More from: heavy-duty truck tarp

Securing Your Flatbed Trailer with a Heavy Duty Truck Tarp

Securing a flatbed trailer and its load with a heavy-duty truck tarp is just part of the routine for the American trucker. For new truckers, or those who have never hauled flatbed loads before, learning how to effectively tarp is not the easiest thing in the world. It is an acquired skill that takes time and experience to master.

Before tarping ever begins, the trucker must purchase the right kinds of tarps for the loads he or she intends to haul. It is best to choose heavy-duty tarps that can withstand the punishment of the open road; we usually recommend 18-ounce vinyl or a PVC product. Canvas and poly tarps do not tend to hold up very well over multiple long hauls.

With the correct tarp in hand, securing your trailer is a three-step process:

1. Load Balance

Making sure a load is balanced does a number of things. First, it keeps the trailer evenly weighted for maximum safety and fuel efficiency. Second, it allows for tarping the load in such a way that it provides as much protection as possible. Experienced truckers know that how a load is placed on a trailer goes a long way toward determining how it is tarped.

If you have any say in how your trailer is loaded, try to make sure the profile is as even as possible across the entire surface. Also, try to make sure that no part of the load sits higher than the top of the tractor if at all possible. Doing so reduces drag and protects your tarp against unnecessary wind.

2. Tarp Application

Despite the introduction of automatic tarping machines, many of today’s drivers still apply their tarps manually. The key is to make sure a tarp is spread evenly across the load to ensure as much protection as possible on all sides. The amount of drop a tarp offers plays a big role in this, so having enough drop to completely cover your load is usually beneficial.


3. Tarp Securing

Flatbed trailer tarps come with both grommets and D-rings. Securing a tarp with bungee cords and the D-rings is okay for short trips across town – provided the load itself has been secured by other means – but it is an inappropriate way to secure a tarp for a long-haul trip. Such trips require the use of ratchet straps, ropes, or chains.

Ratchet straps are preferred because these are very easy to use and strong at the same time. A hook on one end of the strap is connected to a D-ring, while the fabric of the strap is pulled through a winch system. This enables you to get the straps as tight as they need to be to secure the tarp. They can also be used to provide extra strength for securing the load.

As always, it is important to make sure there is no loose material able to flap around in the wind. If any of the surfaces of the tarp will be exposed to sharp edges, it is wise to use other materials to soften the edges. The idea is to protect your load and your tarp at the same time.

Surprise: Truck Tarps and Bears Don’t Get Along

Truck tarps are good for many different things beyond protecting cargo on a flatbed trailer, but apparently catching black bears falling out of trees is not one of them. The Panama City, Florida fire department recently found that out, as did one particularly unlucky bear.

A plethora of news reports say that residents of a local neighborhood spotted a 350-pound black bear up in a neighborhood tree. They called local officials who, in turn, contacted the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and asked them to send an officer to tranquilize and move the bear. It is pretty standard procedure in Southwest Florida.

At some point in the rather exciting proceedings, someone from the local fire department decided to rig a safety system for the bear that included a couple of truck tarps. They devised the system in hopes that it would catch the bear as it fell from the tree, dazed by the tranquilizer dart that would eventually be coming to greet him. What happened next needs to be seen to be appreciated.

The fire department was right in guessing the bear would fall. They were wrong in expecting the truck tarps to provide a suitable safety net. Instead of catching the tranquilized bear, the huge animal crashed through the tarps as though they were nothing more than tissue paper. It turns out that 350 pounds of bear falling 30 feet through the air is no match for your run-of-the-mill tarps.

Just for the record, the Panama City bear was fine. He was relocated to a local forest without incident.

Choose the Right Tarp for the Job

In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that the Panama City fire department appeared to use something other than a heavy-duty truck tarp you’d find on the back of a flatbed trailer. The news reports showed a tarp that looks more like something you would find at your local camping store, a poly tarp and not a Vinyl one. Hopefully they have learned an important lesson about choosing the right tarp for the job.


That’s not to say a heavy-duty truck tarp would have withstood the weight of the falling bear. It is hard to say without actually testing it, and who wants to do that? In either case, the point of choosing the right tarp is still valid. Not choosing the right tarp could turn a seemingly easy project into a nightmare.

When truckers choose tarps for their loads, they take into consideration many different factors. They have to consider the cargo being covered, the length of the trip, the weather they expect to encounter, and anything that could damage their loads along the way. This includes everything from flying debris to animals.

Low-riding loads might be covered with a heavy-duty steel tarp secured by bungee cords or winch straps. A larger, bulkier load might have to be covered with a lumber tarps or still larger Machine Tarps secured with a combination of ropes, bungee cords, and bindings. It really just depends on what the particular need is at the time. It is up to truck drivers to figure out what those needs are and choose a tarp accordingly.

You may not be a professional trucker trying to secure fragile cargo for a 500-mile journey. However, if you are planning to use a tarp for any purpose, make sure you know what it is you are using. Ask questions if you have to – before you buy. Moreover, if you were part of the Panama City fire department, the local bear community would probably appreciate it if you invested in some heavy-duty truck tarps that would support their weight.

Tarp Inspection Improves Driver Safety

Did you know that heavy-duty truck tarps present professional truck drivers with some of the most serious safety risks in the industry? We tend to think of things like bad weather and carelessness as top safety issues, and they are, yet how many of us stop to think about something as simple as covering a load with a tarp?

