Things to Consider When Using Flatbed Truck Tarps

Tarping a load is usually a necessity for flatbed trailers. Heavy-duty flatbed truck tarps are used to protect the cargo and keep it a bit more secure, providing maximum protection and safety from the start of a trip to its conclusion. Would it surprise you to know that effectively using heavy-duty tarps is more complicated than simply applying the fabric across the load and securing it with a few bungee cords?

Using tarps effectively, efficiently and cost-effectively is a matter of understanding the dynamics between tarps and the loads they cover. Experienced flatbed haulers know how to tarp loads correctly; inexperienced truckers have to learn through practical experience.

Here is a short list of things a driver must consider when tarping:

1. Load Profile

How a load sits on a flatbed trailer really determines how the tarp is applied. There are times when a driver has no say in how a trailer is loaded; he or she must apply and secure their tarps the best they can. However, when drivers can give their input on trailer loading it is beneficial to have cargo loaded in such a way as to maximize tarp capabilities. The idea is to get the most protection with the least amount of tarping possible.

Flatbed Truck Tarps

2. Tarps Securing

Tarps are secured to flatbed trailers using bungee cords, straps, ropes, and chains. Bungee cords are the easiest and fastest to use, but these are not always the wisest choice. Drivers must always consider the size and weight of the load, potential weather conditions, and the strength of any tie down option. It is not true that any means of tying down a tarp is acceptable.

A second thing to consider when securing tarps is having loose fabric that can flap in the wind. This is never a good scenario. Loose fabric can damage cargo through repeated friction or abrasion. Loose fabric can also create air pockets, resulting in the wind slowly, but gradually, getting under a tarp and compromising its position. A compromised tarp no longer protects the cargo underneath from the elements.

3. Protection Flaps

D-ring protection flaps are an important part of flatbed trailer tarps. These protection flaps provide a heavy-duty fabric shield between the D-ring and the surface beneath it. The flap prevents damage to cargo in some cases; in other cases, it prevents the webbing holding the D-ring in place from being exposed to sharp edges. Any new flatbed tarp you purchase should have protection flaps at all D-ring positions.

4. Tarp Application

Applying flatbed tarps is one of the most dangerous jobs in the trucking industry. Tarps can become caught in the wind, whipping around and causing injury. In addition, straps and bungee cords can break or a driver could easily slip and fall while moving around on top of the load.

Before beginning the tarping process, it pays to step back and take just a few minutes to assess the situation. By all means, ask others to help if they are available. Moreover, if you can avoid climbing on top of the load, do so.

Tarping a load is a complex process if you are doing it right. Learning how to tarp properly is a skill that requires a combination of knowledge, time, and experience.


What to Look for When Buying a Lumber Tarp

Truckers know how important it is to protect the load, even if the load is a lumber only load. So, choosing the right product for the right load is essential. When buying your tarp, you can choose between being solely cost conscious or considering quality and functionality before you make your decision. Moreover, as with most purchasing decisions, getting the best possible quality might involve spending a little more than the intended budget for it.

Another thing to consider about lumber, is the fact that, a load can be very hard on the tarp that covers it. A light-duty tarp may weigh and cost less, but it will probably not last as long as you would like it to. Always go with heavy-duty tarps that can withstand the punishment of the load it covers.

lumber tarp

Here are three things you should look for when buying lumber tarps:

1. Material Weight

It can be tempting to choose a lightweight product to make applying and tying down a tarp as easy as possible. However, this could be a costly mistake if a new tarp is damaged after just a few loads. This scenario can be avoided by purchasing an 18 oz. vinyl tarp. Vinyl is lighter than canvas, 100% waterproof, and incredibly tough.

It is possible to choose three-piece parts that use a heavier vinyl on the top and a lighter vinyl on the sides. This sort of arrangement reduces the overall weight while providing the heaviest protection where you need it most – at the top of the load. As a side note, pay attention to the seams and hems. Heat-sealed seams and reinforced hems are best.

