More from: cargo control

Truck Tarps: Cargo Protection vs. Cargo Control

Here at Mytee Products, we sell all kinds of truck tarps. We have steel and lumber tarps for the most common flatbed jobs. We also have smoke tarps, machinery tarps, and even mesh tarps that can be used for a lot of different applications. The secret is choosing the right tarp for the job at hand.

Note that the various tarps we sell have a multitude of uses. All our tarps can be divided into one of two categories: cargo protection and cargo control. Despite what you may have heard, they are not the same thing. Trying to use a tarp as a cargo control tool when it is not intended to be used as such can lead to big problems.

Tarps and Cargo Control

The federal government along with all 50 states have regulations in place requiring every motorist, regardless of the vehicle being driven, to properly secure any cargo that could otherwise dislodge and fall from the vehicle. This obviously applies to truck drivers. Flatbed truckers are required by law to secure not only their loads, but also any equipment and supplies they normally carry on their trailers for work use.

Cargo must be controlled by appropriate means. Let’s say you’re hauling a load of pipe, for example. The pipe has to be secured in place using webbing straps. In most cases, wooden frames are used to stack multiple layers of pipes while preventing them from shifting. It would be unsafe and illegal to attempt to secure a load of pipe using tarps alone.

On the other hand, let’s say you are driving a dump truck full of crushed stone. The dump itself contains the stone on four sides. You would deploy a tarp over the top to keep any of the material from flying off during transport. In this case, your tarp is being used as a cargo control tool.

lumTarps and Cargo Protection

The line of distinction between cargo control and protection might be a fine one, but it is an important one to the flatbed trucker. Getting back to that load of pipe for a minute, it is already secured with wooden blocks and straps. So why the tarp? To protect the pipe from the elements and road debris.

It is not uncommon for shippers to demand loads be covered by tarps during transport. They have a lot of money invested in the products they are shipping, and they expect those products to be protected. That’s why we sell so many kinds of tarps. Steel, lumber, and smoke tarps are not intended as cargo control tools. They are made for cargo protection.

Trucking and Mesh Tarps

One last thing we want to address in this post is the use of mesh tarps in trucking. Mesh tarps are typically used for providing shade and privacy, but they are also invaluable for certain kinds of loads. That same dump truck driver who uses a blue utility tarp to keep aggregate in place might choose a lighter mesh tarp instead.

Mesh tarps are also ideal for transporting roll-off dumpsters and yard waste. Keep in mind that waste haulers also have to prevent their loads from dislodging and flying off during transport. Yet because they have nothing valuable to protect, they can use lighter and more easily deployed mesh tarps rather than having to use their heavier counterparts.

Every tarp we sell has a purpose. We stock so many because we have come to realize that truckers like choices. The more variety we can offer, the better we are able to help truckers do their jobs.


The 9 Components of the FMCSA Cargo Securement System

It is common for truck drivers new to the flatbed game to wonder whether the use of bulkheads is required by law or not. In short, it’s not. But there is a lot more to cargo control than that. The federal government lays out a very strict set of rules defining how cargo is to be secured and controlled. Bulkhead deployment is just one small part.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes its rules in a document known as the Driver’s Handbook on Cargo Securement. It can be downloaded from the agency’s website free of charge. Section 2 of the rules describes the ‘Components of the Securement System’ as defined by the FMCSA. There are nine components to consider:

1. Floors

The assumption here is that the floors referred to in the rules relate to the decking on a trailer. Dry vans, reefers, and straight flatbeds have a single level and, as such, completely flat decks. Step deck trailers are a different matter. You can have two or three different levels depending on design. At any rate, floors play a crucial part in cargo control by providing a certain amount of friction wherever the load comes in contact with flooring.

2. Walls

This component only comes into play for flatbed truckers when side kits are used. A side kit offers temporary walls that can help contain cargo that would otherwise be difficult to control. Obviously, dry goods vans and reefer trailers have the benefit of full enclosure.

3. Decks

This can apply to either the multiple decks of a step-deck trailer or the dual decks of an auto hauler. Decks are similar to floors in terms of their usefulness for cargo control.

4. Tiedown Anchor Points

Tiedown anchor points available for securing cargo are perhaps the most critical component of a cargo control system. Truckers use those anchor points with chains, webbing straps, and bungees. In a dry van or reefer setting, tiedown points are usually mounted on the walls.

5. Headboards

A headboard is the equivalent of a bulkhead on a straight truck – flatbed or box. It prevents the cab of the truck from being breached by shifting cargo in the event such cargo moves forward.

6. Bulkheads

The bulkhead is that forward barrier on the front of a flatbed trailer. In the absence of a bulkhead, flatbed operators have to use extra straps to keep cargo from moving.

