New Legislation Could Mean Paying Drivers for Tarping

Time is money in the trucking business. Unfortunately, the only time a driver may get paid for is the time spent on the road. When drivers are stuck in shipping yards, waiting for shippers or tarping their loads, they are not earning a cent. And that doesn’t sit well with most of them. However, there is a real possibility that might change.

A new highway-funding bill introduced by the federal government this past spring includes a provision that could result in transport companies having to pay drivers for time spent detained by carriers or receivers. Though the law does not specifically detail how payments will be applied, it gives the Department of Transportation a fair amount of latitude. If the highway bill passes with the language attached, we could see drivers being paid for tarping their loads.

Tarping Takes Time

Even though tarped loads typically pay better, there are drivers who avoid them because they take longer to secure. Since time is money, if a driver spends an hour securing an especially bulky load, that’s one hour not spent driving. Let us not forget the other end where the driver must spend time taking the tarp off, folding it, and storing it.

The government hopes to see that change by requiring companies to pay their drivers at a rate equal to the federal minimum wage for any time spent working that does not involve driving. The thought is that the requirement would address three problems:

  • Exceeding Time Limits – Professional drivers are required by law to limit the amount of driving they do on any single day. However, when time is lost at the shipping yard, drivers are tempted to exceed those limits in order to avoid losses. Paying them for time spent detained at shipping yards will hopefully reduce the temptation to exceed limits.

Driver-Tarping

  • Proper Tarping – The loss of time associated with applying and securing truck tarps can sometimes lead drivers to be rushed. Consequent errors may lead to falls, back injuries and other avoidable problems . Paying for tarping time is one way to address this.
  • Industry Competition – The government hopes that the new legislation will make the driving industry more competitive in the labor market, more attractive for people just starting their careers. Let us face it; the idea of not being paid for down time is not attractive to people trying to decide what career path to embark on. More legislation means more burden but setting across the board uniform rules by which all companies have to play is one way to solve the acute driver shortage being faced by the industry.

This all sounds good if you are a professional driver. Nevertheless, there are a couple of flies in the ointment, so to speak. The first is that the regulations would only apply to transport companies. That means fleet drivers will be paid for their time, owner operators will not. That sort of inequity does not sit well with the legions of independent drivers across the country.

The second problem is that it will undoubtedly add to the cost of doing business for trucking companies. Moreover, since that money has to come from somewhere, the higher costs will be passed on to customers by way of higher prices.

No one yet knows what the fate of the highway bill is going to be. In all likelihood, it will need to be modified in order to satisfy both houses of Congress. We will have to wait and see what happens, but perhaps we’ll start seeing drivers paid for tarping their loads by some time next year.


Steel Tarps and Lumber Tarps: Yes, They Are Different

Any company selling heavy-duty truck tarps should carry both steel and lumber tarps of various sizes. What you might not know is that the tarps are different in size and purpose. Each brings with it a certain versatility and suitability for hauling a certain types of commodities. Suffice it to say, not all tarps are created equal, nor does one size fit all.

The typical steel tarp tends to be same in length but smaller in width because it is used to cover steel and other loads that do not rise very high on the back of a flatbed. As such, the required drop height is not as high. They are also made especially for steel loads. If manufactured to high standards, these more than meet the appearance, performance and other professional standards of discerning customers while providing excellent protection for loads. They can be secured with bungee straps.

A lumber tarp is wider but not usually longer. It is intended for larger, higher rising loads with a need for plenty of overhang. They get their name from historical use with lumber hauls. However, a lumber tarp can be used for any bulky, high rising load. Like steel tarps, they can be secured with bungees.

Using Tarps Properly

There are three key principles to using tarps for long-haul trucking. The first is choosing the right tarp for the job. For example, you may need a large lumber tarp with both side drops and end flaps for a load that is high rising and requires total water protection. You want to make sure your tarp is big enough for the job but not so big as to have a lot of excess fabric to take care of. Unfortunately, this means truckers need to own several different kinds of tarps for different jobs.

Lumber and Steel Tarps

The second key to tarping lies in how the tarp is deployed and secured. Keep in mind that there is more to it than just protecting the cargo. The tarp itself also needs to be protected against sharp objects and the potential of wind damage. Experts recommend using edge protectors, corner protectors, moving blankets, rubber pants or other things that can eliminate sharp edges between cargo and tarp. As for wind damage, it is all in how you secure the tarp. Extra rows of D-Rings help bring versatility.

Lastly, drivers get maximum use out of it tarps if they regularly inspect them. Inspection helps to identify weak points that can be repaired before any real damage is done. A driver who does not inspect his tarps is asking for an accident.

Tarp Deployment

Deploying a tarp always needs to be done with safety in mind. Because steel loads tend to be smaller, drivers can deploy tarps manually without much trouble. However, to be safe, tarping should always be done with the help of another driver or someone in the yard. Having a person on either side of the trailer reduces the need for moving across the load while securing the tarp.

Lumber tarps, on the other hand, are a different story. The safest way to deploy a large and bulky tarp is to raise the tarp to the top with a forklift and then unfold down. In the absence of an automatic system, it is even more important for drivers to get someone to help them.

The tarping process can be helped along by properly folding tarps prior to storage. A properly folded tarp can be placed on the center of the load by a forklift, then unfolded in place and secured.

Lumber and steel tarps are necessary tools of the driving trade. They protect valuable cargo from weather, road gravel and other things that could cause damage. They are excellent tools in the hands of experienced drivers.