How to Properly Tarp a Load on Flatbed Trailer

As a flatbed hauler, there are many obstacles you will encounter while out on the road. Weather and debris will prove to be the most dangerous hurdles to face, as they can cause severe damage to your cargo if it’s unprotected. However, you can improve your cargo’s protection from these elements with one simple task: tarp flatbed trailer loads.

Knowing how to tarp flatbed trailer load and cargo can help ensure your cargo and flatbed trailer stay dry and unscathed, as a tarp’s job will be to take the full force of these obstacles instead of your load. Getting your cargo delivered safely and to your client in perfect condition is the job of any good flatbed hauler and while tarping can help you with this task it can also be a dangerous job if done incorrectly.

If you lack the knowledge or techniques that can help you learn how to tarp a flatbed loads, this article can help you! Keep reading to learn more about the proper techniques for tarping a flatbed load safely.

How Safely Tarp a Load on Flatbed Trailers

While there are many things to consider when preparing to tarp a load, its important knowing, understand, and follow all safety guidelines and precautions before you begin securing a load to your flatbed trailer. Below we have provided a checklist of the safety equipment every flatbedder should have on hand.

How to Tarp a Flatbed Load:

1.Organize Load Correctly:

Once you have the proper equipment and safety tools, and your cargo has been properly loaded and secured onto your trailer, you can begin the process of tarping your flatbed trailer! Always make sure, before you do anything, that your cargo has been properly organized and secured on the trailer.

Improperly loaded cargo can become a nightmare once you’re on the road -- the risk of damage to your tarp increases with top-heavy or tall loads that could add unnecessary stress and stretch to your tarp. When loading your cargo and after you’ve secured it, make sure the weight has been evenly distributed (no bowing/dipping of the trailer) and that you are not exceeding your trailer’s weight.

Additionally, position your cargo as close to any tie-down anchor points as possible to make the securement of your tarp easier! Less stretch equals a longer tarp life.

Load on Flatbed

2.Choose the Right Tarps:

While investing in a good quality tarp should be the priority of every hauler, choosing a tarp that fits your niche or specific cargo needs may be a factor you’ll need to consider. Tarps are made at different sizes and out of different materials for a variety of uses. You want to make sure the tarp you choose is large enough and durable enough to protect cargo from outside elements, such as the weather and abrasion, without the tarp causing any damage to the cargo itself.

A heavier tarp will not be the best fit for someone transporting delicate cargo, like plants.
Choosing the right tarp for your cargo can be the difference between a perfect delivery and an unhappy client.

3.Tarp at the Top of the Load:

Tarp at the Top of the Load


Once your cargo has been properly secured and you have chosen the best tarp to get the job done right, place the tarp -- unrolled -- on the top of your load. Typically, this is done at the back of the load. Unroll the tarp across the entire length of the cargo before you bring the sides of the tarp down. For cargo that is taller than you or too heavy to lift, enlist the use of a forklift or crane operator to place the tarp on top of the flatbed load.

4.Start Tarping the Load:

Begin unrolling the tarp until it is covering the load evenly side-to-side. Once you bring the sides and back of the tarp down over the cargo, begin connecting the tarp to your flatbed trailer with tie-down equipment -- we recommend rubber or bungee tie-downs. After you’ve secured the tarp to the flatbed trailer, make sure the tarp is centered. Any excess fabric should be folded and secured to prevent it from flapping or coming undone against the wind. Make sure your tarp is completely covering your load and is safely secured to your trailer’s anchor points, and then hit the road!

Popular Types of Flatbed Tarps

The commonsize fit approach doesn’t work with all flatbed tarping. Many varieties and different type of flatbed trailer tarps are available in market.

1.Lumber Tarps

Lumber Tarps

One of the most common and popular types of flatbed tarps on the market, lumber tarps are heavy-duty, durable, and thick tarps used to cover and protect big cargo loads, like wood. Standard lumber tarps will be waterproof, which means they’re ideal when traveling through harsh rain or snowstorms. These are the best tarps for flatbedders who haul -- or plan to haul -- big cargo.

2.Steel Tarps

Steel trucking tarps tend to be used to carry cargo like steel coils and bars, so they are designed to be heavy-duty and abrasion-resistant without breaking your bank! If you haul cargo like steel, rebar, and other metal material, steel tarps should be your go-to tarping choice!

