ideal for winter driving. You can never have too much storage for all the extra gear you need for the season.
2. Work Lights
With the onset of winter is less daylight to work with. As such, flatbed truckers may find themselves loading or unloading in the dark. A good collection of work lights is indispensable. Work lights come in different sizes and shapes; they can be permanently affixed to a truck or moved around and used as needed.
3. Trailer Stabilizer Dolly
The presence of snow and ice in freight yards can make parking and stabilizing a trailer a bit tricky. If you have room in your toolbox, a good tool to have on hand during the winter is a trailer stabilizer dolly. This handy piece of equipment makes it possible to add extra support underneath a trailer to keep it stable on uneven ground. This isn’t something to leave behind, though.
4. Air Brake Tubing
Cold temperatures can wreak havoc on air brake hose when temperatures get really low. More than one trucker has found cracked tubing that renders air brakes useless. Therefore, it goes without saying that the flatbed trucker needs a healthy supply of air brake tubing in the toolbox at all times, more so in the winter. You never know when an emergency brake repair going to be necessary.
5. Beacon Lights
The relatively low profile of flatbed trailers makes them harder to see in inclement weather. Every flatbed trucker should have a supply of beacon lights to increase visibility. A couple of lights mounted in strategic positions could be the key to keeping you safe on the road.
Winter is coming and with it a long list of extra challenges for flatbed drivers. Here at Mytee Products, we have everything you need to keep your cargo safe and secure in all kinds of weather. From truck tarps to chains to beacon lights and reflective tape, you can find everything you need quickly by browsing our online store. We make shopping for your truck driving supplies easy and convenient.
There has been an unstoppable flow of information relating to self-driving trucks coming from the media over the last 4 to 6 months. Now we are hearing news of a European company on the verge of bringing automated truck loading technology to our shores. So what does it all mean? More specifically, what does it mean to flatbed truck drivers and cargo control?
In terms of self-driving trucks, all truck drivers and carriers will be affected in the same way should it become a reality. If self-driving trucks ever become the norm – and there are valid reasons to believe they will not – there is no telling what will happen to America’s truck drivers. However, automated trucks on a national scale are still a long way away. Of greater interest right now is the concept of automated truck loading.
Load and Unload in Mere Minutes
The automatic truck loading concept is one of using mechanized, robotic systems to load and unload trailers without the need for human intervention. According to some news reports, what can now take between 30 and 45 minutes for forklift operator can be completed in about 3 minutes using an automated system. The company behind the technology says its systems are available for both enclosed trailers and flatbeds.
We can see the potential of this technology for dry goods vans being virtually unlimited. Not so much for flatbeds. An automated system could certainly load pallets and even loose cargo on the back of a flatbed, but that cargo still must be secured by the driver. Cargo control is something that simply cannot be automated at this point. Whether it ever will be, remains to be seen.
Cargo control on a flatbed trailer involves a lot of different components that could make automation impossible:
- Weight Distribution – Unlike dry goods vans, cargo carried on flatbed trailers is not necessarily uniform in size or weight. Therefore, freight should be loaded with weight balancing and overall size of the load in mind.
- Cargo Movement – Cargo movement is a big concern on flatbed trailers for obvious reasons. When a trucker is hauling materials such as steel coil, those coils can move during travel if not properly secured. So truckers would be required to use wood blocks and chains to keep things in place.
- Cargo Cover – Flatbed truck drivers are in the unique position of having to protect their cargo with the use of truck tarps. There are different kinds of tarps used for various types of loads, and each one is secured in a different way. How tarping could be automated is difficult to imagine.
- Cargo Protection – Underneath a truck’s tarps are things such as corner protectors deployed to protect both cargo and the tarps that cover it. All the cargo protection components have to be deployed by hand for maximum protection.
One last thing to consider is that flatbed truck drivers are required to check the security of their cargo within the first 50 miles of departure. They are then expected to carry out routine checks whenever they stop for fuel, inspections, or to rest for the night. Even if cargo control were eventually automated, someone would still have to keep an eye on cargo in transit to make sure it remains secure.
The Human Touch
It is intriguing to think that both trucks and loading systems will be automated in the near future. But that is probably not reality. Humans are still necessary – at least for cargo control – and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Cargo control could probably be too complex for automation.
Beacon lights are tools flatbed truck drivers can use to warn other drivers of potentially hazardous conditions. They are required for certain kinds of loads, such as oversize loads, for example, but drivers can use them to indicate any number of hazards. The type and number of beacon lights a driver chooses depends on the load being carried and the amount of danger it represents.
Manufacturers make beacon lights in three classes which are discussed below. Most modern products are made with LED bulbs to maximize both efficiency and illumination. If you are in need of beacon lights, Mytee Products carries an excellent selection for you to choose from.
