At first thought, it may seem that applying tarps to lumber loads is a waste of time. We just assume lumber is durable enough to handle a trip up the interstate without too many problems. However, that isn’t the case. There is one silent villain of lumber that could cause monstrous levels of damage and ruin the entire load long before it reaches its destination. And that enemy is – moisture. Keeping lumber dry is the primary reason for using lumber tarps.
To be clear, hauling lumber is normally associated with carrying cut wood from the harvest location to the processing location. Nevertheless, hauling lumber can also mean carrying finished products, such as 2x4s, to a construction site. Regardless of the stage of production, all lumber is still susceptible to moisture.
Fungal Growth Equals Worthless Wood
Wood is a pretty durable product, capable of taking a lot of punishment. Nonetheless, under the right conditions, fungus can grow within a load of lumber. Substantial fungal growth can make an entire load worthless. This is why flatbed truckers have to be very careful about protecting lumber on the road.
In order for fungus to grow, three things need to be present in just the right proportions: moisture, warm temperatures, and air. Any two can be just right and you will still not get fungus if the third is not. This is why rough cut lumber can sit in the bottom of a river for hundreds of years without ever growing fungus or decaying. There is simply not enough oxygen to sustain fungal growth.
On the back of a flatbed trailer however, it is not difficult at all to reach optimum conditions for fungal growth. There is obviously plenty of air, and a fairly warm day with sunshine satisfies the temperature requirements. Add a little moisture from a short rainstorm and you have the perfect conditions for fungus.
The main problem with lumber loads is that any water managing to seep through open spaces can then become trapped between individual pieces of lumber. If allowed to sit long enough in this condition, fungus can grow. Therefore, the best way to avoid the risk is to cover the load with lumber tarps. Tarps keep away moisture and, in the case of finished lumber, prevent any damage from flying debris and insects.
Tarp Quality Important
Providing maximum protection for a lumber load is a matter of using a high-quality lumber tarp. A good tarp will be large enough to cover the top and sides of the load, with flaps on the front and back to completely encase the lumber. Vinyl or poly are the two most common fabric choices, though it’s not unheard of for some truckers to use canvas.
We recommend a high-quality tarp from a reputable manufacturer. The driver will pay a little more for quality, but the higher price is worth it over the long term. A quality tarp will offer maximum protection and last longer than a cheaper alternative. Moreover, given that lumber tarps are one of the most important tools of the trade for the timber hauler, there is no point in doing business on the cheap.
Protecting lumber from moisture is an important part of the job. This makes lumber work the most labor-intensive and time-consuming in all of the industry. Truckers should consider what is involved in order to make sure they are getting paid well enough to make the work worth their while. Considering that the pay is good, applying those lumber tarps is no big deal.