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The Complete Guide to Tie Down Straps

By: Dawnerz

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Time to read 16 min

Are you exhausted from the constant worry and doubt that accompanies the process of securing your cargo for transportation? Are you constantly seeking answers to questions about the most effective methods, materials, and regulations for tie downs? Well, your search ends here!


In this all-inclusive guide, we will address every single inquiry you may have regarding cargo tie downs, ranging from understanding their purpose to ensuring compliance with safety regulations. Whether you are an experienced professional or a newcomer to the world of cargo handling, this guide will provide you with the necessary knowledge to make well-informed decisions and guarantee the safety and security of your cargo during transportation.

What Is a Cargo Tie Down and How Does It Work?

A tie down strap, also referred to as a ratchet strap, lashing strap, or simply a tie down, serves as a secure fastener utilized to secure cargo or equipment in place while being transported. These straps are essentially made of webbing material and come equipped with tie down hardware that enables them to be attached to the cargo or equipment, looped over them, or secured around them. 


Additionally, they typically feature a mechanism for tightening the strap, such as a ratchet.


These straps are commonly used in a variety of industries, including transportation, construction, and agriculture, to secure items such as furniture, machinery, vehicles, and building materials.

What Are the Most Common Uses of Tie Downs?

Ratchet straps and cargo tie downs are primarily used to secure cargo during loading, moving, and unloading operations. They are widely employed for various purposes, such as transporting large items like TVs in pickup trucks or securing multiple household appliances in the back of a van. These cargo straps offer the fastest and safest means of securing loads. 


Extensive research and testing conducted by the Department of Transportation have established ratchet straps as the optimal method for ensuring the safe transportation of cargo.


In addition to their common use, ratchet straps and cargo tie downs find popularity in several other scenarios. They are frequently utilized for

Securing Cargo In Pickup Truck Beds

Commercial Trucking

Professional Moving Services

ATV Transportation

Motorcycle Trailer Hauling

Car Transportation

Bicycle Tie-Downs

What Different Types of Tie Downs Are Available?



Ratchet Straps


Ratchet Tie Down Straps, also known as Ratchet Straps, are widely utilized in both novice and expert shipping sectors. 


These straps feature a "Ratchet" Hardware which enables easy tightening in a single direction to achieve the desired level of tightness. 


This efficient mechanism makes the process of securing your cargo quick and hassle-free.

Orange Ratchet Strap




Cam Buckle Straps


Cam Buckle Tie Down Straps are widely utilized in the tie-down strap industry by professional movers due to their user-friendly nature and ability to prevent the over-tightening of cargo. 


Over-tightening cargo can result in damage to customers' personal belongings that may be irreplaceable.

Blue Cam Buckle Tie Down

E Track Straps


E Track Tie Down Straps are highly sought-after tie-down straps specifically designed to be compatible with E Track Rails. These rails can be easily mounted inside trailers, either on the walls or flooring, to establish securement points in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, depending on the specific requirements of the application.


Once the E Track Rails have been securely installed, the E Track Straps can be effortlessly attached, providing a multitude of securement points that offer unparalleled versatility. 


This system also allows for the use of various E Track Fittings, Tie Down Hardware, E Track Ratchet Straps, and E Track Cam Buckle Tie Down Straps, catering to a wide range of needs and preferences.

Yellow E-Track Tie Down

Axle Straps


Axle straps have a distinctive design that allows them to effectively secure vehicles by fastening them to either the front or rear axles. 


These straps are available in various lengths and can be used with almost any type of vehicle. By attaching to the axles, axle straps create a secure point at one of the sturdiest areas of the vehicle. 


Equipped with hooks and mounting rings, they can be utilized in conjunction with tools like E-track rails to ensure that your vehicle remains stable and doesn't shift, roll, or become loose during transportation. 


Additionally, they can be tightened using ratchets by connecting to snap hooks.

Black Axle Tie Down Strap

How To Select the Right End Fittings for Your Tie Downs?

Fortunately, there are some shortcuts to figuring out exactly what end-fittings will work best for the jobs you have.


In this guide, we’ll take a look at the most popular end fittings, explore their key features and drawbacks, and figure out what types of jobs they’re right for. Let’s jump in!

Flat Hooks


Flat hooks are popular and versatile end-fittings for ratchet straps and winch straps. They are made of steel to handle heavy loads and are protected from rust and scratches with gold chromate plating or black powder coating. 


Flat hooks are compatible with most trailers, as they can be anchored to the side rail of a flatbed trailer and work with e-track systems in semi-trailers. 