7. Stakes

Stakes are anchor points attached to the floor of a trailer or straight truck. They can be used in a number of ways with straps, chains, and blocks.

8. Posts

Posts protrude from a flatbed trailer frame along its perimeter. Posts are an important part of the side kit in that they provide both stability for walls and extra anchor points for cargo control.

9. Anchor Points

The term ‘anchor points’ is more of a generic term encompassing every kind of anchor point on a truck or trailer. Cargo is connected to anchor points by way of chains and straps. The more anchor points, the better.

All of this is probably elementary to you if you are an experienced truck driver. However, a helpful reminder every now and again is not a bad thing. In the arena of cargo control, knowing what you’re doing means all the difference in the world to both safety and legal compliance.

We recommend you download the FMCSA rulebook and keep it handy. You never know when you might have a cargo control question that doesn’t have a quick and easy answer.

 


Cargo Control and Physics: Beware of the Force

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised its long-standing cargo control regulations for commercial motor vehicles back in 2004. Since then, the rules have remained largely unchanged. They account for all types of trucks including flatbeds, refers, tankers, and even dry goods vans.

In short, truck drivers are required to properly secure their cargo prior to transport. Nothing can be allowed to move, let alone become dislodged and fall off a trailer. Dry van and reefer operators have less of a challenge given that their cargo is enclosed on all sides. Flatbed operators do not have that luxury. They have to secure their cargo by tying it down to the trailer bed.

In light of that, truckers with the best cargo control skills are the ones that understand physics. They understand the four forces that cargo is subject to during transport. They account for each of those forces by blocking and tying down cargo in specific ways.

The four forces are:

Forward force – experienced during braking
Rearward force – experienced during acceleration
Sideways force – experienced when making turns
Upward force – experienced when hitting bumps or on rough road.

The biggest of these four forces is forward force. This goes without saying. It is the greatest force because it is exerted as a result of cargo continuing to want to move forward even as the vehicle is decelerating. Forward force is a combination of kinetic energy, the weight of the cargo, and the vehicle’s rate of deceleration.

Tools for Overcoming Force

The revamping of FMCSA rules included some new rules for tie-downs, blocks, and other cargo control equipment. Though we will not go through the details here, it is sufficient to say that the government made it clear that they expect truck drivers to use the right kinds of tools to keep cargo in place. The rules specifically mention:

Bulkheads – Bulkheads are sometimes referred to as headboards or front-end structures. They are generally attached to the front of a flatbed trailer and used to block cargo from moving forward. Bulkheads are not required by law.

Webbing Straps – Webbing straps are used to tie down cargo when heavier chains are not required. They are made with synthetic materials that offer maximum control with a low weight cost.

Other Equipment – The rules go on to address chains, wire rope, steel straps, blocks, shackles, winches, and more. Fortunately for truck drivers, the rules do not stipulate how each of these different things have to be used to secure cargo. The rules only talk about the cumulative effect of choosing the right equipment.

It is interesting to note that the rules also draw a distinction between securing devices and tie-downs. Obviously, a chain qualifies as both. But while all tie-downs are also securing devices, not all securing devices qualify as tie-downs. Therefore, truckers have to make the distinction in their own minds as well.

There are very specific rules relating to the number of tie-downs necessary based on the length and weight of a load. The number of tie-downs is independent of other cargo control equipment, save the bulkhead. Why? Drivers can use fewer tie-downs if a bulkhead prevents cargo from moving forward. On the other hand, blocks do not reduce the number of required tie-downs.

It is All about Physics

We have said multiple times in the past that cargo control is all about physics. If you understand the physics involved, you should understand the four forces that are working hard to dislodge cargo. Keep those forces in check and your cargo will stay in place.


Installing Headache Racks and Bulkheads: A Smart Move

Every now and then if you look up an online trucker forums, you will come across questions from new flatbed drivers asking whether headache racks and bulkheads are required by law. The questions are reasonable given the rules instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to regulate cargo control. Thankfully, the questions are easy to answer.

Headache racks and bulkheads are not required by federal regulations. However, using them is still smart as it protects cargo and prevents damage. If a truck owner has the opportunity to install one or both without causing major inconvenience or financial stress, it would not make sense to decline said opportunity.

What the Law Says

A quick perusal of the FMCSA Driver’s Handbook makes it clear that truck drivers are required by law to make sure cargo is properly secured. This includes doing whatever is necessary to prevent forward movement. In a flatbed situation, that means making sure that either tie-downs or some sort of barrier is in place to prevent cargo from moving forward on the trailer.

