Ratchet straps can seem deceptively simple tools. But there’s a lot of complexity under the surface! Ratchet straps are very familiar to flatbed truck drivers who use them to tie down everything from steel coil to landscaping products. You might even make the case that ratchet straps are among the most important cargo control tools a trucker can have on board. But there is a lot to know about these straps, how they are made, how they are rated, and so on.
Ratchet straps, also called ratchet tie-downs, are flat, 2″-4″-wide straps made of polyester webbing. They’re used to secure cargo to flatbed trailers, the interior of semi-trailers, or onto L-track or E-track systems. These straps prevent cargo from rocking around or coming loose during transport, even during a bumpy ride.
A. Interesting Things about Ratchet Straps
As a leading provider of cargo control supplies for truck drivers, we thought it might be interesting to help our customers test their knowledge of ratchet straps. Below is a selection of interesting things you may or may not know about these incredibly useful tools.
1. The Differences in Webbing Material
The polyester material from which ratchet straps are made is known in the industry as webbing. If you are even remotely observational, you have probably noticed that the webbing of a ratchet strap is fairly similar to the webbing used to make seat belts. You may have even noticed that webbing material is used in the manufacture of tarps, tents, backpacks, etc. But did you know that not all webbing is equal in terms of strength?
Polyester seat belt webbing is nearly identical to polyester ratchet strap webbing in terms of the material used. The main difference between the two is the strength of the webbing. Seat belt webbing is considerably thinner than its ratchet strap counterpart, and its tensile strength is much lower as well. Remember that a seat belt only has to stop a few hundred pounds, at most, moving in a single direction. Ratchet straps have to hold thousands of pounds in place by preventing cargo from moving in multiple directions.
2. Webbing’s Environmental Resilience
Webbing is the material of choice for all sorts of things because of its resilience. It holds up very well to an extensive list of environmental conditions that would damage other materials. For example, it resists mildew and mold because it also resists moisture. Webbing does not shrink, it stands up to direct sunlight, and it is not affected by a number of acids found in industrial environments.
3. Not All Webbing Is Polyester
While polyester is one of the more common materials for making webbing fabric, it is not the only material. Webbing can be made of polypropylene, nylon, and even high-strength materials like Kevlar and Dyneema. Each of these materials has specific properties manufacturers are looking for when they create new webbing products.
Polyester is usually sufficient for typical cargo control applications within the flatbed trucking industry. But where extremely high tensile strength ratings are required, truckers might choose a more expensive product.
4. Webbing Construction Methods
Finally, the webbing material used to make ratchet straps can be constructed based on one of the two weaves. The first is the solid weave. The solid weave is not the preferred process for ratchet straps because it is not as strong as the other process, known as a tubular weave.
A webbing material constructed with the tubular weave utilizes flattened tubes of fibers instead of individual fibers in the weave. Using flattened tubes provides extra strength and shock absorption. Tubular weave webbing material is a bit more expensive, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to ratcheting straps.
Yes, the trusted ratchet strap is one of the more important tools that flatbed truckers keep in their toolboxes. Ratchet straps are one of the keys to successful cargo control that is still efficient at the same time. Without ratchet straps, truckers would be left to secure their cargo with chains, ropes, and inadequate bungee straps.
B. Types of Ratchet Straps
Ratchet straps vary in their width and length, their Working Load Limit (WLL), their end-fittings, the features of the ratcheting mechanism, and their fabrication.
1. Width and length
Our straps range from 2” – 4” wide and 6’ to 40’ long.
2. Working Load Limit
The WLL of ratchet straps ranges from and little as 500 lbs to as much as 4000 lbs.
3. End-fitting Options
Most ratchet straps have flat hook end fittings. However, S-hooks, wire hooks, and chain ends with grab hooks are also available.
Ratcheting Mechanism Features:
Some ratcheting mechanisms have useful features including:
- Chrome or gold plating for rust-resistance
- Longer handle for increased leverage
- Rubber-topped handle for superior grip
Ratchet straps are primarily made with polyester webbing. In addition to allowing for different widths and lengths of this webbing, the fabric material of a ratchet strap can have different qualities.
- Some ratchet straps are treated to be resistant to different kinds of damage, like UV radiation. Our Military Grade Ratchet Shock Straps are treated with a proprietary substance that protects the straps from damage from “most chemicals, sunlight, oil, salt water, fungus or moisture.”
- Some are come in high-visibility colors, like electric green. These straps can be seen clearly even in low-light conditions.
C. How are Ratchet Straps Made?
- Ratchet straps are made of flexible, durable polyester webbing. These straps are water resistant and have very little stretch.
- Rarely, they are made with nylon. Nylon is stretchier, but it’s less durable and has a lower working load limit. Nylon ratchet straps are only used in very specific circumstances.
- Specialty ratchet straps, like those used in the military or to haul oil, are still made of polyester, but they have additional coatings to keep the straps extra-resilient.
- Polyester is a compound that is frequently artificially created in a lab, but can also be naturally synthesized from the cutin in plant cuticles (the waxy substance on grass and plant leaves that lets water bead up on the surface and form dewdrops).
- To make polyester fibers into a strap, the fibers need to be webbed. Webbing is the process of weaving the fibers into a tight, strong pattern that is engineered to shift tension equitably across the strap, making the strap more durable.
- After creating the webbing, these straps are tested to ensure durability and to calculate the breaking strength and WLL.
- Testing is done at shops with specialized machine-tensioner, which can increase tension in a strap with precision, in small increments.
After the polyester webbing is confirmed strong and durable, they are loaded into the ratcheting mechanism. Finally, end-fittings are attached.