Any veteran truck driver can tell you stories about broken bones, chipped teeth, deep lacerations, and other injuries, all relating to load tarping. Accidents involving tarps are all too common in the trucking industry. If you are a trucker, you can help your cause by regularly inspecting your tarps and bindings.

As tough as heavy-duty truck tarps are, they do wear out over time. Seams can start to separate, grommets can develop rust and bindings can lose their strength. Regular inspection of your equipment is the only way you will know that both tarp and binding is suitable for the journey ahead.

Inspecting Your Tarps

The Alabama Trucking Association recommends drivers inspect their tarps at least once a month. This involves spreading them out on the ground completely and then going over them in detail. It is a time-consuming process but one that is necessary to ensure driver safety. During the inspection, one should be looking for:

  • Rusted Grommets – Rusted grommets can be a problem if the oxidation has progressed to the point of causing the metal to no longer be secured within the fabric of the tarp. It only takes one rusted grommet to give way in order to cause a significant injury.
  • Damaged D-Rings – Damaged or insecure d-rings present a real hazard on the road and in the yard. You really do not want to be on the receiving end of a bungee cord if a d-ring gives way. When inspecting, check both the ring and the fabric strap that holds it in place. If either one is worn, consider replacing or repairing it.


  • Seam Wear – Even the strongest heavy-duty truck tarps are subject to seam wear from time to time. Worn seams can burst at any time, causing a tarp to fly uncontrollably in the wind. On the road, this is dangerous to other drivers; in the yard, it is dangerous to truck drivers and other workers.

Most minor wear and damage can be repaired with a minimal investment. Older tarps might need to be replaced. Generally, it is better to invest in high-quality tarps even though they are more expensive. These offer longer life and greater durability.

Inspecting Your Bindings

Whether tarps are secured using ropes, straps, or bungee cords, bindings need to be inspected right along with the tarps themselves. When bindings fail, disasters happen. It is simply not worth risking driver safety by not regularly inspecting this part of the load securing system.

Bungee cords are the most susceptible to wear caused by exposure to the weather. When a cord begins to fray, replace it. Also keep an eye out for bent hooks and loss of elasticity. Both can be problems.

Drivers who use load straps should check both the straps and the winches used to secure them. Straps tend to be more durable than bungee cords and ropes, so they do not wear out as often, but check them regularly nonetheless. As far as winches are concerned, inspect them for rust, damage, or mechanical malfunction.

Inspecting your tarps and bindings every month will make it easier for you to detect and repair damage before an accident occurs. You owe it to yourself to do so.

When You’re Parked: Other Uses for Flatbed Tarps

So, you’re an owner-operator who has invested a lot of money in flatbed tarps that only get used every now and again. What do you do when the truck is parked? Are there any other uses for them? Well, there are actually many other uses for flatbed tarps.

If you are talking tarps of the heavy-duty variety, you can do a lot more with them than just cover the cargo on your trailer. In fact, some of the people who buy them are not even truck drivers. They are average homeowners who have discovered how valuable a heavy-duty truck tarp can be. Below are just a couple of examples to demonstrate what we are talking about.

Covering the Roof

Why spend thousands of dollars to pay professionals to replace your roof when you can do the job yourself? That’s the philosophy of many a homeowner who invests in a poly tarp to keep the roof covered during the replacement project. After removing the old roof, the tarp goes up to keep everything dry for the next couple of weekends.

The better option would be to use a heavy duty truck tarp that does a great job of protecting the roof. It can be laid out and then weighed down with stacks of roofing tiles. Alternatively, it can be attached using bungee cords or rope or D-rings. In just a few minutes, the exposed plywood can be protected from the rain and sun. Just remember that flatbed tarps are not a permanent solution for a leaky roof. They will eventually come down with constant exposure to the elements.


Sun Shield

Even truck drivers need a vacation, right? So while you are away enjoying time with the family, why not use one of your flatbed tarps as a sun shield for the truck cabin. Covering it with a tarp will keep the damaging sun out. That will help keep the temperature inside the cab down and prevent sun damage to the dash, seats, and instruments.

Truck Repairs

As an owner-operator, you may perform a lot of the maintenance and repair work for your rig yourself. However, if you don’t have a garage to pull the truck into, you might be standing out in the hot sun or the driving rain. A flatbed tarp with a couple of tent poles is an easy way to construct a temporary enclosure that will protect you from the weather while you work. You can feel free to lift the hood and get down in there for as long as you need to. When you’re all done, your temporary shelter comes down easily.

Winter Fun

Enterprising homeowners in the north have discovered they can use heavy-duty flatbed tarps to get little extra enjoyment out of the winter months. For example, tarps form a great base for a home ice rink. They keep the water in while protecting the grass underneath. What’s more, you do not need any lumber or high-tech construction skills. All you need is a little snow and cold enough temperatures.

And there you have it. Who knew the standard flatbed tarp could be so versatile? Moreover, we’ve only scratched the surface. A heavy-duty tarp is useful for so many things whether you’re an owner-operator or just a homeowner looking for a large piece of vinyl or canvas that will stand up to the weather.

When you buy your flatbed tarps, take the time to make sure you are buying a high quality product. Our tarps fit that bill. A high-quality tarp will give you years of faithful service with a minimum of rips and tears. A cheap tarp, well … not so much.