Must all flatbed trucks or trailers have a header board?

I just got a phone call from one of our drivers, who said that by January 31st all flatbed trucks or trailers must have a headboard. Has anyone else heard of this?

The header board or bulkhead, if present, is found at the front part of a trailer. Sometimes there may be a “headache rack” attached to the tractor, behind the cab. The rule requiring a “headache rack” changed about ten years ago; the tractor-mounted barrier is no longer a requirement. The purpose of this safety barrier, according to the CDL manual is to “protect you from your cargo in case of a crash or emergency stop. Make sure the front-end structure is in good condition. The front-end structure should block the forward movement of any cargo you carry.”

What should a driver look for to determine if the header board “is in good condition?”

“Header board is adequate, secure,” says the California CDL Manual. This does not say much.

Inspection of the header board should include checks for missing rivets, damage (forklift damage, corrosion — beyond surface rust or corrosion — broken welds, or cracks). The structure should be upright — not leaning or bent on an angle, forwards or backwards.

The Regulations stipulate the minimum basic construction at § 393.114 What are the requirements for front end structures used as part of a cargo securement system?:

(a) Applicability. The rules in this section are applicable to commercial motor vehicles transporting articles of cargo that are in contact with the front end structure of the vehicle. The front end structure on these cargo-carrying vehicles must meet the performance requirements of this section.

(b) Height and width. (1) The front end structure must extend either to a height of 4 feet above the floor of the vehicle or to a height at which it blocks forward movement of any item or article of cargo being carried on the vehicle, whichever is lower. (2) The front end structure must have a width which is at least equal to the width of the vehicle or which blocks forward movement of any article of cargo being transported on the vehicle, whichever is narrower.

(c) Strength. The front end structure must be capable of withstanding the following horizontal forward static load:(1) For a front end structure less than 6 feet in height, a horizontal forward static load equal to one-half (0.5) of the weight of the articles of cargo being transported on the vehicle uniformly distributed over the entire portion of the front end structure that is within 4 feet above the vehicle’s floor or that is at or below a height above the vehicle’s floor at which it blocks forward movement of any article of the vehicle’s cargo, whichever is less; or(2) For a front end structure 6 feet in height or higher, a horizontal forward static load equal to four-tenths (0.4) of the weight of the articles of cargo being transported on the vehicle uniformly distributed over the entire front end structure.

(d) Penetration resistance. The front end structure must be designed, constructed, and maintained so that it is capable of resisting penetration by any article of cargo that contacts it when the vehicle decelerates at a rate of 20 feet per second, per second. The front end structure must have no aperture large enough to permit any article of cargo in contact with the structure to pass through it.

(e) Substitute devices. The requirements of this section may be met by the use of devices performing the same functions as a front end structure, if the devices are at least as strong as, and provide protection against shifting articles of cargo at least equal to, a front end structure which conforms to those requirements.

What if no header board is present?

The header board is considered part of the cargo securement system. The regulations at § 393.110 say:

(b) When an article is not blocked or positioned to prevent movement in the forward direction by a header board, bulkhead, other cargo that is positioned to prevent movement, or other appropriate blocking devices, it must be secured by at least:

(1) One tiedown for articles 5 feet (1.52 meters) or less in length, and 1,100 pounds (500 kg) or less in weight;

(2) Two tiedowns if the article is: (i) 5 feet (1.52 meters) or less in length and more than 1,100 pounds (500 kg) in weight; or (ii) Longer than 5 feet (1.52 meters) but less than or equal to 10 feet (3.04 meters) in length, irrespective of the weight.

All tiedowns must be adequate for their intended purpose. These are the regulations in effect at this time.