More from: cargo control

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.


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


6 Important Things to Know about Tire Chains

Do you routinely drive in regions requiring snow chains during the winter? If so, you know all about what it means to chain up before heading into bad weather. If you are new to trucking or winter driving, tire chains may be foreign to you. One thing is for sure in either case: chains can cause a lot of problems if you don’t know how to use them.

Mytee Products carries tire chains for both 22.5-inch in 24.5-inch tire chains. We invite you to purchase your chains through us, along with all your cargo control supplies including tarps, bungee straps, ratchet straps, and edge protectors.

In the interests of advancing public safety, we have compiled a list of six important things to know about tire chains. Know and understand these things, whether you are a veteran or a rookie.

1. Keep to a Safe Speed

Tire chains are only intended to withstand a certain amount of punishment. Drivers should never exceed speeds of 30 mph when chained. Going any faster could cause chains to break while in motion. This could be dangerous for driver and vehicle alike.

2. Avoid Bare Pavement

Tire chains do not hold up well against bare pavement either. So while there may be some instances when it’s necessary to drive short distances on bare pavement, the practice should be avoided as much as possible. As soon as a driver gets through the area of snow-covered roads, he or she should find a place to pull off and remove the chains.

3. Chains Slip on Pavement

Something else to note about chains is they tend to slip on bare pavement. If a driver is braking on bare pavement while still chained up, he/she has to be more gentle in the process. It is very easy to lock up the wheels and slide on chains. On the other end, hitting the gas too aggressively could cause the drive wheels to spin on bare pavement. Drivers should accelerate slowly.

4. Routine Inspections Are Necessary

Truckers will naturally tighten their chains when first deploying them. However, it is generally recommended that chains be inspected and re-tightened at regular intervals. Chains will loosen as the miles roll by, making them subject to breakage.

5. Chained Tighteners Can Cause Problems

Chain tightening devices have a tendency to pull chains off-center if they are not used the right way. A driver who is not intimately familiar with how to use such a device should avoid doing so. There are other ways to effectively tighten chains.

6. State Regulations

Nearly every state in the union has some sort of regulations in place pertaining to tire chains. Truck drivers should make themselves familiar with those regulations in any states where they plan to work during the winter months. Running afoul of the regulations could result in a citation.

Along those same lines, there are a few key regions in the U.S. were chains are mandatory during the winter. In some of these regions truckers will find chains at highway department chain banks. A word to the wise though: drivers should not rely solely on chain banks to meet their needs. If no chains are available when a driver reaches the start of a mandatory chain area, he or she will have to wait until a set is available.

Tire chains are part of winter driving for truck drivers. Hopefully you have had some experience chaining up your truck. If not, you will probably have to learn eventually. Just remember that chaining up is not the end of the world. You will get pretty good at it with enough practice.