More from: Grommets

The Science behind Flatbed Truck Tarps

Flatbed truck tarps are one of the most important tools a flatbed trucker can own. However, the tarps in the trucker’s toolbox are more than just randomly manufactured pieces of fabric in different colors. There is actually a science behind their design, science you may not be aware of. Flatbed truck tarps are designed in such a way, as to provide maximum cargo protection in a package that is affordable and relatively easy to use.

The science behind flatbed truck tarps begins with the shape. Obviously, steel tarps are long and rectangular where machinery tarps tend to be squares or smaller rectangles. Lumber tarps combine long rectangles with additional flaps that come down over the sides of the trailer.


Rectangles Are Extremely Flexible

Rectangles are the preferred shape for flatbed truck tarps because the rectangle offers maximum flexibility. A rectangle allows significant coverage for loads of all kinds, but with a narrow profile that makes it easy to handle across the back of a flatbed or a dump truck box. You can still get very good coverage with a square, but squares need to be bigger to cover the same area. This makes them less flexible and harder to work with. It is for this reason that square tarps are usually reserved for covering machinery or acting as smoke protection. Rectangles are still the preferred shape for most flatbed loads.

Flat vs. Shaped Tarps

Campers and hikers are known to prefer shaped tarps because their catenary cuts and curves provide durability and strength, especially along seams. A good shaped tarp has a very strong spine that makes it ideal as a shelter or hammock. Nevertheless, shaped tarps do not work well for most flatbed applications.

A shaped tarp is limited in coverage by the shape it takes. On the other hand, a flat tarp has no such limits. It works equally well whether the truck driver is covering a set of steel coils or a load of construction materials. The tarp will conform to whatever shape it is applied to with maximum protection at all times. Not so with the shaped tarp. That is why you don’t see shaped tarps used by truckers except in very rare and specialized circumstances.

Material Choices Equally Important

The science behind flatbed truck tarps even covers the materials manufacturers choose to use. For example, all of the tarps we carry at Mytee Products are made with heavy-duty vinyl or canvas manufactured as a woven product. It is the weaving that gives the materials their incredible strength.

A woven vinyl material is as strong as any other commercial or industrial fabric yet still lightweight enough to be easy to handle. Woven canvas is somewhat heavier, but it offers the added benefit of breathability for applications where moisture is a concern. In either case, the fabrics are woven according to detailed specifications that make them ideal for tarp manufacturing.

Grommets and D-rings

Lastly, grommets and D-rings are built into flatbed truck tarps to make securing them to trailers as easy as possible. Nonetheless, neither grommets nor D-rings are placed randomly. Grommets are sewn into the outside edges at specific intervals that offer the maximum number of securement options without sacrificing material integrity. The same is true with D-rings. Designers also place extra D-rings on specific kinds of tarps that make covering loads easier. The D-rings found on your average lumber tarp are a good example.

Tarp design is anything but haphazard. There is a lot of important science behind flatbed truck tarps that make them the perfect tools for their intended purposes.

Machinery Tarps: Great for Machinery and Irregular Loads

A flatbed trucker’s choice of tarps is important decision for every load he or she needs to transport. Nowhere is this more evident than when a trucker is hauling expensive machinery that could easily be damaged by the elements, road debris, or even the chosen tarp itself. It is a good thing manufacturers make machinery tarps designed specifically for these kinds of loads. Machinery tarps are an excellent choice for both machinery and irregular loads not easily covered with steel or lumber tarps.

For purposes of definition, a machinery tarp is usually a heavy-duty vinyl product manufactured with reinforced webbing and double stitching, evenly spaced grommets around the perimeter, and a series of strategically placed D-rings for more load securement options. What make these relatively different to steel and lumber tarps are the size and shape.


Machinery tarps can be purchased as either squares or rectangles. Rectangular tarps are different from their steel tarp counterparts in that, they aren’t as long. For instance, the rectangular machinery tarps sold by Mytee Products are 4 to 6 inches longer than they are wide. This design makes it easier to cover irregular loads without having to use multiple tarps. Because steel tarps are so much longer, they do not work as well for irregular loads.

