Controlling Cargo: Covering With a Tarp Not Always Enough

The largest city in Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province is apparently having a problem with people taking their garbage to the landfill. According to news reports, police will be targeting the Robin Hood Bay dump in St. John’s for the entire summer, looking for people who arrive with loads not properly secured.

The city is taking a hard line stand as a way to both enforce the law and remind drivers of their responsibility to secure their garbage. Violators have been promised fines if they arrive at the dump without their loads properly secured.

Having said that, St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen may not have a good understanding of what it takes to properly secure cargo. In an interview published by Yahoo! News, Breen explained that people hauling trash to the dump could “just wrap it in a tarp and use some straps to keep the tarp down.” Yet sometimes a tarp is not enough.

There Are Laws on the Books

Just like Canada’s provinces, U.S. states have laws on the books dictating that drivers must control any and all loose cargo. Some of those regulations are generic enough to merely state that cargo control is a legal responsibility. Others stipulate exactly how certain kinds of cargo must be secured.

The point of all this is to say that drivers are required to prevent anything from flying or falling off their vehicles during transit. Moreover, the laws do not discriminate by vehicle type. They apply equally to passenger cars, pickup trucks, and commercial vehicles.

As far as Breen’s tarp advice goes, it doesn’t really do the topic justice. For starters, tarps are covering devices. They are not cargo control devices in and of themselves. More importantly, relying solely on a tarp and a couple of straps could lead to big problems for some kinds of loads.

A Tool for Every Job

Shop for tarps at Mytee Products and you will discover the Ohio-based company sells a lot of them. They carry everything from the standard blue tarp to heavy-duty truck tarps for covering lumber and steel loads. But Mytee Products also carries webbing straps, winch straps, chains, blocks, and dozens of other products.

The truth is that there is a tool for every job. When you’re talking big rigs, a tarp is not a cargo control tool. It is a cover intended to protect cargo against weather and road debris. To keep cargo securely tied down, drivers use a combination of chains and straps.

The only time a tarp might be sufficient in a commercial setting is on a dump truck hauling loose materials like gravel and stone. Given that the cargo is tightly controlled within the box of the truck, throwing a tarp over the top and securing it below is often enough to prevent material from flying off the truck. But for flatbed loads, tarps are merely covers.

Cargo on Trailers and Pickup Trucks

Getting back to the St. John’s story, the big issue they are having stems from people hauling items with utility trailers pickup trucks. How those items are kept in place depends on what they actually are. Drivers have to think long and hard about all the things that could cause something to break loose.

Loose items should be securely tied down with rope or straps. Only once everything is secure should a driver consider throwing a tarp over the top. In this sort of scenario, a tarp acts as an extra layer of protection just in case. It should not be the primary means by which cargo is secured.