More from: Truck Tarps

Save Time with a Cargo Control Checklist

Working as a flatbed truck driver involves spending time waiting for cargo to be loaded and secured before hitting the road. This is time a driver is usually not compensated for, so getting things done as quickly as possible is paramount to getting the wheels turning again. Still, drivers have to be thorough in their cargo control procedures so as to not jeopardize their loads.

A good way to save time and ensure cargo is properly secured is to establish a cargo control checklist that becomes a standard operating procedure. While this may sound obvious, you might be surprised how many drivers have no such checklist in place. They approach every load in a random matter, where cargo control is dictated by immediate circumstances. Having a checklist in place is a better option because it ensures all of the necessaries are addressed in a way that eventually leads to the driver following his or her checklist routine as a matter of habit.


It should be noted that a cargo control checklist does not have to be a formal document that the driver prints out by the hundreds so that each load has its own piece of paper. A driver may create a document to start with, but after following the checklist routine numerous times, most drivers are going to memorize it. Then it becomes a mental exercise rather than a paper one.

Cargo Control Checklist Basics

How a driver organizes his or her cargo control checklist is a matter of preference. There should be certain categories of things on every driver’s checklist, things that are appropriate to cargo control. For example:

  • Tarps and Straps – Truck tarps and straps should be inspected prior to arriving to pick up a load. Not inspecting cargo control supplies increases the likelihood of getting to a job and finding that damaged equipment cannot be used. Then the driver is slowed down while he or she searches locally for replacements.
  • Inspecting Loads – Flatbed truck drivers are ultimately responsible for how cargo is loaded on their trailers. There should be a process in place for inspecting loads to make sure weight issues are addressed, there is no unnecessary space between cargo items, and that cargo is properly blocked if necessary.
  • Securing the Cargo – Once a trailer has been loaded and securing has commenced, a system should be in place so that tarps and straps are always applied in the same way. For example, some truckers will first make sure all of their straps and/or chains are applied, then walk around the trailer to tighten down each winch consecutively.
  • Final Inspection – Just prior to departure, the truck driver should be performing a vehicle safety inspection as a matter of routine. Within that inspection, he or she can also make provision to do a final inspection of cargo control equipment. Straps, chains, and tarps should all be given the once over.
  • Inspections on the Road – Lastly, an important part of a cargo control checklist that should not be ignored are the inspections done while on the road. Drivers should be checking their loads within the first 50 miles of departure and then with every additional stop along the way. The same checklist used for the final inspection is appropriate to on-the-road inspections.

Cargo control is a normal part of flatbed trucking. Drivers can save time and do a better job of securing cargo by developing a cargo control checklist and following it on every job. A well-designed checklist turns what could be a random exercise into something that becomes routine.

Tax Deductions for Trucking Supplies: What You Need to Know

The arrival of fall means truck drivers start seeing things pick up on the business side as well, especially in advance of the holiday season, which always brings with it, more loads to haul. The increased activity makes fall the perfect time to start thinking about taxes.

Truck drivers file their taxes as either self-employed independent contractors or employees of their carriers. How they file determines the kinds of deductions they can take for the trucking supplies they purchase. Those supplies can include everything from truck tarps to protective clothing to in-cab electronics.



Before we get into the differences between filing as a self-employed individual and a company employee, we need to first discuss state and federal taxes. The IRS is the primary taxing authority in this country. States do assess their own taxes, but they tend to defer to the federal government. For example, those that collect income tax will often rely on federal calculations for things such as deductions and taxable income. Therefore, it is of vital importance that truck drivers understand the federal regulations to keep the IRS happy and correctly file state returns.

Filing as an Independent Contractor

The IRS regards independent contractors as self-employed individuals operating their own businesses. There can be some gray areas depending on the relationship of the truck driver to the company or companies he or she hauls for, so any questions about tax status should be referred to an experienced tax attorney.

The independent contractor who truly qualifies as self-employed under the law can essentially deduct any and all trucking supplies obtained for the purposes of conducting business. This would immediately bring to mind things like truck tarps and cargo control equipment such as bungee cords, chains and straps, wide load flags, etc. But it also includes other things as well.

For example, a trucker required to invest in steel-toed boots and a hard hat in order to haul certain kinds of loads would be able to deduct those expenses as long as the purchased items are used exclusively for work. The same holds true for things such as GPS units, hand tools, and so on.

Filing as a Company Employee

The number of deductions allowed for company employees can be significantly less depending on how trucking supplies are obtained. Anything an employer gives directly to the driver is obviously not deductible. A driver also cannot deduct the cost of any trucking supplies for which he or she is reimbursed by the employer.

With those restrictions understood, the same kinds of things qualify for deductions. Drivers can deduct cargo control supplies, protective clothing, electronics, hand tools, and even limited transportation expenses. For example, if a trucker has to fly to some specific destination to pick up a truck, the cost of airfare and accommodations can usually be deducted if not reimbursed by the employer.

The one thing to be aware of for both independent contractors and company employees are deductions for meals. This is one area where IRS regulations are ambiguous. The reason is simple: truck drivers have to eat just like every other kind of worker. The fact that they eat while on the road does not change that. So just like an office worker cannot deduct groceries as a business expense, truck drivers can only deduct meal expenses under certain conditions.

Truck drivers can use work-related expenses to reduce the tax liabilities. This is actually a smart thing to do. But truckers need to be careful, too. If they don’t know what they’re doing, they should leave their taxes to the professionals.