2. Drop

The amount of drop a tarp offers is an important part of protecting the lumber load. Not enough drop can leave too much of the load exposed to the elements; too much drop may mean an excess amount of fabric to be secured. Neither situation is ideal. Having said that, lumber loads are such that finding a tarp that fits perfectly, every time, is nearly impossible.

Most truckers will need tarps with multiple drops to account for different kinds of loads. You will soon enough know the specific tarps that are needed for the loads you tend to carry most frequently.

3. D-Rings and Grommets

D-rings and grommets make it possible for you to tie down your tarps in order to protect your load. First and foremost, any lumber tarp you purchase should have enough of both to make securing the tarp easy regardless of the size and shape of the road.

The second thing to pay attention to is how D-rings and grommets are attached to the tarp. Heavy-duty construction is important. D-rings should be attached with heavy-duty webbing, back stitched for maximum strength. They should also include a heavy-duty protection flap underneath. As for the grommets, these should be attached with heavy-duty webbing that are at least 2 inches in width.

When buying a lumber tarp the key is quality, in both construction and materials. It might be worth it to spend more on a high quality product that will last longer than to try to get by with a cheaper alternative. Remember, protecting your load appropriately will only be good for business. A high-quality tarp will pay for itself over time as it used to cover more loads.


Why Steel Tarps Are Important for Safety

Truck drivers use flatbed steel tarps of all sizes to secure and protect their loads. Given the time-consuming nature of tarping loads, a nonprofessional may wonder why flatbed trailers are used at all. It comes down to the fact that some loads just cannot be put into enclosed box trailers very easily. Steel coils are but one example. Flatbed trailers make for easier loading and unloading using forklifts and other heavy lifting equipment.

Tarps are used to protect a load against the elements as well as road debris and animals. However, tarps are also about improving highway safety. A high-quality truck tarp enhances safety by improving the profile of a load and helping to keep that load securely in place.

Load Profile

The vast majority of loads hauled on flatbed trailers have unusually shaped profiles. In fact, an unusual profile is one of the reasons a given load might be transported on a flatbed rather than an enclosed trailer. Left untarped, these loads also present a certain amount of danger by way of road debris.

For example, consider a load of steel coils. A flatbed trailer might be carrying six spools of steel coil, loaded consecutively with each spool securely against the others beside it. Nevertheless, no matter how tightly the spools are packed on the trailer, there is always empty space between them. That empty space could catch road debris and hold it temporarily. A few miles down the road, the debris could be dislodged, flying through the air and striking a car.

Steel-Tarps

A heavy-duty steel tarp reduces that risk by providing a more uniform profile. What’s more, it eliminates the dead space where road debris can collect. Any debris flying through the air as the truck goes down the highway will be deflected off in most cases. Although cars and other vehicles could still be negatively impacted, the risk is greatly reduced.

Load Securing

A truck driver would never use tarps alone to secure a load. However, a heavy-duty tarp does add an extra layer of protection in case one of the other systems fails. Again, let us talk about steel coils as an example.

A load of steel coil will be braced on either end with timbers designed to keep the spools from rolling. Each individual spool will be secured to the flatbed using a chain; larger loads might also be secured by tying each spool to the one next to it using a heavy-duty chain.

With a strong, properly secured tarp in place, a load would remain relatively safe even if one of the chains holding a center spool broke. The tarp would keep the spool secure long enough for the driver to get to a safe place where he or she could re-secure it with a new chain.

As you can see, steel tarps are important for highway safety as well as protecting a load. For the trucker, that means choosing tarps wisely. Tough fabrics combined with high quality construction offer maximum load protection and increased safety.


Securing Your Flatbed Trailer with a Heavy Duty Truck Tarp

Securing a flatbed trailer and its load with a heavy-duty truck tarp is just part of the routine for the American trucker. For new truckers, or those who have never hauled flatbed loads before, learning how to effectively tarp is not the easiest thing in the world. It is an acquired skill that takes time and experience to master.

Before tarping ever begins, the trucker must purchase the right kinds of tarps for the loads he or she intends to haul. It is best to choose heavy-duty tarps that can withstand the punishment of the open road; we usually recommend 18-ounce vinyl or a PVC product. Canvas and poly tarps do not tend to hold up very well over multiple long hauls.

