More from: flatbed driver

How Headache Racks Save Lives

A good-looking headache rack polished to brilliant perfection can make any tractor look like a million dollars. After all, what’s more attractive on a truck than lots of clean and polished chrome? That said, headache racks are not really intended to be showpieces. They provide a vital function. Indeed, headache racks save lives.

No one is really sure where the term ‘headache rack’ comes from. Some say it is so named because it prevents head injuries to flatbed drivers should cargo break loose and slam into the back of the tractor. Others say the name comes from the tendency of truck drivers to hit their heads on the racks when hooking and unhooking trailers.

Regardless of the origins of the name, the point of the headache rack is to protect the back of the tractor from shifting cargo. A headache rack can be nothing more than a steel plate welded to the frame of the truck in just the right position. However, it can also be much more. Headache racks can include cabinets and hooks that increase a tractor’s storage capacity.

Death Mere Inches Away

Neither federal nor state law requires tractors to be fitted with headache racks. Drivers are free to use trailer bulkheads or extra tiedown straps to secure cargo in the absence of a headache rack. Still, a headache rack is a very good idea for any tractor the tows flatbed trailers.

Take the 2014 case of a truck carrying steel girders through Tualatin, Oregon. The truck was cut off by another tractor-trailer, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes. At that very moment, he heard the sound of screeching metal. Knowing what was about to happen, the driver ducked down and hoped he would live to tell the story.

Thankfully, he did. A steel girder crashed through the right side of the cab, missing the driver by mere inches. The truck was not equipped with a headache rack. For that driver, death was just inches away; just a few inches to the left side and that would have been it.

A Headache Rack for Every Truck

One of the best things about headache racks is that there is one for every truck. The racks Mytee Products sells are standard sizes and can be fitted to almost any tractor. But even if none of the models work for your truck, you’re not out of luck. You could have a custom headache rack built just for your rig. You could buy one of our racks and have it modified to meet your needs.

Here’s something else to consider: not all headache racks are designed only to protect the back of the truck. There are cab-over models that can protect the occupants in the event of a rollover. You don’t see these kinds of headache racks on tractor trailers, but they are common for utility vehicles.

A case in point is a truck operated by firefighters fighting a blaze in Colorado earlier this year. The truck was essentially a heavy-duty pickup truck with specialized equipment mounted on the back. Its headache rack covered both the back of the cab and the top of the truck.

While traveling a mountain road thick with smoke, one of the front tires left the roadway and sent the truck plunging down a ravine. Though the vehicle was all but totaled, both driver and passengers walked away from the accident with only minor scrapes, scratches, and bruises.

Headache racks sure do look fine when cleaned and polished. But they also save lives. Which is more important in the long run?

 


How To Avoid The Top 5 Cargo Control Violations

In the run-up to the 2018 CVSA Roadcheck, it is part of our responsibility to customers to get them ready by way of cargo control supplies and education. This post is geared toward the education aspect. It covers the top 5 cargo control violations in America. You don’t want to be found guilty of any of them during the annual Roadcheck.

It has been estimated that up to 17 trucks are inspected every minute during the annual Roadcheck event. Keep in mind that the Roadcheck is conducted all across North America. Whether you haul flatbeds, dry goods vans, tankers or reefers, the chances of you being stopped and inspected during the first week of June is pretty high.

The best way to protect yourself is to make sure that you are fully compliant with cargo control rules. If you are not sure what those rules are, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a driver handbook that lays it all out. For our part, we offer you the top five cargo control violations based on 2017 statistics:

1. Failure to Prevent Shifting or Loss of Load

Loads must always be secured to prevent them from shifting, falling, leaking, blowing, or otherwise leaving the confines of the vehicles carrying them. This means different things for different truck drivers. For the flatbed driver, it means that nothing can be allowed to fall off the trailer. Furthermore, nothing on the trailer should be allowed to shift during transport.

The obvious way to prevent being found in violation is to properly contain you loads. If you are not using a bulkhead, get one. Otherwise you will need to use extra tie-downs to keep loads in place. You might also consider a side kit for loads that might be a bit more challenging to contain.

2. Failure to Secure Equipment

Not only does your cargo have to be controlled, so does any and all equipment you’re carrying on the truck. That means hand trucks, chains, hand tools, etc. Anything that could potentially fall off your trailer must be properly secured.

3. Worn or Damaged Tie-Downs

Federal law prohibits the use of tie-downs or other cargo control equipment that is damaged or sufficiently warm. And because normal wear is in the eyes of the beholder, law enforcement tends to err on the side of caution. Please make a point of replacing any worn or damaged tie-downs right away. Even after the Roadcheck is over, your truck could be taken out of service if an inspection reveals worn or damaged equipment.

4. Insufficient Tie-Downs

The law also stipulates just how many tie-downs are necessary for a given load. You can find all the numbers in the driver handbook mentioned earlier in this post. Suffice it to say that your truck will be taken out of service if the number of tie-downs deployed is deemed insufficient.

Know that you have to have the right number of tie-downs AND they have to have appropriate working load limits. Getting either one wrong could result in a violation.

5. Loose Tie-Downs

Lastly, law enforcement don’t like to see loose tie-downs. So whether you’re using chains, straps or a combination of both, everything needs to be tight and secure. Be sure to inspect your tie-downs before initial departure, then again within 50 miles of the start of your trip. Check them every time you stop after that.

Don’t be found in violation during this year’s Roadcheck event. Pay attention to cargo control and do what the law requires. Both you and law enforcement will be the happier for it.