They can also be used with an L-Track anchor system when paired with a flat-hook receiver.

Flat Hook Tie Down


Wire Hook


Wire hooks are unique fittings with a curved shape, also known as "double-j" hooks. They are narrower than flat hooks, making them ideal for securing straps in tight spaces or hard-to-reach areas on your rub rail. 


However, it's important to note that wire hooks have a lower working load limit compared to flat hooks. 


Therefore, it's crucial to consider the weight of your load and comply with Department of Transportation regulations.

Wire Hook Tie Down



D-Rings


D-Rings are a specific type of delta rings, which are widely recognized within this category. 


Delta rings are constructed from closed steel structures and are commonly attached to chains, winch straps, or ratchet straps. 


These rings are designed to effectively distribute tension by leveraging their geometric shape. D-rings are ideal for securing straps to hooks or pegs, as they are compatible with various anchor points.

D-Ring Tie Down

S-Hooks


S-hooks possess a basic and uncomplicated structure, making them highly sought after as end-fittings for securing tarps using bungees, tie-down cords, and wire rope. 


These hooks, made of steel, exhibit a simple S-shape that can be easily adjusted to accommodate anchor points of varying widths or bent to connect with anchor points at different angles, providing a practical advantage. 


Although S-hooks may be less sturdy compared to flat hooks, this characteristic is generally not an issue as they are primarily utilized as end-fittings for tie-down purposes rather than as end pieces for cargo control straps.

S Hook Tie Down


R-T-J Hooks


RTJ hooks are typically not utilized in cargo transportation. These hooks are specifically beneficial for tow truck operators or individuals requiring vehicle recovery services. 


These hooks were engineered by auto manufacturers to securely attach to anchor points on various car frames. R-hooks are suitable for Ford vehicles, T-hooks are intended for GM and Chrysler vehicles, and J-hooks can effectively secure and tow most Japanese and European-made vehicles. 


A cluster of RTJ hooks serves as a practical end-fitting for a tow chain, ensuring readiness to recover any type of vehicle.

RTJ Hook Tie Down


Snap Hooks


Snap hooks enhance security during transportation by providing a secure latch with their durable steel hooks and spring mechanism. 


They form a solid shape similar to a delta ring when closed, reducing the risk of straps or tie-downs coming loose on rough terrain. Twisted snap hooks, also known as swivel snap hooks, prevent unintentional twisting of straps. 


These versatile end-fittings can be used with different anchor points, such as tie-down plates for wheel nets. When choosing a snap hook, ensure it is the right size for your anchor point.

Snap Hook Tie Down


Chain Anchors


Chain anchors consist of hook-and-chain end-fittings that are attached to a fabric strap. These robust steel end-fittings can enhance the strength of your strap. 


Moreover, they offer less flexibility compared to using straps alone. In situations where your cargo requires heavy-duty securement provided by a chain, yet also needs the gentle touch of a polyester webbing strap, a chain anchor proves to be beneficial. 


Typically, chain anchors come equipped with steel grab hooks as the primary end-fitting.

Chain Anchor Tie Down

How To Choose the Best Material for Tie Downs?

Polyester tie-down webbing has emerged as a highly favored choice for cargo securement in the moving and professional shipping industries. Its popularity stems from its exceptional strength, durability, and minimal stretching compared to other types of webbing like nylon.


When transporting cargo or valuable possessions, it is crucial to ensure that the cargo remains securely fastened. Any damage to the cargo not only leads to a negative customer experience but also results in significant expenses in terms of insurance claims and loss of revenue from repeat customers. According to the National Cargo Security Council (NCSC), the professional shipping industry incurs an annual cost of over 50 billion dollars due to cargo damage. This can subsequently lead to higher shipping prices for customers in the future and the potential loss of returning customers based on previous negative experiences.


Using polyester tie-down webbing offers several additional advantages. It exhibits exceptional durability even when exposed to various elements such as direct sunlight, UV rays, extreme heat, rain, hail, snow, dust, or strong winds. Mold and mildew pose significant threats to tie-down webbing, but by utilizing polyester tie-down webbing, you can mitigate some of the potential damage. This is because polyester webbing absorbs only minimal amounts of water, thereby safeguarding the long-term strength of your tie-down straps.

What Type of Tie Down Material Is Best for Heavy-Duty Applications?

