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What is a Bulkhead?

July 7th, 2016 - 2:02 PM

U-Pack® bulkheads

Moving can be stressful — especially when your belongings will spend a few days traveling cross country in a moving trailer to your new home.  If you’re unsure about what happens to your belongings after you load them — are they shipped as-is? Are other items loaded in the trailer with them? Are they going to shift during transit? — understanding how it all works can help you feel calm. 

For long distance moves, U-Pack uses something called a bulkhead to keep your items safe and secure during transit. A bulkhead is a divider wall that separates shipments inside a commercial trailer. When moving with a U-Pack trailer, your belongings are the only household goods on that trailer, and any unused space is loaded with commercial freight headed in the same direction. This method helps keep prices low and prevents your items from being co-mingled with other household shipments.

Your U-Pack trailer will arrive at your home with the secure divider wall, called a bulkhead, that you install after loading. We have two types available depending on location — lockable bulkheads and hydraulic bulkheads. Both are great for keeping your items separated from commercial goods, but they have a few differences that you should understand before you install one.


bulkhead divider wall

Lockable bulkheads

The lockable bulkhead is the most common divider wall used with U-Pack trailer moves. It consists of two plywood panels with metal load bars attached. The load bars have T-shaped ends that connect to the trailer walls and secure the partition in place. If you have this type of bulkhead, you can provide your own locks for added security. The locks should have a shank size at least 2 inches in length and a diameter of ¼ inch or smaller (you’ll need two locks if you opt to use them).

Hydraulic bulkheads

The hydraulic bulkhead also consists of two plywood panels. The difference is the hydraulic version applies pressure to the sides of the trailer to hold it in place (similar to how a shower rod hangs) instead of locking in to the trailer walls. Though less common, these bulkheads are just as effective as the lockable ones.

How do I install a bulkhead?

Assembling a divider wall is easy and we’ve got several resources available to help you learn how to do it. It takes two people for set up and removal, so make sure you’ve got some help. Check out this video or follow the detailed instructions below for bulkhead installation. 

To install a lockable bulkhead follow these eight steps:

  1. Align the first panel with the vertical trailer post
  2. Firmly press the T-shaped ends down into the vertical trailer post slots
  3. Pull the bulkhead panel away from your shipment at a slight angle
  4. With handles open, slide load bars together until pinholes align
  5. Insert locking pin
  6. Slide bulkhead toward shipment and repeat Step 2
  7. Close load bar handles (use an open palm to avoid risk of pinching)
  8. Place a lock in each handle to secure the bulkhead

To install a hydraulic bulkhead follow these four steps:

  1. Lean the two panels side by side against shipment
  2. Slide the load bars together until they connect at the center
  3. Adjust the extension tube past the end of the wood panel until the snap button is secure in the proper adjustment hole (typically the next-to-last or last hole)
  4. Stand the bulkhead upright against your shipment and pump the black handle (top and bottom) until pads touch both trailer walls. Then pump the black handle an additional 10-12 times to secure the bulkhead

Each bulkhead also has instructions attached, so installation will be a breeze!

How do I remove a bulkhead?

To keep your items protected, we don’t remove the bulkhead once you’ve installed it. You remove it after it’s delivered to your new location. Be sure to use caution when disassembling the bulkhead, as items may have shifted during transit.

 To uninstall a lockable bulkhead follow these five steps:

  1. Remove locks and hold the handle down firmly while pressing the silver release button. Slowly release the handle to relieve pressure (repeat for bottom bar)
  2. Remove locking pins
  3. Lift up on the load bars to remove them from the slots on the trailer wall
  4. Slide the bulkhead away from your shipment and slide the load bars apart
  5. Safely move each bulkhead aside

 To uninstall a hydraulic bulkhead follow these five steps:

  1. Hold down the red button to loosen the bars and compress the tube back into the load bar
  2. Scoot the bottom of the bulkhead backward (away from the shipment) and lean it against your items
  3. Depress the round silver button and retract the adjustable arm back into the load bar as much as possible
  4. Separate the load bars by sliding them apart
  5. Safely move each panel to a dry place

Do I have to use a bulkhead?

Because commercial goods are loaded into the unused space on U-Pack trailers, it’s recommended that you install the bulkhead after loading your belongings to keep shipments divided. It also helps us know how much space your items take up on the trailer.  Read more about U-Pack trailer pricing.

Bulkhead safety tips

Bulkheads are great for separating your belongings from commercial freight and are easy to assemble. However, they should always be handled properly to ensure safety. Here are some tips for using bulkhead:

  • Secure your items with rope or ratchet straps prior to assembling the bulkhead — it’s not designed to withstand the weight of your things
  • Leave a few inches of space between your items and the bulkhead
  • Wear protective gloves when installing and removing the bulkhead
  • Use two people during setup and removal

Additional questions?

For more information on bulkheads, contact a U-Pack representative at 800-413-4799 or comment below. We’re happy to help!