Smartly Tarping Your Cargo To a Great Truck Driving Career

America’s over the road truck drivers have three primary kinds of work to choose from: refrigerated (refer) hauling, dry van hauling, and flatbed hauling. Few drivers would argue that sometimes flatbed truckers have the most challenging of roles to fulfill. The primary reasons arises when drivers have to drive in extreme weather conditions and gauge what changes in climate at their point of destination. The secondary reason could be that an inexperienced driver would not be knowledgeable enough to utilize his tarping gear to secure the cargo and have a safe trip.

What does flatbed driving appear to be such a difficult task? The answer to this is – load securing is key to a drivers track record and the company’s reputation in protecting their customers cargo. Drivers are responsible for the security of their loads from the moment they drive out of the shipping yard to the moment the receiver unloads the cargo. Not only do they have to ensure cargo remains securely on board, they also have to take the necessary steps to prevent damage along the way. And in most cases, that means applying tarps both, efficiently and effectively. Considering the following tarps allows a driver to determine which ones are best suited to protect their load:

tarping

Steel Tarps – steel tarps are the most commonly used in flatbed trucking. They are quite large and generally flat and rectangle so that they can be used to cover virtually any cargo. The average flatbed trucker will own several of these, all stored in a utility box or a rack behind the cab.

Coil Tarps – coil tarps are smaller tarps designed primarily to cover loads of coil, cabling or other similar products. A good coil tarp is dome-shaped in order to accommodate the coils with a tight fit that reduces drag and flapping.

Lumber Tarps – lumber tarps can be a bit more challenging to apply as they are the heaviest and due to their side and back flaps. Lumber tarps are designed in this way to protect an entire load from top to bottom.

Smoke Tarps – The smallest in tarp family are smoke tarps. These are used at the front of the load when the load requires protection from exhaust. As they are smaller, these can be applied quickly and easily.

Based on these four choices, that the means of covering a load are not universal. A driver must assess each load to determine the best way to protect it. Then comes the crucial process of applying and securing tarps.

The Smart Flatbed Driver

For drivers to do a good job of securing tarp over their cargo, one must consider the profile of the driver.Those who choose flatbed driving as a career have the ability to think of solutions to a problem ( weather, load size etc) and also have the physical disposition to haul an average tarp that generally weighs between 50-100lbs.

It is due to these factors that Flatbed truck drivers get paid handsomely compared to their counterparts in other sectors of the trucking driving industry. Better pay also results in a better retention rate, so understanding tarps and efficiently using them can result in a long term flatbed trucking career


Slick New Trailers Still Need Tarps

The 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show held in early April was quite a show. Independent contractors, carriers and shippers from all over the country descended on the show to see the latest and greatest in new equipment. Among the highlights of the show were new flatbeds from companies such as Great Dane. Yet no matter how technologically advanced flatbed trailers become, the need for tarps will always be crucial to the game.

Great Dane unveiled a brand-new all-aluminum trailer that they have named the Freedom XP. No, it has nothing to do with your computer’s OS. Rather, it is a completely new concept in 48-foot flatbed trailers designed from the ground up. Designed with an emphasis on visibility, sporting LED lights, polished filler plates, additional mud flaps and the options to include a single coil package perfect for loading on and secured quickly.

As impressed as visitors to the Mid-America Trucking Show were with Freedom XP’s features, an experienced trucker knows that, it would only take a few cross country trips before that shiny new trailer begins to look worn. No amount of sparkle or polish can change the punishment the open road dishes up. And that is why truckers still need flatbed truck tarps alongside slick new trailers.

flatbedtarp

Platform on Wheels

The Freedom XP offers a 22-disc brake system that is as good as anything Great Dane has ever produced. Even so, the trailer is just a platform on wheels intended to carry everything from steel coil to factory equipment to pallets of landscaping materials. This means the tarps drivers choose to protect their loads is as important as the platform underneath them.

Truck tarps do not get a lot of media attention at equipment shows because they are, quite frankly, not nearly as glamorous as an all-aluminum flatbed trailer. Additionally, tarp technology has not changed all that drastically over the years. It is hard to put together a flashy presentation that impresses show participants and convinces them to purchase. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the importance of truck tarps for flatbed hauling.

Tarps Make the Difference

The versatile yet utilitarian truck tarp makes all the difference between a successful flatbed trip and an unsuccessful one. From the truck driver’s perspective, not having the right kinds of tarps on board is a quick way to lose jobs. From the standpoint of shippers and receivers, tarps are the link that cargo stays safe from point A to point B. Some will not even consider using a driver until that driver first proves he/she has the necessary tarps on board.

