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Choosing Straps, Tie Downs, and Bungees

A key part of cargo management, whether it’s for business or for personal property, is securing everything in place for transport. Sounds simple enough, but everyone has seen—on countless occasions—all sorts of personal effects strewn along the highway. Mattresses, plywood, bicycles, suitcases, and so on. You might even have your own embarrassing experience of something flying off the roof of your car or out of the bed of your pickup truck. Maybe that’s why you’re here!

... Nobody wants to be this person!

Even if you’re moving cargo within a closed panel truck where nothing can escape the vehicle, poorly secured items within the truck can easily rock, shift, or tip over, causing all kinds of damage. So, if you are here because you’re planning a DIY move with a rented truck, you’re in the right place.

Nearly all these mishaps are caused by using the wrong products to secure cargo or using those products incorrectly. Let’s look at the available products and their best uses.

Bungee Straps and Cords

Bungee straps and cords (the terms are used interchangeably) are designed to absorb shock and are great for holding down a tarp or securing the cover on a cooler. They can also be used to stabilize items that may tend to rock or sway, but they typically should not be the primary means of securing cargo for transport. As such, they are not rated for load bearing (see Tie Downs below). They are usually made of rubber or a rubber-like synthetic material with similar flexible properties.

... Bungees are versatile cargo handling accessories.

A key property of bungees is that they stretch, sometimes doubling their unstretched length. That stretchiness is both a benefit and a weakness. On the positive side, they are super easy to use because you just attach one end then stretch it to the other end. There are no buckles or ratchets to fiddle with. Depending on what you use them for, you may need to have a variety of sizes available. Negatively, bungees always allow a lot of wiggle room so items can move even when they feel secure. Plus, bungees that remain stretched for long periods begin to weaken, sometimes tearing in the process.

Again, bungees are not meant for safely securing loads and must be used for the limited purposes they are designed for. Think of them as cargo moving accessories and not as primary tools.

Tie Downs

... Tie downs are a key tool for securing cargo during transport.

Tie downs are designed to secure items during shipment or movement. Tie down straps are usually made of high-strength webbing material that does not stretch. The straps are graded by two key specifications: Breaking Strength and Working Load Limit (WLL).

Breaking Strength is the amount of pulling or tensile force that will break the strap. Obviously, you want to avoid subjecting a strap to the amount of force that will break it (or get anywhere near that level of stress) so the WLL is the more important specification, because it indicates the maximum weight load you should subject it to. For example, a strap with a WLL of 1,000 lbs has a breaking strength of about 3,000 lbs. By using that strap only to secure loads of 1,000 lbs or less, there is a healthy safety margin between the load force and the force at which the strap might fail. (Please make sure to carefully read the specifications for each individual product.)

Tie downs can be equipped with various buckles, ratchets, or hooks. Some tie downs are designed to be compatible with track systems found in trucks (E-tracks or X-tracks for example). If you will be using a particular type of system, look for compatible products. Rental trucks usually have more generic tie down points.

There is no precise way to choose a WLL because it’s not just a question of the weight of the items to be secured, but also of the forces they will be subjected to in a moving vehicle, so it’s best to err on the side of caution—if in doubt go heavy. Lighter capacity straps often have a WLL of about 500 pounds. Straps for big jobs often have a WLL of 3,000 pounds or more. Intermediate straps typically fall somewhere in between (1-2,000 lbs).

After use, it’s an excellent idea to roll up each tie down neatly and secure it with a rubber band or hook-and-loop closure. A pile of long tie downs can quickly become a rat’s nest of tangled cords, hooks, and buckles. Unraveling a mess like that is not the way you want to start your next moving project!

... Take the time to roll up and secure tie downs after use.

Plan for Success!

Planning is the key to any successful moving job. Do your research and, whether you rent or buy make sure you have all the right tools onhand. The gear you need for moving will come in handy for years to come and you'll never be sorry to have it. Sign up here, and we'll let you know when we have new offerings!

Last updated: 6/21/2022

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