More from: headache rack

How Tough Is Your Headache Rack?

A story appearing last year on the automoblog.com website described two ‘autobots’ vehicles being sold at the 2016 Barrett-Jackson Auction in Arizona. One was a tractor that was custom built to portray the Optimus Prime character of Transformers fame. One of the things that caught our attention was the description of the headache rack mounted on the back of this truck. The article described it as being an “armor-like headache rack.”

Describing something as armor-like is a complement to its strengths and toughness. That led us to wonder about the toughness of the headache racks on the real-life trucks that traverse our nation’s highways. If you are a flatbed trucker, ask yourself just how tough your headache rack really is.

Up to the Task

There is a purpose for having a headache rack that goes above and beyond aesthetics.A headache rack is intended to protect both cab and driver in the event that cargo breaks free and shifts forward. The headache rack is supposed to prevent the cargo from crashing through the back of the tractor. With that in mind, a good headache rack has to be up to the task. It has to be strong enough to withstand the forces of physics in the event of an accident.

The purpose of a headache rack dictates that function is the priority when buying one. Yes, a clean and polished headache rack is a visual chrome feast for the eyes on a tricked-out truck that looks as good as it drives. But all the aesthetics will not mean much if that freshly polished rack cannot hold up to the forces of a shifting load during a forced hard stop. Truck drivers should buy their headache racks first and foremost as a safety device. After that they can talk about aesthetics and peripheral utility.

Shopping for a Rack

The headache rack is one area where it does not pay to skimp. So what do you look for while you’re shopping? Start by looking for something made with high-strength, premium alloys. An alloy is a material derived by combining multiple metals or a single metal with other elements.

Alloys are defined by their bonding characteristics. Thus, their superiority is found in their strength and durability. An aluminum alloy headache rack is going to be tougher and stronger than a pure aluminum alternative. Likewise for any other alloys a manufacturer might use.

Finally, make the effort to visually inspect any headache rack you choose before you buy it. If you are forced to purchase online because you cannot get to the supplier in person, make sure your purchase comes with a reasonable return policy just in case it arrives in less than perfect condition. Your visual inspection should include looking at all the welded seams and the entire face of the headache rack. There should be no cracks or breaks of any kind.

The Optimus Prime truck sold in 2016 is nothing but a Hollywood showpiece. As such, whether its headache rack is truly armor-like doesn’t really matter. It is just for looks. The same cannot be said for your own truck. If you are flatbed truck driver, you absolutely have to have an armor-like headache rack to protect yourself and your truck.


How to Easily Enhance a Headache Rack

If you are a flatbed trucker working without a headache rack, you really need to rethink your strategy. You are but one accident away from a load coming through your cab in a hard-braking scenario that exceeds the tensile strength of your straps or chains. Having said that, truckers with headache racks can enhance those racks with a quick and dirty trick that is easy and inexpensive.

Get more out of your headache rack by securing stacked railroad ties at the front of your trailer with 5/16 chain and a break-over binder. Railroad ties are pretty easy to come by, and in some cases, you can get them for free if you know where to look. You can use 4 x 4 timbers if you don’t have access to railroad ties.

Truckers who haul freshly harvested timber use this trick all the time. Why? Because logs are among the most unruly pieces of cargo you can put on the back of a flatbed trailer. Being careful to stack timbers securely helps to some degree, but you never know when a log is going to shift forward. Adding the bulkhead just makes a driver safer.

How and Why It Works

At first glance, it might seem like building a bulkhead to enhance a headache rack is a waste of time and effort. After all, the whole point of the headache rack is to provide a tough barrier between tractor and load. But here’s the problem: cargo shifting forward on a trailer has to cross that open space between trailer and cab in order to do damage. Any cargo that does manage to traverse that empty space unimpeded has momentum behind it. Momentum is the killer.

A log with enough momentum can severely damage a headache rack to the point of requiring replacement. In a worst-case scenario, a log can send pieces of the rack through the cab. Building a bulkhead on the front of the trailer prevents deadly momentum.

The laws of physics dictate that stacking a load flush with a wooden bulkhead greatly reduces the risk of cargo striking the back of a tractor because the bulkhead provides a surface area capable of absorbing and dispersing the energy of moving cargo. Thus, a bulkhead prevents cargo from getting the momentum it needs to do damage to the tractor.

Easy to Remove

The suggestion to use railroad ties and chain to build a bulkhead is not coincidental. The design is intended to create a bulkhead that is easily removable when it is not needed or it might be in the way. It’s a lot easier to remove chains and railroad ties than to break the welds of a permanently affixed bulkhead system.

If you know you have a month’s worth of loads that do not involve any timber, you can quickly remove your bulkhead and go on your way. The same goes if you have to take an oversized load that needs a few extra inches off the trailer. It only takes a few minutes to reinstall the bulkhead when you need it again.

Here at Mytee Products, we sell a variety of headache racks in different sizes and configurations. Headache racks are great tools for protecting your truck and providing a bit of extra storage at the same time. For those loads when your headache rack may not be enough to protect you, consider building a quick and dirty bulkhead using railroad ties and chains. This simple but effective fix could make a difference in protecting both you and your truck.


Why Headache Racks: The Definitive Answer

If we earned $100 every time a new flatbed truck driver asked us how the headache rack got its name, we might not have to sell trucking supplies to stay in business. Be that as it may, the question about the name of headache racks is as old as the rack itself.

For the record, a headache rack is a large piece of steel or aluminum mounted on the back of a truck cab. You see them on 18 wheelers and larger pickup trucks. Professional truck drivers often use their headache racks as a place to hang their chains and bungee straps.

For the remainder of this post, we want to talk about the name ‘headache rack’ and where it came from. If you are looking for a definitive answer, we have it: there is no definitive answer.

Protecting the Driver from Renegade Cargo

The first explanation of the headache rack name has to do with renegade cargo crashing through the back of a truck cab and injuring the driver. For a long time, there was a popular article circulating on the internet claiming that both the name and the device itself goes back to the days when surfing first became popular.

As the thinking goes, the racks were installed on pickup trucks to prevent harm to drivers if a surfboard were to break loose and crash through the back window. There’s only one problem with this theory: headache racks were around before surfing became popular. Second, you can spend all day traversing the roads of California and Hawaii, and you will probably never see a pickup truck with a headache rack carrying a load of surfboards.

There are other stories that use the same general theme without specifically referencing surfboards. The general idea being that headache racks are really the domain of pickup truck drivers attempting to protect their own heads.

Giving the Driver Headache

The second explanation is one that makes more sense where truck drivers are concerned. This explanation suggests that drivers, while working around their rigs securing cargo or doing maintenance, have a tendency to hit their heads on the metal racks. Unwittingly striking your head on such a large piece of metal would undoubtedly result in a headache.

If you are a professional truck driver, you are familiar with the scenario described here. Every truck driver has done it at least once, and many of you know drivers who do it routinely. Some hit their head so often that they have permanent marks. It is not a pleasant experience, to say the least.

We Have What You Need

The definitive answer about why headache racks are called as such is clear: there is no definitive answer. Therefore, there is no need for truck drivers to dispute or debate any longer. Far better to put your energies into being better drivers capable of delivering loads on time and in good condition.

As for the headache racks themselves, rest assured that Mytee Products has what you need. We have seven different models to fit a variety of needs and styles. We also carry installation kits, chain hangers, light brackets, and even tarp trays.

Your headache rack does not have to give you a headache at the time of purchase. Just shop the Mytee Products inventory to find what you’re looking for, make a quick purchase, and relax while we ship it right to your door. You’ll be protecting your head, or injuring it, in no time at all.