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Lessons from Experienced Tow Operators

There are a bunch of viral videos out there showing just what can go wrong when a car is towed improperly. Not only are they good for a laugh, they also clearly define the difference between professionally-trained tow operators and amateurs. The professionals obviously possess the skills, tools, and equipment to do the job right.

The best tow operators in the business are defined by how they do what they do. For example, there are certain mistakes every professional tow operator knows to avoid. These are the same mistakes amateurs make just before they end up on viral videos. Here are four of them:

 

1. Pay Attention to Weights and Ratings

A lot of what a tow operator has to worry about is directly related to physics. For example, every tow strap and chain has a working load limit (WLL) that cannot be exceeded and still be safe. Tow operators have to pay attention. They have to understand gross vehicle weight ratings, axle weights, towing capacities, and the like.

Not paying attention to such things could mean serious trouble. Thankfully, the pros understand what’s going on. They choose the right towing straps, chains, and hooks to correctly secure vehicles before towing begins.

2. Use A Sufficient Number of Anchor Points

The tow operator who drives a flatbed wrecker rather than a standard tow truck handles vehicles in a slightly different way. He or she has to anchor the vehicle in question to the bed of the truck rather than hooking the car from underneath. Then he/she uses a series of tow straps or chains to secure the vehicle.

Amateurs who might try this with a utility trailer often fail to use enough anchor points. That is, they do not secure the vehicle to the trailer on all four corners. That’s a mistake. Professional tow operators not only know where the correct anchor points are found, but they also use all of them.

3. Always Utilize Safety Lights

How many times have you seen an amateur towing a vehicle without any kind of lighting? The vehicle being towed is not running, so brake lights and turn signals are not working. This is a recipe for disaster. Inadequate lighting is an open invitation to a rear-end collision. The pros know this, which is why they use safety lights. They activate the safety lights on their trucks and put towing lights on the back of the car.

4. Drive Cautiously

Finally, a truly wise tow truck operator knows how foolish it is to drive his or her truck the same way he/she might drive a car. Amateurs don’t know the difference. They drive as though they are not towing at all. They drive at the same speed and brake just as hard, assuming nothing bad will happen.

The secret professionals know is that all the towing straps and chains in the world aren’t enough to compensate for reckless driving. They drive cautiously whenever they have a car in tow. And it’s a good thing they do because as they know what they are doing, and they do it well, the rest of us don’t have to worry about being in danger when we come upon a tow truck or flatbed wrecker.

For the record, Mytee Products appreciates the magnificent work professional tow truck operators do every day. They put their lives on the line nearly every time they go out on a highway job. We are pleased to be able to help them by providing the reliable and heavy-duty towing equipment they need to do what they do safely.


RoadCheck 2018 – Start Thinking Cargo Control

The 2018 CVSA RoadCheck is less than two months away. The annual event will be held this year from June 5-7 all across North America. Inspectors will be on the lookout for the kinds of violations that could have you or your truck taken out of service for a considerable length of time.

News reports state that the 2018 RoadCheck will focus mainly on hours of service rules and the new ELD mandate. However, drivers should not let their guards down. Inspectors will also be looking at cargo control and the general condition of mechanical systems. As a company specializing in cargo control ourselves, our main priority is to make sure our customers have everything they need to both pass inspection and stay safe on the roads.

A Better Year in 2018

It is rather appropriate for us to talk about cargo control in relation to this year’s RoadCheck based on what happened last year. The main priority in 2017 was cargo control. And even though inspectors put a record number of trucks out of service due to cargo control violations, such violations were not the number one reason for out of service actions. The biggest problem in 2017 was hours of service violations.

It is kind of ironic that hours of service were such a problem even though the focus was on cargo control. This year the focus is on hours of service, but inspectors will still be looking for cargo control violations. It is our hope that drivers do better this year than last – in every area inspectors decide to look at.

A better year means fewer out of service actions. It means more secure cargo, safer roads, and fewer penalties for drivers and their employers. It even means a better reputation for an industry that has been struggling in that area for a while.

Cargo Control Tips for the 2018 RoadCheck

Mytee Products cannot do much to help you with hours of service and ELDs. We can help with cargo control. Here are a few tips we recommend for the last few weeks heading into the 2018 RoadCheck:

Check Your Equipment

Inspectors will be looking closely at the condition of your straps, chains, and ratchets during roadside checks. So make the time now to check all your equipment for wear and tear. If anything needs replacing, order it as soon as possible. We want you to have it in time.

