Dump truck and trailer cycle times, downtime and repair costs can escalate as you try to save a few dollars on tarp systems. There are also safety concerns with some of the less expensive hand tarps and manual systems. You don't want people crawling around the trucks. It is much safer to be able to tarp the load from ground level.
Purchase price is only part of the equation when selecting a tarp system. "The thing we see most often that lends itself to the contractor having problems is they opt for an inexpensive or price-based system," says Glenn Ray, vice president sales/market development, Pulltarps Mfg. "In the long run, it doesn't last."
For example, consider what typically happens when tarp laws become enforced in a certain region. "The operators go out and buy the cheapest thing they can get their hands on," says Ray. "In six months or a year, when it falls apart, they have resigned themselves to the fact that they are going to have to tarp. In the long run, you save money by buying good equipment. They are willing to make the investment at that point."
A range of choices/costs
The weakest link usually creates the most problems. "When you look at a dump truck or a dump trailer, the tarp system is probably the most fragile item that is on that body, other than a headlight or a windshield," says Ray.
But not all tarp systems are equal in terms of durability. "There are a variety of automated tarping systems that can range from $300 all of the way up to $3,000 for dump trucks," says Lenny Brescia, executive vice president and co-owner, Pioneer Cover-all. " An owner/operator has to consider the specific application to determine the specifications required of the system. There is a tarping system for every application."
The combination of tarping systems available is quite extensive. There are arm systems, pull-out systems, roll tarp systems and cable systems in manual or automatic configurations with several different power source options, including electric, hydraulic or air.
Cost depends on several variables. "The cable-type systems and arm-type systems are going to be pretty close to the same price," says Ray. "There are a lot of variations on that as far as the different options you can get with either system. A manual pull arm system or a pull-arm system is probably going to be 20% to 30% less than the electric arm. A plain manual pull-out system is going to be about 40% less than an electric arm."
The material to be hauled often determines which system will be most effective. "If you have heaped loads; haul construction debris or irregular material; have bodies that are real high, like belly dumps — then an arm system or a flip-type system is good for a lot of those applications," says Ray. "If you used a pull-out-style tarp or a cable style, the fabric is being drawn across the material and it could get torn. A flip or arm system lays the fabric down on top of what you are handling.
"But if you are just hauling dirt, soil or asphalt, as long as you are confident that nothing is real jagged, a pull-out system works well for shorter bodies and a cable system or electric arm system would be best for longer applications," he adds.
Ups and downs
of cable systems
Belly dump trailers and long-end dump trailers are great applications for cable systems. "The system collapses in an accordion style to the front or to the rear, allowing for a fully open container to be loaded," says Bob Nolan, sales, Shur-Co. "There are no bows or obstructions in the way to create the possibility of damage."
Depending upon the body design, they are also a good choice for some dump trucks. However, this is not the case for dump bodies with high bulkheads. "If you have a dump truck that has a high bulkhead, there is no way to get the tarp system out of the way of the loader," says Ray