Tarps in Agriculture: Protecting Livestock

Livestock is an important asset to the American farmer. Some farmers deal exclusively in livestock, including cows and goats, while others work with livestock as a complement to producing fruits and vegetables. In either case, livestock represents an important investment the farmer cannot afford to take lightly.

Though animals are not as susceptible to environmental conditions as human beings are, inclement weather can still be harmful to livestock. That’s why farmers will build barns and other structures to keep animals out of the weather. However, sometimes a large animal barn is simply not feasible. Such cases are perfect for poly tarps. With a little creativity and the right tools, the farmer can build a tarpaulin shelter able to provide much needed protection for his or her animals.

Protection from the Sun

In warm weather states, particularly in the South and the Southwest, the hot sun can be just as dangerous to livestock as it is to humans. Yet building multiple barns out in the middle of grazing fields is impractical. A poly tarp can be used to provide adequate protection that is both temporary and portable.

Often times you will see these portable shelters constructed in a classic “U-shape” form. The tarp may be supported by an aluminum frame that can be quickly disassembled and moved to another location, or part of a permanent wood structure that remains even when the tarp is removed. In either case, this type of shelter is open on either end. Its only purpose is to give animals some much-needed shade.

agricultural-tarp

Protection from Wind and Rain

Believe it or not, livestock is susceptible to ill health if persistently exposed to wind and rain. Where outbuildings are not practical, a farmer might construct a three-sided shelter using poly tarps and metal framing. Such a structure would be positioned to block the wind and rain in whatever direction it normally comes from.

Sometimes you will see these structures built as lean-tos; three sided shelters with a slanted roof. The lean-to design has been popular for hundreds of years because of its ability to direct water away from the floor. Other times the wind and rain shelter will be constructed more like a three-sided garage or storage shed. This design is better suited in areas where inclement weather can be more severe.

Protection from the Cold

The farmer who chooses to leave his or her livestock in the field 24-hours per day can sometimes run into trouble on cold nights. Thankfully, livestock do not need much to stay warm. They will do fine in the harshest of temperatures as long as they have a shelter capable of containing their body heat. An agricultural tarp constructed for that purpose is the ideal solution.

Protecting livestock from the cold involves constructing a shelter with four sides and a door opening. The opening does not necessarily have to be sealed, but it is typically only large enough to allow the animals to move in and out. Keeping in body heat indicates the space must be closed in as much as possible.

The key to using poly tarps to protect livestock is to embrace their flexibility. Farmers use all sorts of other materials in combination with tarps to build shelters unique to the needs of their animals. Shelters can be square, triangular, U-shaped, or even tent-like structures. Whatever it takes to keep the animals safe.

For Mytee Products to serve the needs of America’s farmers, we have to make sure we always have a good selection of agricultural grade tarps in stock. We offer all kinds of options for just about any agricultural need.


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.


Pros and Cons of Tarped Loads for Drivers

Driving down the interstate you will notice trucks of all shapes and sizes carrying cargo. You’ll see dump trucks carrying stone or gravel, semi-tractors hauling fully enclosed trailers, and flatbeds carrying loads covered with tarps. Tarped loads are diverse as well.

So what determines what type of load a driver will accept? Company drivers do not have much say in the matter, but independent drivers get to choose what they haul. Loads requiring tarps also require special consideration before drivers will accept them. The nature of truck tarps means there are pros and cons drivers have to consider.

Pros of Tarped Loads

Using truck tarps requires different knowledge and skill than loads contained in dry-van trailers. They require more time to secure. The driver has to make sure the tarp is secured with bungees in a way that protects the load, the tarp itself and generally meets all safety requirements. As such, tarped loads often pay more, making them more attractive to drivers who do not shy from the exertion.

tarped-loads

Commodities like Steel coils, lumber and shingles cannot be loaded on to Dry-Van trucks, not easily anyway. Oversize loads cannot go in Dry-Van trailers either. If one requires such loads to be hauled, Flatbed is the only Industry accepted option. Once such a load is accepted, the driver is responsible from the moment of pick up to the moment of drop off. If a tarp can be deployed to prevent water, stone-chip and other damage to a load, it may be well worth it.

