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NO HEADACHE RACK = BIG HEADACHE

March 7, 2014 Leave a comment

My friend Dave Lande #12568 called me yesterday and asked me if I had heard about an accident in Oregon or Washington involving beams going through the cab of a truck. Dave has some wrecker experience in his past: He and I speak often about various cargo securement problems. Sometimes he makes them up just to bug me. Don’t let the “zip code” number fool you. Like many Mercer hands, he is a “repeat offender”…..he used to be #8021. Sometimes the grass is greener, sometimes it’s just more grass and back to the Mercer Family you come. Anyway, he knows how strongly I feel about headache racks and gave me one to check out. So I did.

The accident involved a flatbed with a load of steel channel that had to make a quick stop. The load went through the sleeper and through the right side of the cab and out the windshield. Incredibly, the driver survived. Had the load gone through the left side, the driver’s head could have very likely been lying in the street with the windshield glass. Check it out at: http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/mar/05/steel-beam-tears-through-vancouver-truck-tualatin-/

You know, we always hear the same old line, ” You can’t put a price on a human life.” Well, this driver and the motor carrier he works for both did. At Mercer, that price would be $940. That’s the price of a headache rack, the installation kit and the installation labor. The price goes down about $100 if you install it yourself. That’s the cost that is “saved” when risking a driver’s life in this type of accident. While I don’t know exactly how many pennies I’m worth, I do know that every driver at Mercer is worth considerably more than $940. Considerably more.

The DOT lets you put an extra chain or strap on the front instead of requiring a headache rack. Really? It sure didn’t do much good with steel channel. Here’s a newsflash: It doesn’t work well with I-beams or coils or lumber or poles or pipe, either. It also doesn’t work real well with plywood or trusses. In some forty years in this business I’ve seen all of that stuff go through cabs, and some of it through drivers. These days,you can be labeled unsafe for having a light out, or an oil leak, or a chaffed air line, but you’re safe without a headache rack. That does not make sense to me and it is certainly not how we do business.Here’s some simple Uncle Lennie math: If you amortize the $940.00 over just two loads per week at 50 weeks per year it is an expense of $9.40 per load. Do it for five years and the expense reduces to $3.76 per load. That’s 188 $5 Wendy’s or McDonalds lunches. Weighed against a driver’s life, $940 is about the cheapest insurance you can buy. 

At Mercer, and at most leading open deck carriers, a headache rack is required. Our policy allows only two exceptions: 1) An RGN with a gooseneck or disabled top deck; 2) A custom sleeper with a reinforced back wall for which I have reviewed the shop fabrication diagram. Anyone else running an unprotected cab is subject to immediate termination. It is that important. Each of you is that important. 

We can talk all day about compliance with safety rules and company policies and getting all the details right. All of that is important and it is all part of our job. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we didn’t hurt anybody and that each of you returned home safely to the ones you love.That, my friends, is a good day. Think safe, act safe, be safe. You are the best.

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