More from: heavy duty tarps

Securing Your Flatbed Trailer with a Heavy Duty Truck Tarp

Securing a flatbed trailer and its load with a heavy-duty truck tarp is just part of the routine for the American trucker. For new truckers, or those who have never hauled flatbed loads before, learning how to effectively tarp is not the easiest thing in the world. It is an acquired skill that takes time and experience to master.

Before tarping ever begins, the trucker must purchase the right kinds of tarps for the loads he or she intends to haul. It is best to choose heavy-duty tarps that can withstand the punishment of the open road; we usually recommend 18-ounce vinyl or a PVC product. Canvas and poly tarps do not tend to hold up very well over multiple long hauls.

With the correct tarp in hand, securing your trailer is a three-step process:

1. Load Balance

Making sure a load is balanced does a number of things. First, it keeps the trailer evenly weighted for maximum safety and fuel efficiency. Second, it allows for tarping the load in such a way that it provides as much protection as possible. Experienced truckers know that how a load is placed on a trailer goes a long way toward determining how it is tarped.

If you have any say in how your trailer is loaded, try to make sure the profile is as even as possible across the entire surface. Also, try to make sure that no part of the load sits higher than the top of the tractor if at all possible. Doing so reduces drag and protects your tarp against unnecessary wind.

2. Tarp Application

Despite the introduction of automatic tarping machines, many of today’s drivers still apply their tarps manually. The key is to make sure a tarp is spread evenly across the load to ensure as much protection as possible on all sides. The amount of drop a tarp offers plays a big role in this, so having enough drop to completely cover your load is usually beneficial.


3. Tarp Securing

Flatbed trailer tarps come with both grommets and D-rings. Securing a tarp with bungee cords and the D-rings is okay for short trips across town – provided the load itself has been secured by other means – but it is an inappropriate way to secure a tarp for a long-haul trip. Such trips require the use of ratchet straps, ropes, or chains.

Ratchet straps are preferred because these are very easy to use and strong at the same time. A hook on one end of the strap is connected to a D-ring, while the fabric of the strap is pulled through a winch system. This enables you to get the straps as tight as they need to be to secure the tarp. They can also be used to provide extra strength for securing the load.

As always, it is important to make sure there is no loose material able to flap around in the wind. If any of the surfaces of the tarp will be exposed to sharp edges, it is wise to use other materials to soften the edges. The idea is to protect your load and your tarp at the same time.

Tarp Inspection Improves Driver Safety

Did you know that heavy-duty truck tarps present professional truck drivers with some of the most serious safety risks in the industry? We tend to think of things like bad weather and carelessness as top safety issues, and they are, yet how many of us stop to think about something as simple as covering a load with a tarp?

Any veteran truck driver can tell you stories about broken bones, chipped teeth, deep lacerations, and other injuries, all relating to load tarping. Accidents involving tarps are all too common in the trucking industry. If you are a trucker, you can help your cause by regularly inspecting your tarps and bindings.

As tough as heavy-duty truck tarps are, they do wear out over time. Seams can start to separate, grommets can develop rust and bindings can lose their strength. Regular inspection of your equipment is the only way you will know that both tarp and binding is suitable for the journey ahead.

Inspecting Your Tarps

The Alabama Trucking Association recommends drivers inspect their tarps at least once a month. This involves spreading them out on the ground completely and then going over them in detail. It is a time-consuming process but one that is necessary to ensure driver safety. During the inspection, one should be looking for:

  • Rusted Grommets – Rusted grommets can be a problem if the oxidation has progressed to the point of causing the metal to no longer be secured within the fabric of the tarp. It only takes one rusted grommet to give way in order to cause a significant injury.
  • Damaged D-Rings – Damaged or insecure d-rings present a real hazard on the road and in the yard. You really do not want to be on the receiving end of a bungee cord if a d-ring gives way. When inspecting, check both the ring and the fabric strap that holds it in place. If either one is worn, consider replacing or repairing it.


  • Seam Wear – Even the strongest heavy-duty truck tarps are subject to seam wear from time to time. Worn seams can burst at any time, causing a tarp to fly uncontrollably in the wind. On the road, this is dangerous to other drivers; in the yard, it is dangerous to truck drivers and other workers.

Most minor wear and damage can be repaired with a minimal investment. Older tarps might need to be replaced. Generally, it is better to invest in high-quality tarps even though they are more expensive. These offer longer life and greater durability.

Inspecting Your Bindings

Whether tarps are secured using ropes, straps, or bungee cords, bindings need to be inspected right along with the tarps themselves. When bindings fail, disasters happen. It is simply not worth risking driver safety by not regularly inspecting this part of the load securing system.

Bungee cords are the most susceptible to wear caused by exposure to the weather. When a cord begins to fray, replace it. Also keep an eye out for bent hooks and loss of elasticity. Both can be problems.

Drivers who use load straps should check both the straps and the winches used to secure them. Straps tend to be more durable than bungee cords and ropes, so they do not wear out as often, but check them regularly nonetheless. As far as winches are concerned, inspect them for rust, damage, or mechanical malfunction.

Inspecting your tarps and bindings every month will make it easier for you to detect and repair damage before an accident occurs. You owe it to yourself to do so.