Review Procedures

Familiarity can sometimes cause drivers to forget the standard procedures for properly securing cargo. Over the next few weeks, review your procedures to make sure they are fresh in your mind. You might even create a procedural checklist you can follow to get yourself back into the habit of employing best practices.

Think Overkill

Spend the next few weeks thinking overkill. In other words, do more than you know is necessary to correctly secure your cargo. An inspector will never penalize you for having too many straps, so spend a few extra minutes to add one more.

Check More Often 

You already check your loads at regular intervals throughout your journey. From now through the end of June, check more often. It only takes a few minutes to make sure your cargo is still secure. The payoff for doing so could be huge in the midst of the 2018 RoadCheck.

Again, if you need any cargo control supplies prior to RoadCheck 2018, order them as soon as you can from Mytee Products. We want to make sure you have everything you need before inspections begin in earnest.


Auto Hauling: A Very Different Kind of Trucking

What is the most lucrative form of trucking? Is it dry goods or reefers? Or maybe it’s flatbed trucking. Perhaps the most lucrative way to make a living as a truck driver is hauling flammable or hazardous materials. The point here is that the definition of ‘lucrative’ has more to do with preference than anything else. Having said that, auto hauling deserves some consideration. If not the most lucrative, it is certainly a very different kind of trucking.

hauling

Auto haulers come in all shapes and sizes, as it were. There are employed truck drivers working for companies that specialize in carrying cars from distribution centers to local dealerships. There are independent operators who carry used cars from wholesalers in the South to small dealers in the North. There are even truck drivers who specialize in moving luxury and classic cars.

Auto hauling is very different for a number of reasons. From the equipment to the necessary skills, it is a career a lot of drivers aspire to but never attain. Here’s what makes auto hauling so different:

The Equipment

First and foremost is the equipment necessary for this kind of work. The owner-operator starts with a custom rig. Believe it or not, trucks and trailers for auto hauling have to be matched. You cannot just use any auto trailer on the back of any tractor. As a result, auto hauling rigs are significantly more expensive.

Next, owner-operators have to have a pretty significant supply of auto hauling equipment including hooks, shackles, rope clips, straps, and chains. There may not be any other form of trucking that requires so many pieces of equipment for a single run.

The Skill

Auto hauling is very different in terms of the skills a driver needs. What so many do not realize is that cars have to be loaded and secured in a certain way in order to prevent damage on the road. But loading and securing is not necessarily a cookie-cutter operation. Auto haulers have to account for different makes and models, different weights, potential weather conditions, and more.

Skill also comes into play on the actual journey. Drivers need to take a little bit of extra care due to the precious value of their cargo, especially when they are hauling expensive luxury or classic cars. They should be careful about accelerating and braking; they have to be careful about cornering; they need to be extremely cautious in bad weather.

The Experience

Just about every sector of the truck driving industry is affected by the conundrum of companies only wanting experienced drivers but new drivers not being able to get experience because they can’t find a job. Nowhere is this conundrum more prevalent than in auto hauling. Because auto hauling is so much more involved than simply applying some hooks and shackles, haulers almost always insist their new drivers have at least a couple of years under their belts – even if that time was spent hauling something else.

Drivers with extensive flatbed experience typically have an easier time breaking into auto hauling because they are already experienced with securing loads. They have used things such as hooks, chains and straps for cargo control. Suffice it to say that owner-operators who want to get into auto hauling have to work for it.

Here at Mytee Products, we are acutely aware of what it takes to be a successful auto hauler. We want to do our part by maintaining a solid inventory of auto hauling supplies for America’s owner-operators. From shackles and rope clips to auto hauling straps, we have everything the owner-operator needs.


Save Time with a Cargo Control Checklist

Working as a flatbed truck driver involves spending time waiting for cargo to be loaded and secured before hitting the road. This is time a driver is usually not compensated for, so getting things done as quickly as possible is paramount to getting the wheels turning again. Still, drivers have to be thorough in their cargo control procedures so as to not jeopardize their loads.

A good way to save time and ensure cargo is properly secured is to establish a cargo control checklist that becomes a standard operating procedure. While this may sound obvious, you might be surprised how many drivers have no such checklist in place. They approach every load in a random matter, where cargo control is dictated by immediate circumstances. Having a checklist in place is a better option because it ensures all of the necessaries are addressed in a way that eventually leads to the driver following his or her checklist routine as a matter of habit.

checklist

It should be noted that a cargo control checklist does not have to be a formal document that the driver prints out by the hundreds so that each load has its own piece of paper. A driver may create a document to start with, but after following the checklist routine numerous times, most drivers are going to memorize it. Then it becomes a mental exercise rather than a paper one.