Class 1 – The Strongest and Brightest
Class 1 beacon lights are the strongest and brightest of all three classes. These are the lights typically found on police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and so forth. Think of class 1 beacons as warning lights for the most hazardous situations. They are up to four times brighter than class 2 lights.
For flatbed truck drivers, class 1 beacons would be the ideal solution for extremely oversized or hazardous loads. At least one would be mounted on the tractor; two or more would be mounted on the trailer or the cargo itself. And, of course, any escort vehicles traveling with the tractor-trailer would be equipped with class 1 beacon lights as well.
Class 2 – Medium-Range Lighting
A typical class 2 beacon light is about twice as bright as a class 3 product. These lights are used for warning traffic at an intermediate range that potential hazards are present. They are the light most normally seen in road construction settings. They can be solid, rotating, or strobes.
Class 2 beacon lights in a trucking scenario would be used for hazardous loads that don’t necessarily qualify as being oversized. The driver wants to alert the public of the potential hazard, but other drivers do not necessarily have to be cognizant of the size of the load. Class 2 beacons are very helpful for timber loads, especially when driving in limited visibility.
Class 3 – Light Duty Beacons
Class 3 beacon lights are considered the light duty beacons for warning purposes. They are the least bright and normally not used by flatbed truckers for anything other than increasing visibility during inclement weather. More often than not, class 3 beacons are the domain of forklift trucks and small industrial vehicles. However, yard tractors may be fitted with them to increase safety in the freight yard.
Mounting Choices for Beacon Lights
Flatbed truckers who routinely haul oversize or hazardous loads will probably want to mount permanent beacon lights on their tractors. One or two on the roof and perhaps an additional light on the front bumper would be appropriate. Permanently mounted lights are not suitable for trailers due to load variations.
Here at Mytee Products, we carry beacon lights with magnetic mounting systems. These are designed to be temporary. They are ideal for the trucker who only hauls oversize and hazardous loads occasionally; they are also ideal for trailers because their location can be determined by the load.
If you haul hazardous or oversize loads, you should have at least a basic supply of beacon lights in your toolbox. We recommend a combination of strobes and steady-on lights to accommodate different needs. Note that some of our lights feature dozens of flash patterns that can be customized for purpose. And remember, beacon lights are about safety. Do not settle for inferior quality products that may not hold up.
Replacing pull truck tarps is not something dump truck drivers enjoy, but it is part of the game. The good news is that tarping system manufacturers do their best to make tarp replacement as easy as possible. A truck driver with a little bit of handiness can replace the pull tarp pretty quickly and without much effort. With the help of a partner, it’s even easier.
Pull tarp replacement is a straightforward, three-step process:
Step #1 – Remove the Old Tarp
Tarping systems differ from one manufacturer to the next, so keep that in mind as you work through the replacement process. The first step is to obviously remove the old tarp. In order to do that, the tarp should be fully extended and pinned in place. If your system is a manual system, it is as easy as pulling the tarp all the way out and temporarily fastening it to the back of your truck so it doesn’t move.
Where the truck tarp meets the spool, there should be a steel rod that holds everything in place. Pin the spool in place so that it doesn’t retract, then you can release the tarp from the back of the truck. Now it’s time to slide the tarp out of the slot in the spool. It should be attached to that rod, so be careful that you don’t let the rod hit you as you are pulling the tarp out.
Step #2 – Clean and Lube the System
As long as you have everything apart, now is a good time to clean and lubricate the system. There is no need to disassemble it piece-by-piece; just clean surface areas and lubricate the joints. An all-purpose lubricant should do the trick.
If any of the components show excessive wear and tear, you may want to consider repair or replacement before you put everything back together. Mytee has a full selection of tarp system replacement parts if it turns out you need something.
Step #3 – Install the New Tarp
Some drivers attempt to install a new tarp without fully unfolding it first. We do not recommend that as it takes longer. Your best bet would be to have a partner help you to stretch the tarp out on a flat surface and install it. If that is not an option, unfold your tarp on top of the cargo area and get it as flat as you can. To install, simply reverse the process you followed to remove the old tarp. Your new tarp should slide right into the slot on the spool.
Once the tarp is slid into place, securely fasten the tarp to the back of the truck before you release the spool. Failure to do so, could cause the spool to snap back, potentially damaging your system and injuring you. Fasten the tarp securely, release the spool, and then retract the tarp as normal. That’s it; you’re done.
Repairing Dump Truck Tarps
Assuming you are replacing an old tarp because it is damaged, you may be able to repair it for future use. It really depends on how severe the damage is and what kind of tensioning arrangement your tarping system uses. If you are ever concerned about the integrity of a repaired tarp, do not use it on your dump truck. Use it for another purpose where tension is not a primary concern.
Under the right conditions, you should be able to replace your dump truck tarp fairly quickly and easily. As always, Mytee has a selection of replacement tarps that fit most systems. Our range includes PVC mesh, vinyl, and hot top asphalt tarps in multiple sizes.