More from: bulkhead

The Difference Between a Bulkhead and Headache Rack

The terms ‘bulkhead’ and ‘headache rack’ are used interchangeably in the trucking industry. That’s fine. Truck drivers understand what others are talking about by the context of their conversations. For the rest of us though, there is a significant difference between the two pieces of equipment. That difference can help us to better understand how drivers use headache racks and bulkheads to protect themselves.

For all practical purposes, a headache rack is a semi-permanent aluminum alloy panel affixed to the back of a tractor to provide protection against shifting cargo. The headache rack essentially prevents shifting cargo from penetrating the tractor cab.

A bulkhead does much the same thing except for one major difference: a bulkhead is affixed to the trailer rather than the truck. Furthermore, bulkheads do not have to be permanently affixed. They can be installed or removed as loads dictate.

Bulkheads and Flatbeds

A bulkhead on a flatbed trailer is mounted directly on the end of the deck near the tractor. It stands roughly 4 feet high and is made with a strong yet lightweight aluminum alloy. Cargo can be loaded flush with the bulkhead or with a bit of space between the two.

It is common to see bulkheads on flatbed trailers dedicated to local routes. For example, think of a local construction company whose trucks never travel more than 50 miles or so to a given destination. Its tractors are not likely to have sleeper cabs or headache racks. In the absence of a headache rack, the bulkhead provides additional protection.

Over-the-road flatbed drivers are more likely to have headache racks. Bulkheads are used on a case-by-case basis. If a bulkhead is appropriate when carrying things like steel girders or timber, drivers will not be afraid to use it. Where it’s not necessary, a driver may choose to forgo a bulkhead to save on weight.

Bulkheads and Dry Vans

Bulkheads are most typically thought of in relation to flatbed trailers. However, bulkheads are used in dry vans as well. A dry van is a trailer with walls and a roof. So why would a driver need bulkheads inside such a trailer? There are a couple of reasons.

There are some dry van loads more prone to shifting than others. In such cases, using a number of removable bulkheads can help keep cargo more secure. A good example is a trailer filled with rolling carts of linen. Bulkheads are a better option than load bars because they go from floor to ceiling.

Another use for bulkheads in dry vans is keeping different kinds of cargo separate. For example, there might be a moving company that specializes in ‘renting’ just the amount of trailer space a person needs to move long-distance. Because several different customers will have their personal belongings on the truck, loads are kept separate with lockable bulkheads.

Bulkheads for Other Purposes

Mytee Products carries bulkheads for the trucking industry. But trucking is by no means the only industry to use bulkheads. In fact, bulkheads were around long before trucks were invented. They have been used ever since man began building boats and putting them in the water.

Bulkheads in ships, planes, and rail cars are multipurpose panels. Not only do they help manage cargo, but they also provide structural integrity. It would not be possible to build the huge boats and airplanes we now build without using bulkheads.

Bulkheads are just one of the many products we offer the trucking industry. If you are in need of one for your truck, we invite you to contact Mytee Products. We’ll get you hooked up.


Bulkheads: A Better Choice than Penalty Straps

Every professional truck driver knows that he or she is responsible for making sure cargo is properly secured at every step of transport. Both federal and state laws require it. As such, drivers use everything from chains to ratchet straps to blocks to keep cargo in place. Even bulkheads are an important part of cargo control.

The bulkhead is something federal regulations refer to as a front-end structure. Where a headache rack is usually affixed to the rear of a truck’s cab, the bulkhead is affixed to the front end of a flatbed trailer to prevent forward movement of cargo. In the absence of a bulkhead, some other means of preventing forward movement is required on flatbed trailers.

CFR Part 300 Regulations

Federal regulations cover all cargo control for trucks that cross state lines. The particular portion of the federal regulations we are interested in for the purposes of this post is CFR Part 300. It contains regulations dealing with cargo control.

The regulations state in Part 393, section 10 that “when an article is not blocked or positioned to prevent movement in the forward direction by a headerboard, bulkhead, other cargo that is positioned to prevent movement, or other appropriate blocking devices, it must be secured by at least [one or two tiedowns]” depending on the cargo and its configuration.”

The regulations go on to stipulate the number of tie-downs (a.k.a., penalty straps) that must be used per foot and per pound. They are very explicit in this regard. Not using the right number of tiedowns can lead to a truck being taken out of service following a roadside inspection by a police officer or DOT official.

Bulkheads Eliminate Tiedowns

After reading what the federal regulations say, it should be fairly obvious where we are going with this. We believe bulkheads are the better choice because they eliminate the need for penalty straps. Keep this in mind: flatbed truck drivers are normally not paid for the time they spend securing cargo. If it takes an extra 15 minutes to apply a couple of tiedowns in the absence of a bulkhead, that is 15 minutes the wheels are not turning.

A bulkhead is always there. It is affixed to the front end of the trailer prior to load pickup; some drivers leave their bulkheads permanently attached. In either case, no extra time is spent on tiedowns when a bulkhead is involved. This reduces load times and gets the truck driver on the road more quickly.

For our money, bulkheads are also more secure. The reality is that penalty straps can fail in the event of an especially violent accident. Bulkheads can too, but they are less likely to fail than tiedowns. We think bulkheads are a better option just from a safety standpoint alone.

We’ve Got You Covered

One of our goals at Mytee Products is to make sure truck drivers have the necessary equipment to stay safe. Yes, we carry a full line of truck tarps and cargo control supplies to meet the needs of any driver. But we also carry safety equipment like headache racks and bulkheads. We have you covered regardless of your need.

We invite you to take a look at our 102-inch aluminum alloy bulkhead that is both DOT-rated and manufactured to the highest industry standards. The bulkhead is 4 feet high with a 10-foot return. If our standard bulkhead is not suitable for your trailer, please contact us and ask about custom sizes. One of our experienced representatives will help you find exactly what you need.

Sources:

e-CFR — https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.393#_top