More from: smoke tarp

Why Are Only Some Loads Tarped

The sales staff at Mytee Products have the privilege of welcoming brand-new flatbed truckers to the industry by way of helping them figure out what kinds of cargo control supplies they need to keep on board. In so doing, it is not unusual for us to have conversations about the different kinds of truck tarps in our inventory. That leads to discussions about why some loads are tarped and others are not.

Needless to say that our tarp inventory is not limited to just one kind of tarp. We carry a full range of tarps for flatbeds including steel, lumber, coil, machinery, and smoke tarps. We also carry roll tarps for dump trucks and complete site kits. Anything that a new trucker could need we have.

With that said, you might be curious as to why some loads are tarped and others are not. Here is the whole story in four points:

1. The Type of Load

While it is technically possible to throw a tarp over any kind of load on an open-deck trailer, using a tarp is not always necessary. The truth is that some loads just do not need to be covered. For example, consider a load of cinder blocks. Unless there is some special circumstance dictated by the shipper, those blocks will make it clear across the country without needing to be covered.

On the other hand, there are certain loads that have to be covered every time. Industrial machinery is a good example. Things like multi-million-dollar CNC machines are covered during transport for obvious reasons.

2. Federal and State Regulations

Tarping is sometimes dictated by regulations. If you drive a dump truck, you know exactly what we mean here. Laws in all 50 states require that loose materials being transported in a dump truck be prevented from flying off in transit. While some states leave the decision of how to accomplish this to drivers, other states mandate tarps as the only method of load containment.

3. Shipper Requirements

There are times when tarping a load is dictated by the shipper. Despite the fact that truck drivers are ultimately responsible for protecting cargo, some shippers take it upon themselves to make sure their cargo is protected in a very specific way. They take no chances. As far as truck drivers are concerned, there is really nothing they can do when shippers make such demands.

Shippers know that the legal responsibility to protect cargo resides with drivers. All the same, they are reluctant to use drivers who resist their tarping demands. If they want tarps used, a driver either acquiesces or takes the chance of never getting another load from that shipper again.

4. Driver Preferences

Tarping can even be the preference of the driver. We have known some truck drivers who refuse to use tarps except when they are absolutely necessary. Yet we have also known drivers who would never think about transporting anything without covering it first. Different drivers have their own preferences in nearly every aspect of cargo control.

What is curious to us is that drivers do not get paid for the time it takes to secure their loads. They only get paid when the wheels are turning. And yet, there are drivers that tarp everything. It doesn’t matter whether they are hauling expensive lumber, steel pipes, or concrete road barriers, everything gets tarped.

The big take-away here is that there really aren’t any rules for what loads get covered. Drivers have to assess each load independently alongside federal and state regulations, shipper requirements, and their own tarping preferences.

Tarping and Un-Tarping with Canvas Tarps

A brief perusal of a few online trucker forums suggests that tarping loads is the least appreciated aspect of flatbed hauling. Tarping takes time, the weather does not always cooperate, and, in some cases, it can even be a bit dangerous. In such cases, canvas tarps can be a lot easier to work with than vinyl or poly.

Truckers use different kind of tarps for different jobs. For example, a lumber tarp with flaps might be chosen for a tall load requiring protection down the sides. A small smoke tarp is a good choice when the driver only needs to protect the front of the load from exhaust. When weather and height are a concern, canvas could be the way to go.


Tarping with Canvas

One of the first things you notice about canvas is that it is a bit heavier than vinyl. This makes it a better material choice when you are trying to tarp in windy conditions. The key is placing the folded tarp in the right position on the load so that it can be gradually secured as it is unfolded. A gradual unfolding and securement is not 100% foolproof, but it does reduce the chances of wind gusts posing a problem.

Truckers also find canvas more forgiving in cold weather. Why? Because canvas does not get stiff and brittle in cold temperatures like vinyl does. It will unfold just as easily during the winter as it does in the summer, so you will have less to deal with when you are trying to secure your load in bad weather. The same properties that keep canvas pliable during cold temperatures also mean fewer adjustments as a result of changing weather conditions and temperatures.

