flatbed trailer load securement
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How to Secure Loads Safely on Flatbed Trailers

Dive into the world of load securing on flatbed trailers with an exploration of strapping tools and the various types of straps at your disposal. Uncover the secrets to safeguarding your precious cargo and gain insights into the crucial role of insurance in mitigating risks.

8January 08, 2024

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Each year, there are about 25,000 road accidents in the United States that are related to road litter, usually from something falling off a flatbed trailer because it was not secured properly. Some of these accidents can be fatal.

Learning how to secure loads on flatbed trailers properly can ensure that the cargo is kept in place and that no one is hurt while you drive along the road. But what are some of the steps to help make sure the load will go nowhere once you get behind the wheel of your flatbed trailer?

Flatbed Strapping Regulations

Before we go into the specifics of how to secure loads safely on flatbed trailers, we need to look at some of the strapping regulations in place for your flatbed. You must follow these to ensure that the load stays securely in place and no one is harmed along the way.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has had rules in place since 2002 for cargo securement and all commercial freight carriers are required to comply with the standards.

The rules are in place to help keep the cargo secured and in place during transportation using straps, chains, wire roping, and webbing. Of course, the right securement will depend on the weight and bulk of the cargo along with the terrain you plan to drive on.

For peace of mind, don't forget to explore Flatbed Truck Insurance tailored to your specific needs.

The right tools to use for strapping in your load and making it secure will depend on the weight of the load. Some examples of how to do this include:


Flatbed Strapping Tools


Load WeightRecommended Strapping Tools
Light (Under 2000 pounds)Polypropylene straps or webbing
Medium (2000 to 5000 pounds)Wire rope and ratchet straps
Heavy (Over 5000 pounds)Cable or chain

Truck drivers should also consider the size and shape of the load in addition to the weight. For a large and unwieldy load, you need a strap that is able to provide good support without being too difficult to work with.

Polypropylene straps and webbing may not provide the strength that you need, and wire rope or ratchet straps would be better for the bulk of the load.

It is also worth noting the conditions you will be in when transporting the load.

If you are going to be in rough conditions like bad weather or unpaved roads, then you should use a strap that is sturdy enough to handle all of these changes, without coming loose. Chain and cable are the best options for a rough transportation route.

5 Steps to Secure Loads on Flatbed Trailers

It is important to know the proper steps for how to secure loads on flatbed trailers. Assuming that you know the right way, without proper training and the right steps, could lead to disaster when you are on the road.

Think of what would happen if that big load fell off when you were going high-speed down the interstate!

There are several methods that you can use to help secure a load on your flatbed trailer and it depends on what you transport and the tools you have available.

One method relies on straps being looped around the load and then tightened down, while the other will utilize ropes with tension. In some cases, you may use chains to provide a bit more security.

Step 1: Choose the Right Straps

The right straps will make all the difference and can keep the load in place. You do not want to go too light here, or the trailer load will go flying.

To make sure that you choose the right straps for the job, you need to go with ratchet straps or something similar that has a working load limit at or above the weight of the cargo you plan to transport.


Types of Straps to Secure Your Flatbed Truck Cargo


Strap TypeMaterialRecommended UseAdvantages
Polyester Webbing StrapsPolyesterGeneral-purpose cargo securingGood strength, durability, UV resistant
Nylon StrapsNylonVersatile, suitable for various loadsHigh strength, elasticity, abrasion resistance
Polypropylene StrapsPolypropyleneIdeal for light loadsLightweight, cost-effective, moisture-resistant
Ratchet StrapsVarious (commonly polyester)Versatile, suitable for various load weightsEasy to tighten and release, adjustable length
Winch StrapsPolyesterSuitable for heavier loadsDesigned for use with winches, secure and adjustable
Wire Rope StrapsSteel wireIdeal for heavy and bulky loadsHigh strength, durability, suitable for challenging conditions
Chain BindersSteelSecure heavy loads requiring a strong connectionSturdy and reliable
Cam Buckle StrapsVarious (commonly polyester)Light to medium-duty applicationsEasy to use, quick-release mechanism

With the right straps in place, it is time to secure the load. Just take one strap and tie it in each corner of the trailer, adding some tension and making sure that it is not going to move.

Just leave the straps on the corners right now as we work through the rest of the process.

flatbed truck straps

Step 2: Position the Cargo

The positioning of your cargo will be just as important as the straps you use along the way.

Distribute the weight of the cargo as evenly as possible on the flatbed so it doesn’t make things uneven; you will really notice this when you drive the truck. Start loading the truck from the front to the back.

As you load, try to avoid the temptation of overloading. Leave enough room on the flatbed truck for the cargo to settle during the transport too. Without the right amount of room, you could tip the truck while driving.

flatbed truck cargo position
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Step 3: Secure the Cargo with Tie-Downs

With the cargo in place and the original straps ready to go, you should place some additional straps across the load as needed.

The number you need will depend on the type of load and its size. These extra straps help to prevent the cargo from moving or shifting while you drive.

Make sure that these tie-downs are tightly fastened and attach them to a sturdy point on the trailer, so they won’t move during transport.

