Truck Tarps: The Confusing World of Lumber Loads

Imagine you are a flatbed trucker looking to buy lumber tarps from Mytee Products in Aurora, Ohio. You are new to the flatbed business, so you are interested in every horror story you hear about lumber loads being rejected because they are wet. You’re bound and determined that you are never going to deliver a lumber load that isn’t completely dry. That is, until you have no other choice.

Take a few minutes to search trucker forums and you will find all sorts of stories having to do with wet lumber. One driver might report having no trouble delivering a load even though one of his tarps sprung a leak and let some water in. Another driver may tell a story about a load being rejected because just a couple of boards were wet. Yet another driver may relay that time he witnessed a yard worker using a moisture tester to check the lumber before signing off on it.

The world of lumber loads is pretty confusing. It takes a lot of years and quite a bit of experience to really know what certain shippers and receivers expect. In the meantime, it is a big help to new truck drivers to understand the different kinds of lumber loads and how they influence decisions about tarping.

Plywood and Less Expensive Products

After you leave Mytee Products, you head over to the shipping yard to pick up your first load of plywood. The shipper insists you cover the load with lumber tarps before pulling away. Fair enough. You tie down the plywood, throw on your tarps, sign off on the paperwork, and you’re on your way.

Being that this is your first lumber load, your tarps are not quite as secure as they should be. Unfortunately, you do not realize just how loose they are until you pull them off at the other end. Your heart sinks at the site of wet lumber. Now what? No worries. A forklift operator comes out and completely unloads the trailer with no questions asked. He signs off and you’re done. What happened?

Plywood is a product that doesn’t necessarily have to be kept bone dry. In fact, you’ll notice most lumber yards and DIY stores store their excess plywood inventory outside until it is needed to stock interior spaces. The same is true for many of the less expensive lumber products purchased at the consumer level. Receivers aren’t necessarily picky with these kinds of loads. If plywood gets a little wet, it’s no big deal.

Watch Out for the Expensive Stuff

Of course, not every lumber load is made up of plywood and pine straps. You also have your kiln-dried pine, your douglas fir, and machined products like finished molding. These are more expensive products that can absolutely not get wet under any circumstances. Even a little bit of water on a load of crown molding will mean almost certain rejection.

A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to what lumber retailers do. What are they willing to leave outside as opposed to what gets stored indoors? If a retailer cares enough to keep a lumber product dry, it’s probably expensive enough that it should be tarped during transport.

Here’s one last thing to consider: flatbed drivers who consistently haul for the same customers quickly discover what the expectations of those customers are. The minute a customer show signs of not being willing to tolerate even the smallest amount of moisture, it’s time to commit to using tarps on every load. And that means tarps without any holes, rips, or tears.

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