6 Tips to Make Hauling Materials in a Pick-Up Truck Easier and Safer

Updated: Oct. 30, 2023

Learn the art of hauling lumber and other building materials safely, even in a short-bed pickup truck. With proper loading, you can eliminate loss or breakage - as well as the chance of accidents.

man strapping in long pieces of lumber into a pick up truckTMB STUDIO

Safety First

Poorly secured loads are responsible for more than 25,000 crashes and approximately 90 fatalities annually, according to AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. And on top of that, there are all those nonfatal injuries to drivers behind you and damage to their vehicles. Guess who’s responsible if something falls off your truck and injures somebody? Yup, you.

We checked with experts to find the best ways to secure loads on a pickup. We loaded our’s with common DIY materials to show you how to properly secure them. You may think our tie-down methods are over the top, but securing a load to your vehicle isn’t just about making sure it all gets home. It’s about getting it all home without harming anybody.

You can use these methods when you’re moving furniture and other household goods too. They’re just as likely to fly off your vehicle and cause injury, and you’ll be just as liable.

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hand securing Ratchet Straps on large wooden load
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Get the Right Equipment

Rule No. 1 in safely securing your load is to buy a set (four minimum) of heavy-duty 15-ft. ratchet straps (minimum 1,000-lb. load limit/3,000-lb. break strength). Sure, rope and bungee cords work fine if you drive slow and don’t hit any bumps or get into an accident. But in the real world, you have to be prepared to swerve or come to an emergency stop, without ejecting your cargo. That’s precisely when rope, bungees and twine fail.

Stay away from wimpy straps. Buy heavy-duty ratchet straps (1-1/4 in. or wider) and store them in a box in your cab to protect them from moisture and sunlight.

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wrapping wood for protection when transporting in back of pick up truck
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Protect Against Breakage

Just about every home improvement job involves hauling 10-ft. lengths of some type of flimsy material. But things like drip edges, flashing, plastic conduit or siding will all flop around and get damaged on the way home. So while you’re at the store, buy a roll of stretch cling film. Wrap both ends. If lumber is part of the load, wrap the fragile bundle with it for added support.

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man strapping down lumber in pick up truck with yellow straps
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Stop Wood From Bouncing Out

If you’re hauling a large load of long lumber, don’t rest it on a raised gate—it just can’t handle that kind of weight. Start by laying out two or more ratchet straps along the bottom of the bed and load the longest and heaviest lumber over the straps. Then stack shorter lengths on top. Secure the cab end, the middle and the trailing end with the straps.

Next, anchor the bundle to the truck bed with two ratchet straps. Crisscross the ratchet straps across the load, attaching one end to the cab end anchor rings and the other end to the farthest bundle strap.

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cargo net on large load in back of red pick up truck
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Use a Cargo Net for Bulky Loads

There will come a day when you haul bundles of light materials like insulation. Don’t just throw it in the bed and hope it stays put. It needs to be secured too. The best way to do that is with a cargo net.

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securing wood in back of pick up truck with yellow straps
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Don’t Be Casual About Small Loads

Light loads can rest on the tailgate. But they still have to be secured. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ll stay put because the longest portion is inside the bed. Use ratchet straps on the bundle in two places and secure each end to the anchor rings on the bed.

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red flag large load pick up truck
Joe_Potato/getty images

Red-Flag It

After you’ve secured your load, make sure you attach a red flag on the end. It’s required by law. Most home centers provide them for free. Just make sure you staple the heck out of it to prevent it from ripping off while you’re tooling down the highway.