Step 4: Place a Tarp if Necessary

Depending on the weather where you plan to travel and the cargo you will transport, you may need to put a tarp on top. You can skip this step if your cargo does not need to be covered.

These tarps will protect the freight from the elements and ensures that everything arrives in perfect condition.

You must choose the right tarp for your needs. Some tarps are specifically for hauling steel or lumber, while others are for guarding any freight from the wind. You may even need a custom flatbed tarp for some of your loads.

Another step to consider when learning how to secure a load on a flatbed trailer is learning how to secure the tarp. To do this properly:

  • Roll out the center tarp and make it as flat and smooth as possible.
  • Center the tarp over the cargo, keeping it even on all sides.
  • Fold any of the overlapping fabric on the corners to avoid wind pockets.
  • Connect the tarp to the trailer with some of your extra rubber tie-downs.
  • Use nylon ratchet straps to make sure both the load and tarp are kept in place.
  • If you have a back flap to the tarp, make sure there is a good seal between the cargo and the trailer.

The tarp must be secure. Even if it is not as heavy as the rest of your cargo, if it gets lose and blows away, it could cause some potential damage along the way.

flatbed trailer tarp

Step 5: Do a Double-Check

Whether you are just starting your career as a truck driver or you have been on the road for years and are just starting with flatbeds, always double-check your work. You can never check the work too much. Before you jump in the cab and start to drive, walk around the trailer at least once to make sure the cargo is secure, and the straps are tight.

As you do your inspection, check for any tie-downs that are damaged or loose, and pick out a different strap if you are concerned at all. Make all the necessary adjustments to guarantee that your journey is as safe as possible. For added protection, don’t forget to have Cargo Insurance coverage.

The Critical Impact of Insecure Cargo on Flatbed Trailers: Why Insurance is Vital

The potential consequences of inadequately securing cargo on flatbed trailers are not only alarming but can be catastrophic. For truck drivers and fleet managers, recognizing these risks emphasizes the indispensable need for comprehensive insurance coverage.


Potential Hazards of Unsecured Cargo:


  1. Traffic Standstills: A loose load, whether in a bustling urban setting or a quiet rural stop, can bring streets and traffic to a standstill, causing significant disruptions.

  1. Driver Injuries or Fatalities: The repercussions extend to the truck driver, who faces injuries or even death when cargo begins to dislodge. The severity depends on where and how much of the load comes off. In some instances, the shifting cargo can overturn the truck, leading to fatal consequences.

  1. Risk to Other Drivers: The danger isn't confined to the truck alone; other drivers face peril if sizable cargo hurtles towards them.

The potential outcomes include vehicles being pushed off the road, injuries, and, tragically, fatalities. Collateral damage is a grim possibility when unsecured cargo becomes a projectile on the road.

Ensuring the secure fastening of cargo on flatbed trucks is not just a legal obligation but a pivotal safety measure. It directly impacts the well-being of all road users.

As incidents like the industrial spool incident illustrate, the potential for damage, injuries, and fatalities looms large when loads are not properly secured.

Why Insurance is Your Safeguard?

Recognizing these risks underscores the critical need for robust insurance coverage. Whether you're a truck driver or a fleet manager, comprehensive insurance acts as a safety net.

It not only provides financial protection against potential damages but also addresses liability concerns in the event of accidents involving cargo.

In essence, proper load securement practices coupled with comprehensive insurance coverage form a powerful strategy for risk mitigation, ensuring the safety of everyone on the road. Don't just secure your cargo; secure your peace of mind with insurance coverage.

Takeaways

  1. Understand the Impact: Over 25,000 accidents in the U.S. are linked to unsecured flatbed loads annually, emphasizing the critical need for proper load securement.

  1. Know Strapping Regulations: Familiarize yourself with flatbed strapping regulations to ensure compliance and prevent harm during transportation.

  1. FMCSA Guidelines: Adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines established in 2002, covering securement with straps, chains, wire roping, and webbing.

  1. Consider Load Weight: Choose strapping tools based on load weight. Polypropylene straps or webbing work for light loads, while wire rope and ratchet straps are suitable for medium loads. Use cable or chain for heavy loads.

  1. Factor in Load Size and Shape: Tailor your strapping choice to the size and shape of the load. Larger, unwieldy loads require sturdy support, with polypropylene straps for lighter cargo and wire rope or ratchet straps for bulkier items.

  1. Adapt to Environmental Conditions: Select straps that can withstand rough conditions like bad weather or unpaved roads. Opt for chain and cable for secure strapping on challenging routes.

  1. Strap Selection Matters: Choose the right straps, such as ratchet straps, with a working load limit matching or exceeding the cargo weight to avoid accidents.

  1. Position Cargo Strategically: Distribute cargo weight evenly on the flatbed to prevent uneven loads. Start loading from the front, leaving enough room for settling during transport.

  1. Additional Tie-Downs: Secure the cargo with additional tie-downs as needed, tightly fastening them to sturdy points on the trailer to prevent shifting during transport.

  1. Tarping for Protection: Consider using a tarp based on weather conditions. Proper tarping protects the cargo from the elements and ensures safe arrival. Follow tarping guidelines to secure it effectively.

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