When you’re just starting out, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the flatbed trucking products out there. Fortunately, when it comes to cargo hauling, you can cut through the BS. If you’re not sure what’s a true hauling “need” versus something that’s merely a “want,” we’ve got you covered!
11 Important Tools to Ramp-up Your Cargo Hauling Career
Our 11-point checklist encompasses two key categories of flatbed transport equipment: cargo control tools and safety resources.
Cargo control is an important element of flatbed hauling, also called cargo hauling. Cargo control encompasses all the methods, tools, and pieces of equipment someone might choose to use in order to firmly secure a wide variety of cargo to a trailer bed, in order to transport it safely.
Safety equipment is also vital to a successful career as a flatbed trucker. Tools like signs, flags, and tire chains are required by law in some instances. More than that, though, safety equipment mitigates some of the risks to your life you take on when choosing a trucking career.
Without further ado, check out our checklist of eleven tools and pieces of equipment you’ll need to succeed as a cargo hauler.
1. Flatbed Truck Tarps
For flatbed truckers, there are two main reasons to tarp your loads: to protect them from damage from natural elements and debris on the highway, and to keep them clear of smoke from your truck’s exhaust pipe.
For the latter, you’re going to need a smoke tarp. Smokes tarps are 18oz vinyl tarps specifically shaped to cover the front half of a load and protect it from the exhaust.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of options when it comes to tarps that protect cargo from weather and debris. Which tarps is right for you depends on the nature of your cargo: cargo that needs to breathe will need a different type of tarp than cargo that needs to be 100% waterproofed.
For more guidance on which tarps are right for your load, check out our ultimate tarping guide.
2. Ratchet Straps
Ratchet straps are an important load securement option. These straps are made of treated polyester webbing that makes then water-resistant, so they won’t grow mold or mildew. Most ratchet straps have a working load limit (WLL) that ranges from 1000lbs to over 6000lbs!
Since they’re lightweight, come with a range of end-fitting options, and somewhat flexible but can still be pulled taut, ratchet straps are the most popular load securement choice for all except the heaviest loads.
3. Winch Straps
Like ratchet straps, winch straps are fabric straps made of polyester webbing, and they have a similar WLL range. Unlike ratchet straps, winch straps can be spooled and stored on stake pocket winches on the side of a trailer bed.
This makes them take up less space and more convenient to transport. They can also be easier to spool after you’ve unloaded your cargo.
4. Bungee Straps
Bungee straps are an important part of cargo hauling. They’re used to secure the tarp that’s covering the load to the truck bed.
Bungee straps are rubber or synthetic straps with wire hooks at the ends. One end of a bungee strap connects to the tarp itself, hooking onto a D-ring or grommet on the tarp. The other end connects to an anchor point on the trailer.
Alternatively, a tarp can be secured by running the cord of the bungee strap through a D-ring on the tarp and hooking both ends of the cord to anchor points in the trailer.
5. Tire Chains
Tire chains are chain-link nets that wrap around the tires of your truck. They’re designed to give your tires extra friction, and a better grip, in hazardous conditions.
For example, when you drive through ice, snow, or mud, it can be easy to get stuck, especially if viscous substances like mud or slush fill in the tire’s treads.
Tire chains mitigate that risk by giving your tire more texture it can gain traction with and by elevating the tire slightly from its typical placement.
In some US states and Canadian provinces, tire chains are mandatory for all truck drivers in the winter.
6. Chains and Binders
Chains and binders are tools to secure loads that are heavier than those typically secured with straps.
G70 chains are made of high-strength carbon steel and have WLLs that range from 4.700 lbs to 11,300 lbs. Each chain will have its WLL stamped onto the chain itself. They’re typically plated for corrosion resistance.
Chains are tightened to secure loads. To do this, people use ratchet binders, lever binders, or recoilless lever binders. Compare and contrast them in this helpful blog post.
7. Moving Blankets
Moving blankets are designed to protect both your load and the tarp over your load. Sometimes a piece of cargo has sharp edges or corners that cut into the tarp. That damages the tarp, and as a result, you’ll have to replace your tarps more often.
Moving blankets can create a soft barrier between the cargo and the tarp to preserve the tarp’s surface. This lets the tarp last longer.
These blankets can also protect the load itself! A particularly fragile load may take some damage at the point where a load-binding strap or chain holds it in place. A moving blanket can help spread out the pressure at the pressure point while keeping the strap tight enough to hold the load in place.
8. Corner & Edge Protectors
Like moving blankets, corner protectors have two purposes. Corner protectors are designed to protect your tarp–or a fabric strap–from the sharp edge or corner of a piece of cargo. They’re also designed to protect the cargo from taking damage at the pressure point where the strap or chain binder meets the object you’re hauling.
Some corner protectors and edge protects are called vee-boards. These are plastic rectangles bent at a right angle, with a raised texture on the surface. They rest on the edges or corners of cargo during a cargo-hauling operation.
Other edge protectors have a stainless steel exterior and rubber padding underneath, to improve the distribution of tension. Curved edge protectors are specifically designed to protect metal coils.
9. Oversize Load Signs and Flags
Red or orange safety flags are mandatory if you want to haul an oversize load. These flags communicate the outer limits of a large load to the traffic around you.
In addition to red or orange safety flags, flatbed trucks carrying oversize loads need signs stating “wide load” or “oversize load.” These signs must meet the regulations set by the Department of Transportation.
10. Safety Triangles
Safety triangles are bright orange-and-red, reflective plastic triangles with a weighted base. They’re designed to help you alert other drivers to steer clear when you’ve had to pull over urgently. They can also communicate that your vehicle is disabled.
These triangles meet the mandates of the Department of Transportation for safety alert equipment. They’re even visible in low-light conditions.
It’s important that any safety gear you choose complies with DOT standards to effectively convey the necessary information. Good safety communication could save your life in an emergency.
11. E-tracks and Load Lock
E-tracks and load locks are tools for securing cargo in an enclosed trailer, rather than a flatbed.
They are metal tracks with grooves that are installed inside a trailer on the walls. Load locks are aluminum or steel bars that can be arranged in different configurations to improve cargo storage. They’re called load locks because they easily lock into place.
If they’re fitted to create a “pen,” they can be used to hem in pallets so they don’t tip over during transport. Whereas raising load bars mid-height in the trailer creates a shelf, giving you a second level of storage to increase your capacity.
Ultimately, these eleven tools are cargo control resources that a successful hauler just can’t do without.
For more tools and tips to start your cargo transportation career, check out some of these neat posts!