Understanding Why Tarps Get Brittle in Cold Weather

Experienced truckers are well aware that extreme cold weather and truck tarps do not necessarily play well together. The colder the temperature, the more brittle tarp fabrics become. Tarps tend to tear or break with just the slightest amount of pressure in extremely frigid conditions. But why does this happen?

To someone not familiar with the science, it may seem strange that a poly or vinyl tarp can hold up very well in hot summer weather but then become fragile in the dead of winter. But knowing the science suddenly clears things up.



The Nature of Plastics

Vinyl, polyethylene, and polypropylene are all plastic polymers that can be used for multiple applications. Some finished materials are engineered to be extremely rigid while others are a lot more flexible. The flexible plastic polymers owe their flexibility to something MIT calls ductility. What is ductility? It is the ability of the molecules in a polymer to stretch.

Plastic polymers consist of chains of molecules bound together to form a particular substance. If it helps, think of a standard chain-link made of rubber rather than steel. The rubber link can be stretched fairly easily while a steel link cannot. The molecule chains of plastic polymers are similar to a rubber chain-link except on a molecular scale.

The thing to understand about plastic polymers is that the molecule chains only remain flexible in warm temperatures. The colder it gets, the less flexible the chains become. It is possible, under extremely cold conditions, for molecule chains to be frozen in place. When this occurs, a vinyl or poly material becomes extremely fragile. But even if the chains do not freeze, vinyl and poly materials do get more brittle as the temperature falls.

Wind Adds to the Problem

Cold temperatures automatically reduce the flexibility of vinyl and poly tarps by reducing the ductility of plastic polymer chains. When you throw in the wind caused by a truck driving down the highway, conditions deteriorate even further. It’s a matter of the wind displacing surface heat.

Although wind chill does not apply to non-biological materials, the wind chill principal is similar to what happens with truck tarps when exposed to cold. The wind displaces any surface heat a vinyl or poly tarp may hold, thus causing a further reduction in temperature. Any heat that might be absorbed by sunshine will also be displaced by the wind.

As you can see, combining already cold temperatures with the wind of highway travel exposes vinyl and poly tarps to the kinds of conditions that would significantly reduce ductility. The more drastic the combination of cold and wind, the less flexible a tarp is.

Tarp Maintenance in Winter

Now that you know the science behind brittle truck tarps, the obvious thing to do is to take extra good care of your tarps during the winter months. We highly recommend being more careful when applying tarps in cold and windy conditions so as to avoid tears and rips. Make sure to use edge and corner protectors. The right combination of cold and wind could cause a sharp edge to rip right through a cold tarp.

Tarping loads indoors would be ideal as the temperatures will be warmer and it is easy to apply the tarp by oneself. If that’s not possible, it’s always a good idea to enlist any available help to get tarps on and secured as quickly and safely as possible. Also avoid standing on top of a load after a tarp has been applied because cold tarps can be slippery.

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Efficiently Working with Flatbed Truck Tarps

Within the flatbed trucking community, a common complaint that arises is the time and effort needed to apply and remove tarps. This time away from the steering wheel – time that pays a driver his or her wage. Therefore, keeping the wheels turning and earning money depends a lot on how efficient a flatbed driver is with tarps.

As a flatbed trucker, you might be wondering whether it is possible to be efficient when working with flatbed truck tarps. It is – you just need to try different options until you find what works best for you. It also helps to keep in mind that efficiency by definition, is doing the same amount of work with less effort and time needed.


Applying Bungee Straps to Tarps

Applying bungee straps could take quite a bit of time when it comes to tarping a load. Just when you think you have your tarps right where you want them, you find out they are in the wrong position because of the way your bungee straps lay. We have a suggestion based on things we have seen some of our customers do.

Start by pinning all four corners of your tarp with a single bungee cord at each corner. Then do a walk around the entire load, placing a bungee cord in each D-ring or grommet, depending how you intend to fasten the tarp. During this step, do not secure the bungee cords to your trailer. Just walk around and hook the bungees in a ring or grommet.

Now make a second pass around the rig, securing every other bungee cord as you go. A third pass in the other direction wraps up the remaining cords. While this process does take three passes, you will find that you save time by not having to undo straps and readjust the tarp multiple times. You will be applying tension evenly with this process, increasing the chances that you will only have to do it once.

Using the Link Bar with Straps

Securing a load with winch straps can be as cumbersome as using bungee cords. You can increase your efficiency by walking around your load and getting all of your straps started before you ever touch the winch bar. Then you can walk around the rig and tighten each winch one at a time. This way you are not constantly picking up the bar and sitting down again. By the way, you can use the same process in reverse. Use the winch bar to loosen all of your straps in a single pass, then go back and take the straps off.

Color Code Your Tarps

Your flatbed truck tarps come in a variety of sizes and shapes. As you may already know, manufacturers use specific colors of fabric to let customers know important information about strength and durability. This does nothing for you when you are trying to find a specific tarp for specific job. So why not color code your tarps by size? A strip or two of colored duct tape makes it easy to differentiate between small and large tarps. Some drivers use different colored bungee cords the same way.

It is possible to be efficient when working with flatbed truck tarps. As previously stated, it is a matter of trying different things until you find what works for you. If you have tried for years and still cannot get it right, don’t be afraid to ask other truckers for tips and tricks. There are some drivers out there who are very efficient.

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.