Strapped: Tying down loads requires care, planning

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal Making sure the strong points of the strap handle the most taxing part of the work is a key step for safety.

Kevin Tate | Daily Journal
Making sure the strong points of the strap handle the most taxing part of the work is a key step for safety.

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

When it comes to securing the cargo you plan to haul, not all straps are created equal, and neither are methods for attaching them.

Sonny Jamison, of Adventure ATV in West Point, says using sufficiently strong straps and connecting them in the right places makes all the difference in the world, but checking from time to time to ensure what you’re hauling is still tied down trumps everything.

“With ATVs, these things have suspensions under them that move when the trailer moves,” he said. “They’ll work around and get loose. You need to stop and check the straps every hundred miles at least.”

Choosing where to attach the straps is very important as well.

“On ATVs, you need to make sure you’re attaching the hooks to the ATV frame underneath, not to the racks on top,” he said. “The racks aren’t designed for that. Tying them down that way will stress the racks. So will using the winch on the front of the ATV to hold it to the front of the trailer. The winch isn’t designed for that. That way is quick and easy, but it’s not secure. It’s hard on the winch spool.”

Best methods, he said, call for attaching four straps to any ATV or side-by-side that’s being hauled, two in front and two in the back, connecting the tie points of the trailer to the frame of the rig being hauled in each case.

Quality straps are a must for hauling an ATV on any trailer, Jamison says, even trailers with full tailgates.

“The tailgate is designed to be a ramp and nothing else,” he said. “It’s certainly not meant to keep your ATV on board.”

When you’re attaching ratchet straps, whether to an ATV or to any other heavy load, it’s important to use the straps’ strengths in your favor and minimize their weaknesses.

Be aware of any sharp corners that could wear and break the strap, attach the hooks to points designed to hold them rather than looping them back onto the strap itself, and take care to use straps built strong enough for the job. A pull strap sufficient to keep things from blowing out of the back of a truck may well be insufficient to hold an ATV in place for very long.

Every time you attach or remove a strap, check it over for wear. Even good gear doesn’t last forever.

Trailers designed to haul ATVs and other heavy gear work best when their weight is balanced somewhat forward of their axel Jamison said.

“You want the trailer to have some tongue weight,” he said. “You want to see the rear end of the truck that’s pulling it sit down a little bit. Loaded that way, the trailer will trail a whole lot better.”