Tips For Flatbed Drivers And Operators

When transporting flatbed freight loads, the load itself is exposed to the elements. Rain, sand and heat can batter down a load — not to mention the lack of privacy that can invite criminal entities looking to steal freight. Strapping, tarping and securing flatbed loads is the primary mode of protection for freight on a flatbed trailer. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set cargo securement rules to better ensure flatbed freight is fully protected while in transit.

Below, check out a few of the most important rules along with tips for securing your freight loads.

How to Use Tie-Downs

According to the FMCSA, all tie-downs must be attached and secured firmly. These tie-downs can range from chains to synthetic webbing. Note that when securing tie-downs, you must use edge protection if the tie-down touches the cargo anywhere. Also, flatbed trailers with rub rails must utilize the tie-downs inboard. This helps to prevent them from being tampered with or from coming loose.

Choose the Right Tarps

Tarps range from individual sheet tarpaulin to tarp systems and structures. For example, if you are hauling logs, you will need to invest in lumber tarp. Other types of tarp for flatbed freight loads include steel tarp for steel haulers; smoke tarps for protecting freight from wind; and clear glass tarp to protect against road grime. With each of these types of tarps, you will need to manually affix the tarp around the load.

If you want to save yourself the physical strain of tarping loads, consider a tarp system. A tarp system is designed with an internal framework to create the illusion of a dry van trailer from a flatbed. This type of system is ideal for flatbed freight that meets the trailer height and width requirements. Keep in mind, you could still exceed the weight limits when using a tarp system and be considered oversized.

Take Care of Tarps

As for protecting the integrity of your tarps, these coverings must always be free of tatters, holes, stains or other damage. Check your tarps periodically and clean them as needed, allowing them to dry completely before folding and storing. Also, use the correct tie-downs designed for specific types of tarps.

If you get inspected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and are using damaged tarps or straps, your securement devices could be downgraded or rated a zero. That means you will get a ding on your Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score, which is the worst news you can get as a truck driver. Negative CSA scores will reduce your ability to get a flatbed trucking job or secure contracts as an owner-operator.

Protect Flatbed Loads With Securements

A professional tarp system will help you avoid the eagle eye of the inspectors with your flatbed freight loads. Another way to stay in the clear is to be alert to the latest FMCSA regulations for cargo securement — including announcements for road inspection blitzes dedicated to cargo securement checks.

Cargo securement is regularly at the top of the DOT’s list of inspection points. However, by following these requirements for tarps and tie-downs, you protect yourself against the most common reason for a roadside DOT inspection.