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Dump Trucks and Tarps: Make Sure You’re Obeying the Law

The average dump truck driver has a lot to worry about on a daily basis. It’s a job that not only requires getting material from one location to the next, but one that also requires moving a load in a way that is environmentally responsible and safe for other drivers. That is why each of the states has very specific regulations about how dump trucks can carry various materials.

As a dump truck driver, it is your responsibility to know the laws in the states where you work. Remember that motor vehicle law is not regulated at the federal level. Where one state might require you to use a tarp for certain sorts of loose materials, another state may not require it as long as a load is not likely to disperse en route. Be advised that there are also some state laws regarding how tarps are secured.

The Reasons for Tarping a Dump Truck

Unlike a conventional tractor-trailer, a dump truck is assumed to be carrying a load of loose material. For example, a big rig might carry a piece or two of heavy construction equipment. As long as it is secured with chains and straps, the load does not necessarily need to be covered. Yet a dump truck usually carries something loose; loads like gravel, stone, and sand. Dump trucks are also known to carry waste materials.


The states have enacted tarping regulations for the following reasons:

  • Road Safety – Loose gravel and other material falling from the back of an open dump truck provides a serious road hazard for car drivers. Even the smallest piece of gravel can crack a windshield, surprising a driver causing and him or her to lose control of their vehicle. Larger pieces of debris can completely penetrate windshields or cut down tires.
  • Environmental Safety – In the case of certain types of hazardous or waste materials, dump truck tarps are required to contain the load securely. The last thing anyone wants is for these kinds of materials to fall from the truck and contaminate the local environment. Commercial waste headed for the local dump is a good example.
  • Surface Damage – Some materials carried by a dump truck may not necessarily pose an environmental safety issue but can still be damaging to road surfaces. Tar and asphalt are two good examples. If loose tar and asphalt were to fall from a dump truck it could quickly adhere to the road surface to create uneven pavement that could be dangerous in some weather conditions.

Penalties for Violations

A dump truck driver who considers ignoring tarping laws should think again. There are some pretty severe penalties that go along with violations, especially if accidents take plce. Let’s look at a few examples.

Arizona law requires dump truck drivers to use tarps on any loads that cannot be contained any other way. Furthermore, tarps must be securely fastened in order to prevent them from coming loose. Any violation that does not cause damage or injury is subject to a $300 fine. Violations resulting in property damage, injuries, or death could result in fines of up to $1,000 per offense.

In the state of Maryland, no vehicle can carry any loose materials (with the exception of agricultural products) without containing such materials. Loads must be contained by the truck bed, four solid walls, and a properly secured cover or tarp. Violations are subject to a variety of penalties.

Make sure you know the tarping laws in the states where you will be operating your dump truck. It’s better to be safe than sorry.