Cons of Tarped Loads

There are plenty of reasons why a driver might prefer to avoid tarped loads, beginning with the cost. The truth is that truck tarps are expensive. However, a high-quality tarp will pay for itself after just a couple of loads. Drivers who take care of their tarps know they can last for years.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of using truck tarps is the fact that they are heavy and difficult to deploy correctly. A tarp must be secured in such a way as to protect both the cargo and the tarp itself. There must be no flapping in the wind either, as that can damage the tarp to the point of making it unusable. And of course, deploying a tarp can be injurious to one’s health. It only takes one fall to cause major problems.

Advances in technology have made it possible to deploy truck tarps using motorized winch systems with automatic spreader bars. This allows the truck driver to deploy the tarp from the safety of the ground, all but eliminating the risk of injury by way of falls. An added benefit of these systems is the ability to deploy a tarp evenly across the entire surface of the load. However, it still takes time that could be put to better use on the road. Automated systems are limited to pre-set load types and sizes. They can also be expensive.

Company Liability

Thus far, we have talked about tarped loads as they relate to independent drivers. However, what about companies that operate their own fleets? There is a certain amount of liability that comes with using truck tarps – liability that involves both drivers and cargo. Companies go to great lengths to protect themselves through proper training, fall restraint systems, and other safety accessories.

It is true that tarping is a necessary part of the trucking industry. It is also true that drivers can make more money when accepting tarped loads. Nevertheless, like anything else, both the pros and cons need to be weighed before deciding whether to accept loads of a given type or not. That’s just part of the business.


Surprise: Truck Tarps and Bears Don’t Get Along

Truck tarps are good for many different things beyond protecting cargo on a flatbed trailer, but apparently catching black bears falling out of trees is not one of them. The Panama City, Florida fire department recently found that out, as did one particularly unlucky bear.

A plethora of news reports say that residents of a local neighborhood spotted a 350-pound black bear up in a neighborhood tree. They called local officials who, in turn, contacted the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and asked them to send an officer to tranquilize and move the bear. It is pretty standard procedure in Southwest Florida.

At some point in the rather exciting proceedings, someone from the local fire department decided to rig a safety system for the bear that included a couple of truck tarps. They devised the system in hopes that it would catch the bear as it fell from the tree, dazed by the tranquilizer dart that would eventually be coming to greet him. What happened next needs to be seen to be appreciated.

The fire department was right in guessing the bear would fall. They were wrong in expecting the truck tarps to provide a suitable safety net. Instead of catching the tranquilized bear, the huge animal crashed through the tarps as though they were nothing more than tissue paper. It turns out that 350 pounds of bear falling 30 feet through the air is no match for your run-of-the-mill tarps.

Just for the record, the Panama City bear was fine. He was relocated to a local forest without incident.

Choose the Right Tarp for the Job

In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that the Panama City fire department appeared to use something other than a heavy-duty truck tarp you’d find on the back of a flatbed trailer. The news reports showed a tarp that looks more like something you would find at your local camping store, a poly tarp and not a Vinyl one. Hopefully they have learned an important lesson about choosing the right tarp for the job.

tarp

That’s not to say a heavy-duty truck tarp would have withstood the weight of the falling bear. It is hard to say without actually testing it, and who wants to do that? In either case, the point of choosing the right tarp is still valid. Not choosing the right tarp could turn a seemingly easy project into a nightmare.

When truckers choose tarps for their loads, they take into consideration many different factors. They have to consider the cargo being covered, the length of the trip, the weather they expect to encounter, and anything that could damage their loads along the way. This includes everything from flying debris to animals.

Low-riding loads might be covered with a heavy-duty steel tarp secured by bungee cords or winch straps. A larger, bulkier load might have to be covered with a lumber tarps or still larger Machine Tarps secured with a combination of ropes, bungee cords, and bindings. It really just depends on what the particular need is at the time. It is up to truck drivers to figure out what those needs are and choose a tarp accordingly.

You may not be a professional trucker trying to secure fragile cargo for a 500-mile journey. However, if you are planning to use a tarp for any purpose, make sure you know what it is you are using. Ask questions if you have to – before you buy. Moreover, if you were part of the Panama City fire department, the local bear community would probably appreciate it if you invested in some heavy-duty truck tarps that would support their weight.