More from: flatbeds

It’s All Flatbeds and Lumber Tarps in Bitterroot

As the sun comes up on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, the trucks are already lining up on one of several logging roads now active in the forest. Those trucks, and their drivers, are waiting for loads of lumber to be carried to a sawmill in Seeley Lake and other logging towns nearby. Up to 10 trailers haul between 40 and 45 logs out of the forest every day. It’s all flatbeds and lumber tarps in Bitterroot, as it has been for decades.

The section of forest being worked at the time this blog post was written covers 165 acres of ponderosa pine. It is but a drop in the bucket when you consider the more than 1.58 million total acres the forest covers. Every one of those acres is systematically thinned as part of the federal government’s forestry management strategy. By the time the entire forest is thinned appropriately, it will be time to turn around and start all over again.

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Forestry management is an important part of keeping the trees in the Bitterroot National Forest healthy and productive. All trees need plenty of sunshine and nutrient-rich soil, but ponderosa pine is especially needful. When forests are not properly managed, overly-dense pine groves can fall victim to insects, disease, and lack of enough sunlight due to the thick forest canopy. And, of course, forests that are not properly managed are always prone to devastating fires as a result of lightning storms.

Every trailer of logs and lumber tarps represents another acre of forest land properly managed by thinning. It is a way of life that not a lot of people understand. For the professional trucker, driving a truck along the quiet and narrow logging roads of Montana is quite a bit different from hauling a dry goods trailer down the interstate. There is nothing quite like it to those who do it.

Hauling Lumber Not Easy

Hauling cargo such as machinery and steel coil is comparatively easy next to lumber taken directly from a place like Bitterroot. In terms of the former, you simply hook up your trailer and go once your cargo has been properly secured and covered. Hauling lumber is decidedly different.

Preparing for the journey is pretty straightforward: Secure your lumber tarps, do your pre-trip inspection, and make sure any necessary paperwork is in order. That’s the easy part. The real adventure is bringing your rig out of the forest and onto the main highway. The thing about lumber hauling is that the logging roads truckers must navigate are not always straight and flat. In fact, rarely are they so.

It takes a very skilled truck driver to successfully navigate logging roads without damaging equipment or the lumber itself. Once a rig makes it to the main highway, life does get easier. But that does not mean the trucker no longer has to pay attention. The section of Montana where the crews are now working is well known for dense fog and icy roads – especially during the morning hours. The trucker has to be at the top of his/her game until the sun comes up and melts away the fog and ice.

Indeed, it is all about flatbeds and lumber tarps in the Bitterroot National Forest these days. All across the forest regions of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon there are logging crews and truck drivers working hard to harvest lumber as part of a responsible management program. At Mytee Products, we are proud to supply truckers with high-quality lumber tarps they need to keep things rolling.

Sources:

  • Missoulian – http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/hometowns/productive-ground-lake-como-logging-underway-in-area-first-cut/article_554a8b49-3004-5544-bc4b-beb72a1e6270.html

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.

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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.