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Keeping a lid on it

By Jan Westell VANCOUVER, B. C. - When a boulder toppled off a dump truck in urban Vancouver, B. C., and then smashed through the window of the car following behind, it was considered a freak accident...


FUNCTION AND STYLE: Today's tarps not only secure loads, they also look good in the process.
FUNCTION AND STYLE: Today's tarps not only secure loads, they also look good in the process.

By Jan Westell VANCOUVER, B. C. – When a boulder toppled off a dump truck in urban Vancouver, B. C., and then smashed through the window of the car following behind, it was considered a freak accident.

That was about seven years ago, when the victim had been out for a Saturday afternoon drive cruising along Southwest Marine Drive, one of Vancouver’s most picturesque and affluent neighbhouroods.

After being struck on the head with the rock, Ingrid Pipke’s car hit a power pole and then collided with another vehicle, (according to an online record of the event, supplied by CanWest news service). The 48-year old woman later died from her injuries after being taken to hospital.

The tragedy caught the attention of many critics of unruly commercial vehicle operators, especially those who inadequately secured unsafe loads. However, a communications representative for the B. C. Ministry of Transportation says that all loads must be secure, even before the 2001 accident.

“The regulations have always been, that no loads can be insecure,” says Tamara Little. “For a load of gravel, for example, if the load has the potential to blow out, it must be tarped. If the rocks are loaded such that they can fall off, then the vehicle was improperly loaded and didn’t meet regulations.”

Following the accident, Vancouver police hired a forensic geologist to track down the origins of the two-kilogram boulder, and potentially, the driver responsible for the unsafe load.

While investigators may have located the construction site, the driver’s identity was undetermined.

However, since that tragedy, regulations have been enforced on a greater basis, and tarps on B. C. dump trucks are now a common site.

In Ontario, the regulations for securing truck loads are stringent, intended to not only prevent tragedies like the one in B. C., but also to prevent vehicle damage, such as window chipping and other mishaps, that can be caused from loose material like gravel. As a result, tarps are required for more and more types of loads, according to the owner of Trison Tarps of Brantford, Ont., including sod, scrap metal, or anything on a flatdeck, or dump trailer; even with smaller truck loads.

“More people are required to tarp their loads, than ever before,” says Paul Vandenberg who adds that heavier materials, like brick, require greater reinforcement with not only tarps but heavyduty strapping for safety and security purposes, to comply with stiff transportation regulations.

“The transportation industry is probably the heaviest regulated industry in North America, partly due to the reason that everything you use, comes by truck,” adds Vandenberg. “It’s huge.”

The tarp manufacturing business is becoming more complex. Automated tarp systems have been developed, which allow drivers to cover their freight without the laborious task of climbing on top, pulling on tarps, and tying down straps.

“They can tarp the load, with- out getting on top of the trailer,” says Vandenberg, who adds that, in most cases, many of the tarping systems can be accessed, adjusted, and fastened, from the cab.

“We are not just manufacturing tarps,” he adds. “We are getting into electric arms and motors for grain hauling trailers and dump haulers.”

It’s not a regulation, but a timesaving and safety issue that is attracting customers to Verduyn Tarps of Hamilton, which recently opened a second outlet in Detroit, Mich. The company’s best-selling product is a sliding tarp system, which owner Lloyd Verduyn says is popular on both sides of the border.

“The average trucker is aging, and the Eagle Slider Tarp System is allowing them to stay in the business longer, since they no longer have to use old heavy ground tarps,” he explains.

Verduyn considers that exemplary service is also attracting customers on both sides of the border, although he continues to adapt to service challenges with his newer US shop, which has its own idiosyncratic requirements.

“It’s totally different,” says Verduyn of the US trucking industry, where he says owner/operators like to make a personal statement about their rigs, that is not related to security, with typically more lights, more chrome and even exclusive tarp straps.

“We just have to adjust,” says Verduyn, who takes the cross-border service adjustment, in stride. “We go with the flow,” he adds.

Tarps used by the trucking industry are exposed to the vagaries of extreme weather, which means most of the durable covers are likely to need repair – eventually. Cambridge Canvas Centre provides custom fabricating tarpaulin products to the transportation, industrial, recreational and sign supply sectors, but like Trison and Verduyn Tarps, a prominent part of the business, is an efficient repair centre.

The Cambridge, Ont. repair centre has been specifically designed for the trucking industry, with four large drive-through bays that can contain tractor and trailer hook-ups.

The repair centre operates on a 24-hour basis, which is intended to minimize downtime, and maximize efficiency, to get the drivers back on the road with all tarps intact, in a secure, and safe fashion.


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