The handbook includes numerous illustrations along with hard numbers demonstrating what the law requires. It shows the difference between preventing forward movement with a bulkhead and doing it just with tiedown straps instead. The important thing to know is that the law requires a certain number of tie-downs, based on the length and weight of the cargo, if no bulkhead or headache rack is in place.

Drivers also have to pay attention to the working load limits (WLLs) of their tiedown straps. These limits are part of the calculation necessary to determine the number of tie-downs necessary to prevent forward movement of cargo. Too few tie-downs equal a violation.

Meeting the Demands of Customers

Although federal law does not mandate the use of headache racks or bulkheads, there are some shippers who are particular about their usage. Two good examples are rail and pipe loads. A shipper may insist that an owner-operator utilize a bulkhead just for an extra measure of safety.

Such requests do not seem unreasonable for certain kinds of cargo. A contained, rectangular load is fairly easy to secure against forward movement with straps over the top and around the front. But it is not so easy for a load of pipe. And whether or not a truck driver agrees, shippers insisting on bulkheads are not going to release a load until they are confident it will be secure during transport.

From our perspective, insisting on a bulkhead or headache rack for certain kinds of loads is no different than shippers insisting that tarps be used. Their main priority is to protect cargo and limit liability. Preventing forward movement via a bulkhead or headache rack may be the best way to do it in their eyes.

Buy What You Need from Mytee Products

Given the federal mandates for securing cargo and the fact that some shippers insist on bulkheads or headache racks, it just makes sense to install one or both on your equipment. You will be pleased to know that Mytee Products has everything you need. We carry both headache racks and bulkheads, along with the appropriate mounting systems.

Headache racks and bulkheads may not be required by law, but it’s still smart to use them. Both prevent forward movement of cargo and protect you as the driver. Both represent an affordable way to protect yourself as well as your investment in your equipment. After all, it doesn’t take much to cause a big problem. Just a little bit of forward movement could cause you a big headache you don’t really want.

 


Get Ready for the 2018 CVSA Roadcheck

We tend to devote a lot of our blog space to talking about things like truck tarps, tow truck accessories, and supplies for farming operations. We want to deviate a bit with this post by talking about the annual CVSA Roadcheck. It is now less than one month away.

Every year the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts their annual Roadcheck event as a way to remind both truck drivers and motor carriers to go the extra mile to make sure they are in compliance. Every year that Roadcheck has a different focus.

Last year’s focus was cargo control. Inspectors were out in full force during the first week of June checking everything from tie-downs to the integrity of chains and ratchet straps. Thousands of trucks were found in violation, many of which were taken out of service until problems were rectified.

Hours of Service Rules for 2018

The Roadcheck this year focuses on drivers’ hours of service. As you know, the ELD mandate that went into effect this past December makes it a requirement for drivers to track their on-duty hours using an electronic logging device. Although ELD enforcement has been spotty to date, the annual Roadcheck is an opportunity to remind drivers that strict enforcement will begin in earnest very soon.

Whether you agree with the ELD mandate or not, it is what it is. It is a necessary part of modern trucking. The mandate is the same for open deck drivers, dry van haulers, reefer drivers, tanker haulers, and even hazmat drivers.

Be sure you are prepared by having a working ELD on your truck. Also start paying a lot more attention to your pre-trip inspections. Law enforcement will be looking at other things as well during the 2018 Roadcheck.

Don’t Forget Cargo Control

As experts in cargo control for the trucking industry, we are smart enough to know that CVSA inspectors will not be ignoring violations just because the focus of this year’s Roadcheck event is hours of service. They will still be looking at how well cargo is secured.

Now would be a good time to go through your inventory of cargo control supplies to make sure you have everything you need to do the job safely and in full compliance. If any of your ratchet straps are worn for example, replace them now. Do not wait for an inspector to give you the evil eye and a possible violation.

Make sure you have enough straps, chains, and blocks on board. Make sure you are paying attention to working load limits as well as the length and width of your loads. And if you’re not utilizing a bulkhead at the front of your open deck trailer, refresh your memory on the extra tie-downs necessary to prevent your loads from shifting.

Let’s Do Better Than Last Year

Although the results of last year’s Roadcheck were comparatively good, there were still far too many violations found. Let’s all work together to do better this year. Let us show CVSA inspectors and the general public that our industry does truly care about safety and regulations.

If you are having any trouble with your ELD, contact its manufacturer or your employer, if applicable. For cargo control supplies, contact us at Mytee Products. We have everything you need to haul just about any kind of load.

The 2018 CVSA Roadcheck is almost upon us. Are you ready? Hopefully you are, because the first week of June will be here before you know it. And with it will come on army of inspectors and law enforcement officers looking for violations.