3.Smoke Tarps

Smoke tarps are a somewhat uncommon tarp, and because of that not a lot of haulers know how to tarp a flatbed loads with smoke tarps. Smaller and more rectangular than standard trucking tarps, they’re built to protect the front of a load from any exhaust smoke your truck may produce during transit. The unique design can keep cargo safe from damage caused by any soot, which could end up being a life-saver for some haulers.

4.Bee Hauling

Bee-hauling tarps are one of the most niche and hyperspecific tarps on the market. Designed in a net-like fashion, these tarps are built to keep beehives stable while on the road without the risk of suffocation. The mesh material is very breathable, allowing air to breeze through by preventing damaging debris from hitting and damaging the hives. Bee-hauling nets are also fantastic for transporting plants for the same reasons!

Pro Tips for FlatbedTarping

  • Always check the weight of your load and check for unbalanced or unequal weight distribution.
  • For heavy tarps, use forklifts when able to place them on top of your cargo.
  • For tall loads, enlist lifting equipment or the use of a ladder to get your tarp on the top of the load.
  • Wear steel-toed and non-slip boots to prevent any slipping, especially in icy or wet conditions.
  • Use the right type and amount of equipment -- never use damaged tie-down equipment or tarps on a job. Never use under the minimum requirement of tie-downs for a job.
  • When removing your tarp, do it slowly and check to make sure none of the cargo had shifted or fallen during transit.
  • When preparing to tarp flatbed trailer loads or unroll your tarp, try to park your trailer near large buildings to protect and defend against wind resistance.

Flatbed TarpingSafety Equipment Checklist:

1.High Visibility Vest

Keeping yourself safe is the most important consideration that truckers oftentimes overlook. When tarping a flatbed load, checking over cargo, or doing maintenance while on the side of the road, the chance of accidents and injury increases the darker the environment. A bright, high visibility vest increases the likelihood of other motorists seeing you and moving to different lanes to give you safety and space.

It will also help any roadside assistance vehicles locate you faster to help get you back on the road! A good-quality, high visibility vest could mean the difference between a safe delivery and a hospital visit!

2.Hard Hats and Safety Glasses

When trying to tarp flatbed trailer cargo down, flatbedders should be prepared for sudden or freak accidents. Bungees, chains, and straps snapping are a trucker’s worst nightmares when tarping a flatbed load, and when you work you may have your face close to the danger zone. You can protect yourself and your face from these accidents and any debris with a good pair of durable safety glasses and hard hats!

Hard hats are especially useful and often required when on construction sites or when machinery such as cranes and overhead lifting equipment is in use. Keep your head and face protected from any possible accidents!

3.A Good Pair of Steel Toed Boots

Steel-toed boots should be a must-have for any flatbed trucker. These boots double as warm and protective footwear -- the “steel toe” designed to protect your foot from being immediately crushed or harmed when something heavy falls or rolls over the top of it. This is especially handy when transporting heavy tools or material to and from your flatbed trailer or working around machinery wheels. You can’t haul if you injure your feet, so keep them protected!

4.A Good Pair of Gloves

When using tie-down equipment like straps or rope, there is always the risk of losing your grip and having the tool slip from your hands! This can result in damage to the palms of your hands, like cuts and rope burn. An easy and safe solution is to invest in a pair of durable, strong work gloves! These gloves will keep your hands safe no matter the equipment you handle.

5.Tarp Repair Kits

While it’s ideal to invest in a high-quality tarp that won’t tear easily, that doesn’t mean your tarp will never become damaged. You shouldn’t have to purchase a whole new tarp in the case of a few holes or tears on the tarp, however! Save yourself the money and stress by investing in tarp repair kits. Good, reliable trucking part suppliers will always have tarp repair kits in a variety of colors to ensure your tarp looks good as new after you’ve patched it!

6.Bungees, Chains, and Straps

A common-sense step, but an important one nonetheless! In order to know how to tarp a flatbed loads properly, you need the right tie-down tools at your disposal. Having plenty of bungee cords, trucking chains and ratchet or winch straps on hand is a requirement for every flatbedder.

Parachute tarps and bungee

Even if you think it may be overkill, you don’t want to risk being short in the amount of tie-down equipment you need to safely and securely tie down your tarp. Variety and quantity are important things to consider when purchasing flatbed trailer tie-down equipment.

Knowing how to tarp a flatbed loads is an essential skill all flatbedders need to know, but there are arrays of techniques to get the job done right! Ensuring that cargo arrives at its destination safely is your priority, and tarps can go a long way to helping you do so!

Tarping is a skill that can only be perfected after doing it several times, but we hope this article will help give you the head start and techniques you need to become a flatbed trailer tarp professional!


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