Efficiently Working with Flatbed Truck Tarps

Within the flatbed trucking community, a common complaint that arises is the time and effort needed to apply and remove tarps. This time away from the steering wheel – time that pays a driver his or her wage. Therefore, keeping the wheels turning and earning money depends a lot on how efficient a flatbed driver is with tarps.

As a flatbed trucker, you might be wondering whether it is possible to be efficient when working with flatbed truck tarps. It is – you just need to try different options until you find what works best for you. It also helps to keep in mind that efficiency by definition, is doing the same amount of work with less effort and time needed.

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Applying Bungee Straps to Tarps

Applying bungee straps could take quite a bit of time when it comes to tarping a load. Just when you think you have your tarps right where you want them, you find out they are in the wrong position because of the way your bungee straps lay. We have a suggestion based on things we have seen some of our customers do.

Start by pinning all four corners of your tarp with a single bungee cord at each corner. Then do a walk around the entire load, placing a bungee cord in each D-ring or grommet, depending how you intend to fasten the tarp. During this step, do not secure the bungee cords to your trailer. Just walk around and hook the bungees in a ring or grommet.

Now make a second pass around the rig, securing every other bungee cord as you go. A third pass in the other direction wraps up the remaining cords. While this process does take three passes, you will find that you save time by not having to undo straps and readjust the tarp multiple times. You will be applying tension evenly with this process, increasing the chances that you will only have to do it once.

Using the Link Bar with Straps

Securing a load with winch straps can be as cumbersome as using bungee cords. You can increase your efficiency by walking around your load and getting all of your straps started before you ever touch the winch bar. Then you can walk around the rig and tighten each winch one at a time. This way you are not constantly picking up the bar and sitting down again. By the way, you can use the same process in reverse. Use the winch bar to loosen all of your straps in a single pass, then go back and take the straps off.

Color Code Your Tarps

Your flatbed truck tarps come in a variety of sizes and shapes. As you may already know, manufacturers use specific colors of fabric to let customers know important information about strength and durability. This does nothing for you when you are trying to find a specific tarp for specific job. So why not color code your tarps by size? A strip or two of colored duct tape makes it easy to differentiate between small and large tarps. Some drivers use different colored bungee cords the same way.

It is possible to be efficient when working with flatbed truck tarps. As previously stated, it is a matter of trying different things until you find what works for you. If you have tried for years and still cannot get it right, don’t be afraid to ask other truckers for tips and tricks. There are some drivers out there who are very efficient.


When To Use Smoke Tarps

It is fascinating to dig around in trucker forums to see what flatbed drivers say about smoke tarps. This is one area with lots of differing opinions, that’s for sure. Truckers generally agree that smoke tarps are easy to use and cheap to buy. What they do not tend to agree on is whether or not to use smoke tarps for particular kinds of loads. From our perspective, it comes down to this: use smoke tarps when your customers want and or need them.

A good case in point is a load of PCV pipe. Most receivers are incredibly picky about the condition of the pipe when it arrives in the freight yard. The last thing your customer wants is a load of pipe covered in soot from your exhaust stacks. If it gets inside the pipes, that’s even worse. This is why PVC pipe almost always requires the use of some kind of smoke tarp, be it a flat tarp or a fitted one.

smoke-tarp

‘Must Tarp’ Loads Not Always a Must

Nearly every flatbed trucker has been dispatched to pick up a load deemed a ‘must tarp’ load, only to see the receiver take the load and leave it out in the yard fully exposed. In such cases, it is not uncommon for drivers to blame receivers for unnecessarily requiring smoke tarps. Yet often, the problem lies with dispatchers or the trucking companies themselves.

It is easy for a trucking company sales associate to promise to tarp every load, whether it needs it or not, at no additional charge. This is a sales tactic to gain new customers. Experienced truckers know enough to check with the shipper and receiver prior to accepting a ‘must tarp’ load to see if it really does need to be tarped. If it does, the driver should tarp it without question. If not, it is up to the preferences of the driver.

