What one improvement could you make that would minimize downtime on the road, prevent driver injuries and reduce driver turnover? That’s a no-brainer: eliminate tarping. In an industry that strives to enhance on-road efficiency and improve working conditions for drivers, the timeworn drudgery of tarping loads increasingly seems like a throwback to a bygone era. Back in the day of fewer options, the arduous, time-consuming process of covering large flatbed loads with tarps was accepted as business as usual. Today, however, the ever-increasing presence of curtain side trailers on the road openly refutes that outmoded assumption.
Optimizing fleet efficiency means acquiring more efficient trailers as well as making more efficient use of existing trailers. Buying curtainside trailers can be one strategy that addresses both issues. Fine-tuning the fleet mix to meet the freight demands of any given day—not to mention the unforeseeable future—requires flexibility and getting maximum use out of what you’ve got already. If your fleet includes too many flatbeds simply taking up space on the lot waiting for a rare oversized load, or a conventional van trailer that sometimes sits idle because shipments require side-loading, you’re not operating at maximum efficiency.
The good news is that flatbed trailers are versatile and adaptable to loads that vary in both size and weight. The bad news? Over 60 percent of flatbed loads require comprehensive tarping. Manually tarping flatbeds is an ergonomic nightmare and a worker's comp attorney’s dream. The requirement to heave unwieldy tarps as heavy as 100 pounds while perched precariously atop a flatbed excludes many otherwise competent professional drivers from hauling flatbed jobs. It's also a major turn-off to potential new hires, as well. It is no wonder that curtain side trailers—which totally eliminate the need for manual tarping—have achieved major market penetration in the U.S. trucking industry, in a relatively short time.