Mytee Products carries a full range of steel, coil, lumber and smoke tarps for flatbed truckers. Most of the tarps we sell are made of high-quality polyethylene with reinforced webbing and brass grommets. We also carry canvas tarps as well. Our tarps offer exceptional durability at affordable prices.

The two keys to using tarps successfully are choosing the right tarp for the job and not buying new tarps on the cheap. Insofar as the former is concerned, not every tarp in a trucker’s toolbox is suitable for every job. That is why manufacturers make different kinds. Having at least a few of each makes the trucker’s job a lot easier.

In terms of buying new tarps, going cheap is never a good idea. You get what you pay for. By spending a little more on a high-quality product you can rely on, you will actually spend less over the course of your career by purchasing fewer total tarps. The extra money you spend on quality is well worth it.

Sources:

1.Fleet Equipment – http://www.fleetequipmentmag.com/great-dane-aluminum-flatbed/


Securing Tarps for Potentially Bad Weather

Powerful storms that included tornadoes swept through Illinois in early April (2015), leaving a line of devastation in its wake. Perhaps you even saw the viral video of a tractor-trailer being blown over by the wind. Interestingly enough, the tornado being filmed by storm chasers was still a few miles away when winds toppled the truck. It just goes to show how vulnerable trucks are in bad weather.

Flatbed trailers do have a slight advantage over dry vans and reefer trailers in that their profiles are not as high with most loads. However, an oversize load can be just as prone to high winds as a refer or drive van. And, of course, the tarps used to protect a load are always a concern. The potential for bad weather dictates that flatbed driver take extra precautions to secure their tarps.

bad-weather

Preparing for Bad Weather

When a driver knows bad weather is imminent, he or she understands the urgency to make sure loads and tarps are well secured. Cargo should have already been properly secured at the shipping yard prior to departure; this is something drivers routinely check before hitting the road. Having said that, it is still a good idea to check that the chocks are in place and that tire chains are tight, prior to driving out into adverse weather conditions.

Insofar as truck tarps are concerned, any air pockets allowing the fabric to move could become a real problem in the event of extraordinarily high winds. Tarps should be readjusted to eliminate air pockets and prevent any material from flapping. A trucker should check his/her tarps within 50 or 60 miles of departure and then with every stop after that.

Rubber straps may be sufficient for securing steel tarps under normal driving and weather conditions. Nevertheless, when the potential of severe weather arises, extra straps might be required for more strength. Likewise, rubber rope could be used around the entire perimeter of lumber tarps to keep everything in place.

The main antagonist for truck tarps in extreme weather conditions is wind. Doing everything possible to make sure wind does not get underneath a tarp is the best thing a trucker can do. Truck tarps should never be secured to the outside of the rub rail. Under normal driving conditions, this allows debris and soot to get in under the tarp. And if debris and soot can get in, so can air. This could prove quite problematic in the event of foul weather.

Applying Better Judgement

Truck drivers should take necessary precautions to secure cargo and tarps in the anticipation of severe weather. However, no tarping system is a substitute for better judgement. An experienced truck driver knows when not to challenge the wrath of adverse weather conditions.

Spring and late summer can be volatile in the Midwest due to the threat of tornadoes. Being mindful of weather forecasts while choosing driving routes is not just wise but potentially lifesaving. In the Northeast and upper Midwest, winter storms can be as violent as severe summer thunderstorms, including whipping winds that could pummel a tractor-trailer on the freeway.

At the end of the day, weather can be unpredictable. It is up to a truck driver to gauge the weather conditions and determine the best way to secure their vehicles appropriately. The goal is to make sure the load makes it to its intended destination with both the cargo and driver unharmed.


Hay Tarps: A Wise Investment

The arrival of spring means that cattle farmers across the US will be making plans for spring, summer and fall grazing. Properly managing grazing lands and hay storage, especially during the summer months, is an important part of the farmer’s preparations for the coming winter. According to the University of Tennessee’s Gary Bates, storing hay under tarps is one of two strategies farmers can use to reduce their wintertime hay needs as much as 50%.

The primary purpose of hay tarps is to protect stored product from moisture. As any farmer knows, excessive moisture trapped inside hay causes two problems. First, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and fungus that can make the hay unusable as feed. An entire crop can be lost very quickly if it is not covered properly.