Un-Tarping with Canvas

Tarping your load in windy conditions is not only made easier by canvas – so is tarp removal. Again, the heavier weight of canvas makes it less likely to flap in the breeze. Canvas is also less likely to become stuck on edges or corners, making it more forgiving when you are uncovering your load.

When it comes to folding your tarps, the benefits of canvas are immediately observable. Canvas folds easier, is more likely to stay in place during subsequent fold-overs, and less likely to move in the breeze during the folding process. This makes canvas a lot easier to be folded into a tight, neat package that fits into your utility box as it’s supposed to.

It should be obvious that removing a canvas tarp in cold weather is easier as well. Just like tarping, uncovering a load using a vinyl or poly tarp can be a real hassle when the temperatures dip below freezing. Truckers have to be more concerned about rips and tears as well, due to cold temperatures making poly and vinyl more brittle. There are fewer such worries with canvas.

Of course, canvas is not the right material for every job. There are times when poly or vinyl tarps are a better fit. This is why truckers typically have several different kinds of tarps stored in their boxes. One thing we will say is that canvas should be part of every truck driver’s collection. There are times when tarping and un-tarping with canvas is safer, faster, and more efficient.

Investing in Smoke Tarps

Purchasing tarps can be a fairly substantial expense for the independent trucker. As with any other business owner, a responsible trucker wants to spend an appropriate amount on the tools of his or her trade without spending frivolously. In light of that, you might be wondering whether or not you should invest in smoke tarps. The answer to it depends on the types of loads you haul.

The typical smoke tarp is a smaller tarp measuring either 10′ x 12′ or 12′ x 12′. It generally is not intended to cover large loads entirely. So what’s the point in purchasing smoke tarps? A smoke tarp is specifically designed for the front and top of your load. It is put in place to protect your load from smoke, soot, and dirt. Right off the bat, it makes sense to consider smoke tarps if you haul loads that do not have to be covered fully yet might be sensitive to the smoke and soot coming off your exhaust stack. PVC pipe would be a good example.

A load of PVC is durable enough that it does not necessarily need to be covered entirely. However, your client does not want to have to clean soot from the product after you deliver the load. Attaching a smoke tarp at the top of the load will protect it during transportation.

Additional Uses of Smoke Tarp

The smaller size of the smoke tarp means it can be used for other purposes as well. The additional uses might make it worthwhile to invest in one or two, especially given that they are less expensive than larger tarps. These uses include:

  • Noise Reduction – Sometimes you haul loads that make unnecessary noise. For example, PVC and steel pipe can whistle in the wind. You can put an end to that whistling by securing a smoke tarp over the front of the load.
  • Flaps – Smoke tarps can be combined with larger tarps to act as flaps. For example, you may have a lumber tarp without enough drop to fully cover certain portions of the load. The smoke tarp becomes an easy to apply, ‘extra’ flap.
  • Small Loads – Every trucker knows that applying tarps is time-consuming and money-losing. So for small loads, it might be faster and more worth your while to use one or two smoke tarps rather than trying to grapple with a larger steel or lumber tarp. The faster you can get your load tarped, the more quickly you can get on the road.
  • Tarping Emergencies – Lastly, it is always good to have at least one smoke tarp on hand for emergencies. For example, you may have a steel tarp that develops a pretty significant hole or tear while in transit to your destination. Applying the smoke tarp allows you to complete your trip without having to stop and deal with tarp repair.

As always, do your homework before you invest in smoke tarps. There are some manufacturers whose products are not as good as others are. Also, keep in mind that spending the least amount of money possible is not always the wisest decision. You might be better is off spending a little extra up front for a tarp that will last longer and perform better.

At Mytee Products, we carry a 10′ x 12′ smoke tarp made of heavy-duty 18-ounce vinyl. The hems are double stitched and reinforced with webbing; brass grommets are installed every 24 inches along the perimeter and there is a row of D-rings, complete with protection flaps, positioned 2.5′ from the lower hem. This is an affordable smoke tarp that is also tough and durable.