Truckers use tarps to cover and protect their loads and other drivers. Falls during tarping are a serious safety concern for drivers of garbage trucks, gravel trucks, tank cars and trucks, flatbeds and other types of truck.
Because you can't use hand- or footholds while maneuvering on top of a truck, your first choice should be to tarp from the ground.
Use truck or facility mechanical devices to help. At facilities, spreader bars, shipper's racks and T-posts make tarping safer and easier.
Buy or retrofit trucks with flip arms, soft sides, curtains, or sliding tarps that have ground-level handles and controls. Many forklift manufacturers provide compatible kits for applying tarps.
Fall prevention methods such as facility loading platforms and catwalks with handrails and steps provide safe working surfaces at a proper height for tarping.
Old flatbeds can be retrofitted with railings and steps to become tarping platforms. For flatbed trucks, temporary nets or railings made of metal, plastic or canvas can be installed to prevent falls. Railed ladders, rack arms and ramps can be safe tarping platforms.
When you must climb the truck and load to apply a tarpaulin, use a fall arrest system to securely tie in and limit the distance you could fall. Consider a helmet with a three-point harness to protect your head.
Overhead lines and T-posts can be used at facilities. Trucks can be rigged with sliding cable and security bars that you can hook into.
Before you climb onto a truck:
Tarps can be heavy and awkward; choose the right one for the job to control the size, weight and force needed to handle it. Smooth undersides keep the tarp from sticking to the load.
Applying, removing the tarp
Use mechanical aids to apply and remove tarps. If you move the tarp by hand:
Removing the tarp: To remove a tarp, loosen it by fanning to move air underneath. Use your arms, legs and body weight to pull the tarp off the truck; watch for unstable loads.
Lay the tarpaulin out on a flat area and check for holes or damage. Don't walk on tarps to avoid slips and damage. Get help to fold it.
Plan a pickup or delivery job before you drive to a site. Know the site layout for the customers you visit most.
Get advanced information on the load or material details and loading/unloading procedures, including available equipment and help.
Consider the truck type, height and access points before you go.
Ask directly about the tarping policy: Can it be done on-site, or will you need to find a safe area outside the facility?
Never tarp on the side of a busy road or highway.