Typical Uses for Machinery Tarps

Machinery tarps are used for all kinds of loads on either flatbed trailers or step decks. You will find that, they are most frequently used on the following types of loads:

  • Farm Equipment – Transporting farm equipment from manufacturer to customer requires load protection to ensure a non-damaged product is delivered. Machinery tarps are used to cover things such as combines, milking machines, harvesting equipment, etc.
  • Manufacturing Equipment – The equipment used in a manufacturing environment can be very expensive and sensitive to environmental conditions. A CNC lathe is one good example. Machinery tarps are ideal for this kind of load because they can be easily draped over machinery without damaging it.
  • Mining and Energy – The mining and energy industries are well known for needing all sorts of equipment and supplies of irregular shapes and sizes. A single flatbed load might include a piece of new drilling equipment along with a utility trailer and a load of concrete block. Putting so many different objects on a single trailer can create a challenge for load securement; machinery tarps fit the bill nicely.

Purchasing Machinery Tarps

Mytee Products recommends truck drivers be choosy about the tarps they purchase. We believe it is more important where machinery tarps are concerned, given the fact that the loads they cover are often rather fragile. We reckon it is worth spending the extra money to purchase high-quality tarps that the trucker can rely on load after load.

What makes a high-quality machinery tarp? For starters, 18-ounce vinyl should be the absolute minimum. Anything lighter may not offer the kind of protection the trucker needs. Next, seams should be double-stitched for extra strength around the entire perimeter and where two pieces of vinyl meet. Webbing and D-rings should also be double stitched.

Lastly, grommets should be made of solid brass for maximum strength and durability. The last thing a trucker needs is a tarp with grommets that starts to fail after just a few loads. Failing grommets can result in a torn tarp that begins flapping in the wind as the trailer moves down the road, offering a quick way to damage the cargo a trucker is supposed to be protecting.

Machinery tarps are great for all kinds of machinery and irregular loads. Mytee Products has a good selection of machinery tarps for truckers to choose from.

Lengthen Tarp Life by Installing New Grommets

No one needs to tell you that truck tarps are an expensive part of doing business as an owner-operator. So the longer you can continue using the same tarps, the better it is for your budget. We suggest installing new grommets when the factory-installed grommets begin to fail. This will lengthen the life of your tarps considerably.

It is fairly easy to install new grommets. All you need is a grommet kit and a little patience. Where the patience is concerned, take the time to follow all of the instructions provided by the kit manufacturer. Failing to do so will likely result in new grommets that are not as durable as the ones installed by the factory.

How to Install New Grommets

The first rule of thumb is to never replace a grommet by putting a new one into an old hole. If a grommet is failing, you are better off installing a new grommet to take its place. Having said that, look for a kit that includes multiple sized grommets plus a hole cutter and anvil. You will also need a hammer, a block of wood, and a permanent marker.

Here are the steps for installing new grommets:

1.Mark New Locations – Determine where you want to locate your new grommets, marking those locations with a permanent marker. Always install a new grommet along an outer edge at a place the material has not been compromised. Where possible, install new grommets in hem areas with extra back stitching for strength.

2.Create the Hole – The next step is to place your block of wood underneath the tarp, below the center of where the new hole will be. Then place the beveled edge of the hole-cutting tool on the tarp, at the point where you want the center of the grommet. You “cut” the hole by striking the tool once with a hammer.

3.Insert the Grommet – Insert the tall portion of the new grommet by pushing it up through the underside of the hole. Next, place a washer and the second half of the grommet on the anvil as shown in the instructions that came with your kit. Some kits also include a grommet tube that keeps everything centered.

4.Attach the Pieces – With everything in place, gently place the anvil on top of the lower half of the grommet and gently strike it with a hammer until all the pieces are tightly fit together. If your kit came with a tube, you might want to rotate it a quarter turn before every strike. This ensures a uniform fit all the way around.

That’s all there is to it. With just the few minutes of your time, you could breathe new life into your old tarps. One word of caution though – make sure you fully inspect and test your new grommets prior to using the tarp to secure a load. If any of your new grommets are not fitted together properly, they could fail on the road. That is a liability we assume you are not interested in dealing with.