Cargo Control Checklist Basics

How a driver organizes his or her cargo control checklist is a matter of preference. There should be certain categories of things on every driver’s checklist, things that are appropriate to cargo control. For example:

  • Tarps and Straps – Truck tarps and straps should be inspected prior to arriving to pick up a load. Not inspecting cargo control supplies increases the likelihood of getting to a job and finding that damaged equipment cannot be used. Then the driver is slowed down while he or she searches locally for replacements.
  • Inspecting Loads – Flatbed truck drivers are ultimately responsible for how cargo is loaded on their trailers. There should be a process in place for inspecting loads to make sure weight issues are addressed, there is no unnecessary space between cargo items, and that cargo is properly blocked if necessary.
  • Securing the Cargo – Once a trailer has been loaded and securing has commenced, a system should be in place so that tarps and straps are always applied in the same way. For example, some truckers will first make sure all of their straps and/or chains are applied, then walk around the trailer to tighten down each winch consecutively.
  • Final Inspection – Just prior to departure, the truck driver should be performing a vehicle safety inspection as a matter of routine. Within that inspection, he or she can also make provision to do a final inspection of cargo control equipment. Straps, chains, and tarps should all be given the once over.
  • Inspections on the Road – Lastly, an important part of a cargo control checklist that should not be ignored are the inspections done while on the road. Drivers should be checking their loads within the first 50 miles of departure and then with every additional stop along the way. The same checklist used for the final inspection is appropriate to on-the-road inspections.

Cargo control is a normal part of flatbed trucking. Drivers can save time and do a better job of securing cargo by developing a cargo control checklist and following it on every job. A well-designed checklist turns what could be a random exercise into something that becomes routine.


It’s Time for Your Winter Inventory Check

With winter just a few months away, now is the right time for the trucker’s annual winter inventory check. Look through your toolboxes to make sure you have exactly what you need for tough winter driving and cargo control. Repair what needs fixing, replace what needs to be replaced, and buy any additional trucking supplies you need to fill in gaps in your inventory.

truck-winter

Mytee Products has everything you need for safe and productive winter driving. We invite you to browse our entire inventory for the following critical supplies:

Truck Tarps
Every trucker who does flatbed work needs to have a full selection of tarps on hand at all times. During the winter months, the trucker’s choice of tarps can mean the difference between adequate protection and taking risks with cargo. In terms of fabrics, there are three main choices:

  • Poly Tarps
    Made of polyethylene or polypropylene, poly tarps are considered all-purpose tarps. They are generally UV-treated and waterproof, so they’re not bad as general tools for cargo control. They may not be the best choice during harsh winter weather that can include very low temperatures.
  • Vinyl Tarps
    Also known as heavy duty tarps or machinery tarps, vinyl tarps tend to be the strongest and most durable that truckers can buy. They provide the most resistance against stress, tearing and abrasions, and they can handle cold temperatures exceptionally well. The best vinyl tarps on the market don’t even flinch at temperatures well below zero.
  • Canvas Tarps
    Canvas tarps are a good choice when breathability is an issue. They also handle cold temperatures well, but struggle with standing water. Canvas tarps are subject to mold growth and could tear as a result of ice buildup. It is advisable to use them with caution during the winter.

Tires and Chains

Every trucker knows how critical tires are in bad weather. Good tires are essential during the winter months, as are chains. Make sure all of your tires are in good condition before winter weather sets in. We also advise truckers who frequently travel through areas requiring tire chains to purchase their own rather than relying on chain banks. We carry both singles and doubles.

Straps, Binders, and Winches

Cold temperatures and high winds can make securing cargo a real challenge during the winter. Cargo control is easier when the truck driver has the right kinds of supplies in good working condition. Therefore, check your toolbox for an ample supply of mesh and bungee straps, binders, winches, and chains. If any of your straps are worn, keep in mind that cold temperatures could cause them to fail at any point. Worn straps should be replaced.

Along with straps, binders and winches, drivers should have an ample supply of corner and edge protectors. Remember that even vinyl tarps can get brittle in cold temperatures. Where corner and edge protectors may not be necessary during the warmer temperatures of summer, they could make a real difference in protecting your tarps once temperatures drop.

Get What You Need Now

Investing in the trucking supplies you need for winter earlier ensures that you will receive everything you order before the weather begins to get troublesome. Winter weather makes for more difficult driving even with the proper supplies on hand. Don’t make your job more difficult than it needs to be this winter by ignoring your inventory of trucking supplies. Order your supplies from Mytee Products; if we do not have something you need, contact us anyway. We might be able to get it for you.

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