How to Secure Your Load With Ratchet Straps

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If you’re hauling a load on your trailer, whether it’s furniture, a lawn mower, or even boxes, you need to ensure that it won’t cause an accident.

If your trailer has sides, like a utility trailer or a dump trailer, some items might be heavy enough not to blow away, yet still light enough not to rock your trailer if they shift. But if there’s a chance of an accident happening, you want to be on the safe side. No one’s going to die if you get laughed at for strapping down your lunchbox. But risking an accident is not okay.

Preparing Your Load

First, make sure each item in your load is resting on something solid enough to support it. You don’t want a heavy item to crush something fragile. You also don’t want a box to slide off and damage something.

Also, if you don’t have an enclosed trailer, make sure any light, loose items in your load won’t blow away. If you can’t put them in a box, cover them with something that will secure them, like a tarp or a cargo net.

If you’re transporting anything long that sticks out over the edge of the trailer, make sure that all your trailer lights are still visible. Depending on how far the item hangs out, you are required by law to attach a red safety flag to the end, so that other drivers can easily spot it.

Strapping Your Load

  1. First, attach the ends of the strap (or chain) to solid places on your vehicle. A tie-down is only as strong as its weakest point. Check the attachment brackets, D-rings, or other attachment points to make sure that your strap will stay strapped. If something is bent, worn, or looks flimsy, see if there’s a better place to attach your strap.
  2. Tighten the strap as tightly as you can by hand before using the ratchet. That will save you time ratcheting.
  3. Check if your strap goes over a corner that might fray the strap. You might want a corner protector. Conversely, if your strap goes over something fragile that might get bent, scratched, or broken, you might want to consider using moving blankets.
  4. Start ratcheting the strap. You may want to shake the object to see if it shifts into a position that needs a shorter strap. You don’t want it to shift out of the strap while you’re driving.
  5. Continue ratcheting the strap until it’s as tight as you can make it without damaging anything.
  6. Make sure you’ve used enough tie-down chains or straps to ensure your load is secure.
  7. Pull and push everything to make sure it won’t shift. Tighten your straps again, if need be.

Finishing Up

When you think you’re done, be sure you take a look at your load and use common sense. Ask yourself if anything could come loose and cause an accident. If so, make sure you take care of it.

And of course, once you’re on the road, your responsibilities aren’t over yet. If you hear something sliding around in your trailer, be sure you pull over and check your load.

If you want further information on how to make sure you’re doing it right, here’s a helpful resource.

Finally, always make sure you’re following state regulations. If you’re hauling for commercial use, federal laws will apply as well.