Fitted and Flat Tarps

Smoke tarps come in two basic styles: fitted and flat. Fitted smoke tarps are often known as nose tarps because they fit over the front nose of the load to guarantee all of the necessary surface area is covered. Unfortunately, fitted smoke tarps do not always work well with loads that are not perfectly rectangular, square, or circular. Irregular loads tend to be better protected with flat tarps secured with bungee cords or straps.

A typical flat smoke tarp is a 10 x 12 or 12 x 12 piece of vinyl. Some truck drivers recommend going to your local big box store and purchasing one or two cheap blue tarps for use as smoke tarps; we do not recommend this practice at all. Why? Because blue tarps are not meant to withstand the punishment of the open road. They fall apart very quickly and, in the end, cost more money by having to be replaced so often.

Mytee Products carries a 10 x 12 heavy-duty smoke tarp made with 18-ounce vinyl. It is rugged enough to withstand a good deal of punishment and sufficiently durable to last for years. If you regularly transport loads requiring smoke tarps, we highly recommend this product.

In the end, drivers use smoke tarps because the load they are driving requires it and that’s what their customers want. If that’s what it takes to keep the customer happy, that is what you do. Happy customers mean repeat trips and additional business. It is just that simple.


Winter Tarping Tips for Truck Drivers

A flatbed truck driver’s tarps are among the most important tools of the trade. Without a proper selection of tarps of different sizes and materials, protecting valuable cargo would be considerably more difficult. In light of how important tarps are to flatbed trucking, it is equally important for drivers to use extra care during the winter months. Winter tarping is a lot more challenging than using tarps in the summer.

The key to surviving the winter season with all of your tarps intact is to remember that rapid temperature changes make tarping materials brittle. Snow, ice, and road salt do not help either. Drivers need to be extra careful in order to protect their investments; they need to make sure their tarps last through the winter and into the following spring.

winter-tarping

Here are some winter tarping tips you might be able to use yourself:

1. Warm Tarps in Your Cab

If you know that you will need certain tarps from your inventory on the way to pick up a load, bring them inside the cab and let them warm up as you drive. Warm tarps are certainly easier to apply than cold ones. You will also find them less prone to tearing as well.

Once you reach your destination, you might be used to immediately unloading, folding your tarps, and storing them away in preparation for your next trip. But if you have 15 to 30 minutes of paperwork to do before departure, see if there is an open warehouse space where you can let your tarps warm up before folding. Once again, you will find them a lot easier to deal with.

2. Check D-Rings and Grommets Regularly

D-Rings and grommets are especially prone to damage from road salt during the winter. Make a point to check yours several times during a trip and at the start and conclusion of every journey. If you find even a minimal amount of damage, winter is not the time of year to press your luck. You are better off taking a tarp out of service until the damaged the ring or grommet can be repaired.

3. Avoid the Voids

Experienced flatbed drivers know that voids create a great place for water to pool. This is bad enough during the warm months, but water collecting on a tarp can be very damaging during the winter. Let’s say a bit of water pools in a void at the center of a load in temperatures hovering just above freezing. When the sun goes down and the temperatures fall, that pool can easily freeze and rip a hole in your tarp. Do not allow for any voids where moisture can collect.

4. Use Rubber Tipped Gloves

Rubber tipped gloves are an excellent choice for applying tarps during the winter months. The rubber fingertips make it easier to grip cold canvas and vinyl, even when you are dealing with ice at the same time. You can wear them alone or over the top of a set of leather gloves and, best of all, rubber tipped gloves are relatively cheap. You can buy them by the dozen at the local DIY or auto repair store.

The winter season brings with it extra challenges for flatbed truckers to overcome. You can make your own challenges more tolerable by remembering how winter weather affects tarps. The more proactive you are in winter tarping, the less trouble you will have this season.