The second reason, although not as common as bacteria and mold growth, is the real potential of spontaneous fire. Moisture trapped within a stack of hay encourages activity among bacteria, an activity that generates heat as the bacteria multiply and grow. Heat can build up until the stack eventually catches fire.

hay-tarps

Preventing Hay Rot

In a recent interview with the Leaf Chronicle, Bates said that the combination of hay tarps and stockpiling tall fescue in the fall could reduce the farmer’s hay needs by 30%-50%. The fescue is used to extend the fall grazing season so that less hay is used throughout the winter while using hay tarps reduces waste by protecting against rot. Given the fact that feeding cattle hay during the winter is a costly proposition, anything farmers can do to reduce the amount of hay they need ultimately helps the bottom line.

For hay tarps to fulfill their purpose, a farmer needs to make sure that any surface potentially exposed to rain is covered. There are multiple ways to accomplish this. Some farmers completely wrap their haystacks, covering the top and all four sides and staking the tarp to the ground. Others use a series of hay tarps suspended over ropes or an aluminum frame to create an easy-to-access hay house. Still others might stack hay up next to a barn, on the leeward side, and then cover only the top of the stack. At the end of the day, the hay bales or stacks need to be properly covered.

Spend More for Quality

Just as a trucker needs quality tarps that will last a long time, farmers should think twice about spending as little as possible on the cheapest tarps available. It is better to spend a little more for a quality product that will be durable for years over a cheaper product that might just make it through a season. Even the most expensive tarp will pay for itself in a season or two if a farmer is capable of reducing his/her hay waste by 30% to 50%.

A good quality hay tarp is a UV-treated piece of polyethylene fabric with heavy-duty threading and webbing every 4 inches or so. Reinforced brass grommets provide for easy tie-down with 16-inch spiral anchor pins. Double stitched seams and reinforcements around webbing make for a tarp that can withstand tough weather conditions.

As for color, today’s tarps are usually silver on one side and black on the other. The silver side is placed up to reflect sunlight while the black under surface underneath absorbs heat. This provides maximum protection on those hot, sunny days that could potentially rob hay of all its moisture. Hay with no moisture is no better than hay with too much.

Spring is here, and cattle farmers are making plans for summer and fall. Those plans should include hay tarps along with strategic planning of fall fescue. Combining the two could save the farmer substantially during next winter’s hay feeding season.

Sources:

  • Leaf Chronicle – http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/money/business/2015/03/26/farm-decisions-today-will-affect-tomorrow/70503522/

Tools to Make Tarping Easier

Tarping a flatbed load can be a time-consuming job. Flatbed truck drivers are appreciative of shippers who have invested in automatic tarping machines, as these make using steel, coil and flatbed lumber tarps relatively easier. However, a shipper who uses a tarping machine is not the standard. A flatbed trucker is, more often than not, left to tarp his/her loads manually.

Many equipment makers have recognized the need and have begun developing tools to make tarping easier. Two of those tools, the side kit and the accordion tarp cover, turn what used to be a long and laborious process into something that can be completed in just a few minutes.

Side Kit Tarps

A side kit tarp is essentially a modular frame a truck driver can build over his/her cargo on which to lay and secure a tarp. It consists of a series of aluminum rails and composite panels that easily attach to a flatbed trailer via the built-in pockets most trailers offer. Once the structure is complete, the driver can place a tarp on the top, unroll it and pull the sides down for securement. The side kit works equally well for lumber, coil and steel tarps.

side kit tarps

The primary benefits of a side kit are cost and modular design. A good kit is very affordable and should more than pay for itself in time saved. Furthermore, the modular nature allows a driver to install only what is needed for each load. He/she just inserts the side posts into the trailer pockets, attaches the panels, and it is ready for tarping.

Accordion Tarp Covers

Drivers not afraid to spend in exchange for speed and convenience can invest in an accordion tarp cover frame. As with the side kit, the accordion frame provide the surface on which to lay and tie-down tarps. The big difference is that it only needs to be assembled once. The frame opens and closes like an accordion, making it possible to permanently attach a tarp that expands and contracts with the frame. Tensioners mounted between each section ensure that the tarp is pulled tightly back when the unit is not in use. Accordion tarps are great solution for trailer drivers whose loads are consistent in both size and weight.

In the absence of either tool, drivers should always follow the standard safety tips for tarping a load. Be it steel tarps, coil tarps or lumber tarps, it pays to be careful when walking on top of a load. Windy weather should also be addressed by pulling a trailer behind a building or other blocking structure prior to applying tarps.

In some states, shippers are required to assist drivers in getting their tarps to the top of a load. Even in states where it is not mandatory, it never hurts to ask for a little help. The driver can make things easier by requesting a forklift operator to lay the tarp on top of the load so that he/she may secure it appropriately.

Mytee Products carries a complete selection of tarps and other load securing products for North American truckers. All of our tarps are made of high-quality poly or canvas materials that are long lasting and provide a great return for drivers using them