With the correct tarp in hand, securing your trailer is a three-step process:

1. Load Balance

Making sure a load is balanced does a number of things. First, it keeps the trailer evenly weighted for maximum safety and fuel efficiency. Second, it allows for tarping the load in such a way that it provides as much protection as possible. Experienced truckers know that how a load is placed on a trailer goes a long way toward determining how it is tarped.

If you have any say in how your trailer is loaded, try to make sure the profile is as even as possible across the entire surface. Also, try to make sure that no part of the load sits higher than the top of the tractor if at all possible. Doing so reduces drag and protects your tarp against unnecessary wind.

2. Tarp Application

Despite the introduction of automatic tarping machines, many of today’s drivers still apply their tarps manually. The key is to make sure a tarp is spread evenly across the load to ensure as much protection as possible on all sides. The amount of drop a tarp offers plays a big role in this, so having enough drop to completely cover your load is usually beneficial.

securing-tarp

3. Tarp Securing

Flatbed trailer tarps come with both grommets and D-rings. Securing a tarp with bungee cords and the D-rings is okay for short trips across town – provided the load itself has been secured by other means – but it is an inappropriate way to secure a tarp for a long-haul trip. Such trips require the use of ratchet straps, ropes, or chains.

Ratchet straps are preferred because these are very easy to use and strong at the same time. A hook on one end of the strap is connected to a D-ring, while the fabric of the strap is pulled through a winch system. This enables you to get the straps as tight as they need to be to secure the tarp. They can also be used to provide extra strength for securing the load.

As always, it is important to make sure there is no loose material able to flap around in the wind. If any of the surfaces of the tarp will be exposed to sharp edges, it is wise to use other materials to soften the edges. The idea is to protect your load and your tarp at the same time.


Does the Color of a Flatbed Truck Tarp Matter?

When you are shopping for truck tarps, you can find them in just about any color. Standard colors are black and blue, but you can get them in red, yellow, green, and just about anything else. The question is, does the color of a flatbed truck tarp really matter? That depends on how you feel about heat.

Colors themselves are merely aesthetic. However, a black tarp will absorb more sunlight, thereby producing more heat. If this is a problem for either your load or your own comfort, you might want to think about another color. Otherwise, it does not matter much.

Why Black Tarps Get Hotter

Black tarps can be significantly hotter than lighter colors on sunny days. The reason behind this has to do with how light is absorbed and reflected. As far as black as concerned, it is not really a color. It is actually the absence of color.

When light rays hit a surface, certain parts of the light spectrum are reflected to produce the perception of color. The parts of the spectrum that are absorbed are not seen by the naked eye. A black surface is one that absorbs every part of the light spectrum, reflecting nothing back for your eyes to recognize as color. This absolute absorption of the light spectrum explains why black tarps get hotter.

PolyTarp

By absorbing all of the light, the tarp is also absorbing the energy from it. That energy is stored as heat in the tarp’s fabric. On a hot, sunny day, the heat emanating off a black tarp can make it almost unbearable to remove from a flatbed and fold up. Of course, black tarps are great on winter days for that very same reason.

There may be times when you want to avoid a black tarp if you can. One example might be a load that is sensitive to high heat. Such loads require lighter colored tarps that reflect more light than they absorb.

Aesthetic Appearance

As long as heat is not an issue for loads, most truckers choose the color of their tarps based on aesthetic purposes. A black tarp has an advantage in that it shows very little dirt. You could get away with cleaning your tarp less often by choosing black. That’s not to say they should not be cleaned at all, but during those busy times when you just don’t have to the option to stop and clean, a black tarp will not show the dirt.

The lighter the color, the worse a tarp will look as it wears. Why? Because lighter colors do not hide flaws as well. A lighter colored tarp will show every repair, every stain, and every bit of discoloration caused by fading. Black tarps are not subject to such things. As a general rule, they look better for longer.

Now that you know the color of a flatbed truck tarp is largely inconsequential, at least you will not have to worry that buying something other than black could have a huge impact on your tarping and hauling. Buy whatever color suits your fancy. At the end, it only matters that your load arrives at its destination safely.