Heavy Duty Tie Down webbing distinguishes itself from standard polyester tie-down webbing due to its significantly higher working load limit and durability, as well as its heavier construction. In most cases, tie-down straps fail due to the webbing rather than the hardware itself. Therefore, if you frequently ship items or work with products that have sharp edges, it would be wise to invest a few extra dollars in ensuring that your straps are exceptionally durable over time.





Industrial grade polyester webbing


It is important to keep in mind that when purchasing heavy duty tie down webbing, the strength of the tie-down straps is only as good as the weakest link on the strap. 


Therefore, even if you have highly rated webbing, without proper hardware to support it, your intended outcome may not be achieved.

Heavy Duty Rachet Strap - Polyester

What Preventive Measures Can You Take to Protect Tie Downs?

There are multiple methods to safeguard your synthetic cargo tie downs. Let's briefly examine the four prevailing options at hand.

Protective Sleeves

Protective Sleeves offer a practical way to prolong the lifespan of your ratchet tie-downs by preventing webbing damage on sharp edges. By adding a layer of protection, these sleeves enhance the durability of your tie-down straps.

Plastic Corner Protectors

Plastic corner protectors, also known as V boards, possess flexibility, lightness, stackability, and resistance to weather conditions. Our inventory consists of a variety of plastic corner protectors, such as those designed for bricks, flexible tarp corners, and elongated edge protectors suitable for sizable drywall and plywood sheets.

Steel Corner Protectors

Steel corner protectors are highly suitable for demanding applications that involve the use of transport chains and for handling larger and heavier cargo such as coils. The robust galvanized steel construction ensures protection against premature rusting, thereby ensuring the longevity of these metal edge protectors. Additionally, we offer steel corner protectors equipped with a rubber lining for added protection.

Felt Corner Protectors

Felt corner protectors exhibit exceptional durability and resistance to tearing, making them an ideal choice for safeguarding delicate cargo and securing tie down straps. Crafted from high-quality industrial grade felt material, these protectors are widely employed as lifting sling pads, coil padding, and for providing edge protection.

Tie Down Plastic Edge Protector

How To Inspect Tie Downs for Wear and Tear?

In addition to holes, tears, and knots, it is important to check for other signs of wear that may not be immediately obvious. These include:

Broken Stitching In The Stitch Patterns,

Weld Splatter Or Areas Of Melting Or Charring

Damage Caused By UV Rays

Small Particles Embedded In The Webbing

Burnt Areas From Acid, Alkali, Or Other Chemicals,

Cracks, Pits, Or Corrosion On Ratchets, Cam Buckles, Hooks, And Other Fittings

Unusual Wear Patterns Of Webbing At The Point Of Contact With The Fitting

If there is any doubt, referring to The Web Sling and Tie Down Association (WSTDA) publication Recommended Standard Specification for Synthetic Web Tie Downs can provide valuable maintenance guidelines.

Tie Down Inspection Criteria

How To Care for and Maintain Tie Downs Properly?

After an extended trip, your tie-downs might gather dirt, grime, or other particles. Regularly cleaning them not only preserves their look but also extends their durability. To clean the straps, utilize a gentle soap solution and a soft cloth. Refrain from using strong chemicals or rough materials that may harm the webbing. Gently blot the damp strap with the cloth, let it air dry, and then retract it for storage.

Damage Inspection

It is essential to conduct routine inspections to detect any indications of wear or damage at an early stage. Before every use, inspect the webbing for any fraying, cuts, or other noticeable signs of deterioration. Ensure to check the ratchet mechanism for any defects or loose parts. In case of any problems, replace the damaged components or the entire strap, if needed, to uphold the integrity of the system.

Lubricate The Ratchet Mechanism.

Proper lubrication is crucial for maintaining the retraction mechanism of your retractable ratchet straps in top condition. Utilize a silicone-based lubricant made for gear mechanisms, which can be purchased at a nearby hardware store. Apply the lubricant in small amounts over time to the ratchet gears to guarantee seamless functionality. Remember, a small quantity is sufficient, so avoid excessive application.

Correct Storage

Properly storing your tie-downs is essential for preserving their durability and effectiveness. Here are three key factors to consider when storing them:


Yellow Ratchet Strap Display

Moisture prevention : Moisture can significantly reduce the lifespan of your ratchet straps. A humid environment can promote mold growth, which weakens the webbing and ultimately destroys it. To prevent this, ensure that your storage area is dry and free from excessive humidity. If you anticipate heavy rain or live in a humid climate, you may want to use moisture-absorbing products or desiccant packs in your storage space to maintain ideal conditions.


