More from: flatbed truck driver

How the Ratchet Works: A Simple Explanation

Shopping the Mytee Products website affords you the opportunity to buy all sorts of parts and tools; this includes ratchets. Just in the cargo control section alone you will find ratcheting winch bars and ratchet straps. Making all of these pieces work is a bit of technology that has been around for centuries.

The tried and true ratchet is one of the most used tools in the world. Socket wrenches utilize them. So do clocks, locking mechanisms, and so much more. If it weren’t for the ratchet, a lot of the tools we now take for granted wouldn’t be possible. To illustrate just how important the ratchet is, we will explain how it works in reference to some of the cargo control supplies we carry.

A Basic Definition

The word ‘ratchet’ is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to a socket wrench. While a socket wrench certainly relies on a ratchet, the term is a lot more general than that. A ratchet is literally a mechanism that allows for continual rotary or linear motion in one direction only. Its design prevents motion in the opposite direction.

With this definition to hand, just look around your truck and see how many ratchets you can identify. Believe it or not, the winches bolted to the side of your trailer employ a ratchet mechanism to keep webbing straps tight.

Look at the side of the winch and you’ll see a gear with multiple teeth. You will also see what is known as a pawl. This is the small metal piece that catches on the flat side of a tooth in order to prevent the gear from moving in the opposite direction. The combination of these two pieces is all that’s necessary to make the device a ratchet.

When you tighten your straps down you know you can only tighten in one direction. Every time the pawl passes another tooth, the strap gets tighter. Get it tight enough and the pawl will catch under one of the teeth to prevent the strap from unwinding.

The Ratchet Winch Bar

The ratchet winch bar we carry works on the same basic principle. At the end of the bar is a square housing that holds a ratchet device. You insert the ratchet into the handle of the winch and secure it with a pin. Now you can tighten down your winch straps without ever removing the bar. When you’re done, pull out the pen and remove the bar.

For truck drivers who already have a standard winch bar they like well enough, there’s no need to purchase a ratcheting bar. We also carry ratcheting winches and adapters that convert standard winches into ratcheting winches.

In both cases, the same principle explained above applies. The ratchet mechanism consists of a gear and a pawl that allow for motion in only one direction. You use the standard winch bar to crank down on the winch, then you remove the bar at the bottom of the stroke. Slide the bar back in at the top of the stroke and repeat the process.

In order for the ratchet to work as a cargo control device, there has to be a way to release it. Thankfully there is. The pawl on nearly every kind of winch device can be released with a spring-loaded lever. This allows for motion in the opposite direction so that you can loosen webbing straps enough to detach them.

Now you know the basics of how ratchets work. It’s a good thing we’ve got them in stock, or your job as a truck driver might be a bit more difficult.


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.