Lumber tarps vs. Steel tarps: Which is the best tarp for your load?

Before explaining the pros and cons of lumber and steel tarps first let´s dig into why are truck drivers required to use flatbed tarps for their cargo.
It may seem unnecessary for someone who is not familiar with the transportation industry to think of picking which tarp is the best, but understanding why is crucial to making informed decisions regarding transporting goods across the country.
The regulatory system for the transportation industry is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) within the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and has the sole purpose of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. This administration has determined the best practices, rules, and regulations truckers and drivers all over the country need to comply with to keep themselves and others safe. Under the cargo securement rules you will not find the word tarp per se but you will find regulations stating the need to have all cargo securely covered to contain everything it is transporting.

Keeping this in mind, what keeps everything covered in flatbeds?
Yes, truck tarps and the most frequently requested are lumber and steel tarps. Let´s start by understanding their characteristics, composition and functions to be able to choose the best one for your cargo.

Lumber Tarps:

These are heavy duty tarps that vary in size and design. Lumber tarps were originally intended to cover and protect wood from the elements especially water which propitiates the growth of mildew on the logs affecting the quality. Nowadays lumber tarps cover not only wood logs but construction material, tires, or any other large load that needs protection from the enviromental elements, etc.  

Another feature that distinguishes lumber tarps from steel tarps are their end flaps which are intended to cover the end of the load completely.  These vary in size, standard sizes of these flaps/drops are 4ft, 6ft and 8ft, depending on the height of the cargo you will be transporting. Lumber tarps are heavy-duty products that are 100% waterproof, ideal for flatbed trailers up to 53’long.

Manufactured with premium PVC coated polyester Fabric hermetically sealed with high-quality and resistant accessories this tarp will keep everything securely tied. Also it is manufactured with 18oz PVC coated Fabric ensuring that it will resist abrasions as well as wear and tear from the day to day operations. The thickness of this material guarantees that your tarp will last for a long time but it also means that since it is a heavy-duty tarp it is not easy to handle because the material is heavy. There is an alternative at Plastic Fabric Solutions online store: the 14oz Fabric option for a lighter version with the same resistance and durability.

Here are the four options you can find at our online store, you can choose the best fit for your cargo:

Steel Tarps
On the other hand there are steel tarps, which are the sister tarps most looked for in the transportation business. This one is smaller and lighter than its counterpart therefore it´s easier to carry, handle and fold. Originally it was intended for the transportation of steel/metal cargo to protect it from the sun, water, etc, but it has become a basic tarp for all types of cargo that are smaller than what you would need a lumber tarp for. Steel tarps do not have a flaps/drops, they are rectangular in shape and it is advised to use corner protection for cargo that may have sharp corners because it is more likely to rip than a lumber tarp.

There are two types of steel tarps that are offered in our online store and which are standard size:

In conclusion, lumber and steel tarps share similar characteristics in that they are both heavy-duty, 100% waterproof tarps, made out of 18oz material and long-lasting tarps. When tarping comes into mind these two are the preferred choice. So whether you need to tarp a big or small load and comply with your state regulations; these come in handy. Hopefully this post shed more light in understanding what is best for you, the regulation and background of why tarps are important and the features of each tarp.

If you have any other questions please feel free to contact us at our toll-free number (866) 973 7185 or send us an email to You can reach us from Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST


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