More from: Truck Tarps

How to Identify Different Types of Flatbed Trailer Parts

One of the things we’ve come to learn over the years with regards to flatbed trucking, is that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for every kind of load. Just browse our inventory of truck tarps and you will see what we mean. Lumber requires one kind of tarp while steel coil is better protected with another. The differences in load carrying and cargo control go beyond just tarps, though. There are even different types of flatbed trailers that carriers and drivers can choose from.

load-leveler

People with some flatbed experience tend to think of the standard flatbed trailer most often. This trailer is typically no more than 48 feet long with a bed that is between 4 and 5 feet off the ground. Standard flatbed trailers are suitable for all kinds of loads that do not qualify as wide or tall.

Carriers and drivers have several others to work with:

Removable Goosenecks

Also known as RGNs, these trailers have removable goosenecks that allow them to drop down so that the front can be used as a ramp. It is a good trailer option for construction equipment.

Step Decks 

Step deck trailers have a lower deck to accommodate loads that are too tall to fit under standard overpasses. These trailers can be coupled with trailer loading ramps to allow construction equipment to be driven into place before being secured.

Side Kit Trailers 

The side kit flatbed trailer is one with removable sides. The sides can be deployed for loads that would normally fit inside the width of a dry goods van, then removed again for loads that do not work well in confined spaces. They are very popular for transporting steel.

Stretch Trailers

Stretch trailers are usually removable goosenecks with built-in extensions that can be deployed to carry extra-long loads.

Double Drops

A double drop trailer has higher decks at the front and rear and a lower deck in the center. Like step decks, they are ideal for loads that are otherwise too tall based on legal limits.

Each of these trailers can accommodate unique loads that do not fit well inside dry goods vans. But the cargo being hauled still has to be protected. That is where the different kinds of truck tarps come in.

Securing and Protecting Cargo

Truck tarps are just one component of a much larger system of cargo control and protection. State laws require truck drivers to properly secure their cargo prior to departing on a journey. Cargo must be routinely inspected to make sure it remains secure throughout. As for protection, it is up to drivers to make sure their cargo gets to its destination in good condition.

Truck tarps serve to provide the protection drivers need. A good, high-quality truck tarp will provide years of reliable service protecting cargo from road debris, sunlight, moisture, and other sources of potential damage. Yet maximum protection means choosing the right tarp for the right kind of load.

Mytee’s inventory includes every kind of truck tarp the flatbed trucker needs. We carry lumber tarps, steel tarps, coil tarps, and machinery tarps. We also offer smaller smoke tarps designed to protect cargo from exhaust stack soot. All our tarps are made with high-quality materials and to the most stringent standards.

Flatbed trucking is by no means a uniform enterprise. There are different kinds of trailers used to carry different types of loads, and a full range of truck tarps that drivers can deploy to protect those loads. Here at Mytee we have all the truck tarps and cargo control supplies you will need. You’ll have to handle the trailers yourself.


3 Easy Steps To Replace Dump Truck Pull Tarps

Replacing pull truck tarps is not something dump truck drivers enjoy, but it is part of the game. The good news is that tarping system manufacturers do their best to make tarp replacement as easy as possible. A truck driver with a little bit of handiness can replace the pull tarp pretty quickly and without much effort. With the help of a partner, it’s even easier.

dump-truck

Pull tarp replacement is a straightforward, three-step process:

Step #1 – Remove the Old Tarp

Tarping systems differ from one manufacturer to the next, so keep that in mind as you work through the replacement process. The first step is to obviously remove the old tarp. In order to do that, the tarp should be fully extended and pinned in place. If your system is a manual system, it is as easy as pulling the tarp all the way out and temporarily fastening it to the back of your truck so it doesn’t move.

Where the truck tarp meets the spool, there should be a steel rod that holds everything in place. Pin the spool in place so that it doesn’t retract, then you can release the tarp from the back of the truck. Now it’s time to slide the tarp out of the slot in the spool. It should be attached to that rod, so be careful that you don’t let the rod hit you as you are pulling the tarp out.

Step #2 – Clean and Lube the System

As long as you have everything apart, now is a good time to clean and lubricate the system. There is no need to disassemble it piece-by-piece; just clean surface areas and lubricate the joints. An all-purpose lubricant should do the trick.

If any of the components show excessive wear and tear, you may want to consider repair or replacement before you put everything back together. Mytee has a full selection of tarp system replacement parts if it turns out you need something.

Step #3 – Install the New Tarp

Some drivers attempt to install a new tarp without fully unfolding it first. We do not recommend that as it takes longer. Your best bet would be to have a partner help you to stretch the tarp out on a flat surface and install it. If that is not an option, unfold your tarp on top of the cargo area and get it as flat as you can. To install, simply reverse the process you followed to remove the old tarp. Your new tarp should slide right into the slot on the spool.

Once the tarp is slid into place, securely fasten the tarp to the back of the truck before you release the spool. Failure to do so, could cause the spool to snap back, potentially damaging your system and injuring you. Fasten the tarp securely, release the spool, and then retract the tarp as normal. That’s it; you’re done.

Repairing Dump Truck Tarps

Assuming you are replacing an old tarp because it is damaged, you may be able to repair it for future use. It really depends on how severe the damage is and what kind of tensioning arrangement your tarping system uses. If you are ever concerned about the integrity of a repaired tarp, do not use it on your dump truck. Use it for another purpose where tension is not a primary concern.

Under the right conditions, you should be able to replace your dump truck tarp fairly quickly and easily. As always, Mytee has a selection of replacement tarps that fit most systems. Our range includes PVC mesh, vinyl, and hot top asphalt tarps in multiple sizes.


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.

checklist

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.

 

winch-straps

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.

tarp-winter

 

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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Sources:

1. MIT – http://engineering.mit.edu/ask/why-do-plastics-get-brittle-when-they-get-cold