Protection from heat: Heat sources can also pose a threat to your tie-downs. Direct exposure to sunlight, contact with fire, or proximity to other heat-emitting objects can gradually weaken the webbing. If you are storing your tie-downs in a vehicle, avoid placing them near heat vents or engines. By shielding your ratchet straps from excessive heat, you can preserve their strength and integrity.


Avoid friction: It is crucial to prevent your ratchet straps from rubbing against sharp edges or other objects during storage or transport. Friction can weaken the polyester webbing, leading to potential damage and compromised strength. Take care when positioning and securing your straps to avoid unnecessary contact with abrasive surfaces. If you notice any signs of wear or visible defects caused by friction, it is advisable to replace the affected tie-downs to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Avoid Overloading.

It is crucial to avoid overloading retractable tie-downs, even though they are built to endure heavy loads. Overburdening the straps can result in premature wear and the possibility of them failing. To ensure safety, utilize ratchet straps with appropriate breaking strength and working load limit.


Adhere to the load capacity recommended by the manufacturer and securely fasten the cargo to evenly distribute the weight. Always remember that a properly secured load guarantees safety.

Tie Down Working Load Limits

What is the Working Load Limit (WLL) of a Tie Down?

The maximum load that can be applied to a component of a cargo securement system during normal service is typically determined by the manufacturer.

Working Load Limit For Tie Downs.

The comparison between a Tie Down's Working Load Limit and its Break Strength is crucial when determining how much weight a tie-down can safely carry. The Working Load Limit (WLL) is typically calculated as one-third of the break strength. For instance, if a tie-down has a break strength of 20,000lbs, its WLL would be approximately 6,660lbs.


Working Load Limit (WLL) is the maximum weight that a tie-down should bear, considering factors such as the vehicle's movement, sharp turns, bumpy surfaces, and emergency stops. It is essential to adhere to FMSCA safety regulations and not mistake the break strength as the actual weight limit of the tie-down.


Break Strength refers to the amount of weight required to break a tie-down without any additional force, like during emergency stops at high speeds. Each component of a cargo securement system has its designated break strength, and the WLL is determined by the lowest of these values.


For example, if the anchor point on a vehicle has a break strength of 10,000lbs, the strapping used as a tie-down has a break strength of 6,000lbs, and the hook connecting the strap to the vehicle has a break strength of 1,500lbs, the WLL would be calculated based on the lowest break strength, which is 1,500lbs in this case.


This is why chains are often preferred over webbing systems, as they have higher break strength and can connect directly to the vehicle's anchor points, simplifying the calculation of the WLL.

How To Decide How Many Tie Downs You Need for Your Load

The number of tie-downs required for transporting goods varies depending on how the vehicle is loaded. In addition to following safety regulations, it is important to use common sense to ensure that the equipment remains secure during transportation. If there is a risk of slippage, additional chains or straps may be necessary. The FMCSA has specific rules that drivers must adhere to when loading equipment or goods onto a vehicle. Certain types of cargo, like motor carriers, are subject to special regulations tailored to their specific transport needs.

FMCSA Logo
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association

Articles Requiring 1 Strap


In order for only one tie-down to be needed:


• The length of the article should not exceed 5ft.

• The total weight of the article should not exceed 1,100lbs.


A prime example of this would be a refrigerator or a washing machine. These items could be safely secured on a light vehicle using a cam-buckle strap, as long as its Working Load Limit (WWL) was higher than the weight of the item.

Articles Requiring 2 Straps


According to federal regulations, two tie-downs are required if:


• The length of the item falls between 5ft and 10ft.

• The weight exceeds 1,100lbs.


It is important to note that an item weighing over 1,100lbs but less than 5ft in length would still need two tie-downs. Similarly, a 9ft item weighing only 50lbs would also require two straps. Both conditions must be met in order to use just one tie-down.

Articles Requiring 3+ Straps


The rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specify that additional tie-downs must be utilized for every 10ft (or fraction thereof) that the article extends beyond the initial 10ft, which requires two tie-downs.


For instance, a 10′ 1″ item necessitates three tie-downs, while a 20′ 1″ item requires 4, and so on.


It is crucial to use more tie-downs, especially when transporting heavy equipment! Ensuring that the cargo does not shift sideways or backward off the vehicle is essential. 


Additionally, having a secure system in place to prevent the cargo from moving forward in the event of sudden braking is vital. This is to avoid damaging the front-end structure of the vehicle, which could jeopardize the safety of the driver and potentially lead to a fatal accident.

Laws and Regulations - In Summary

Its vital to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations governing the appropriate utilization of tie downs, as they have a significant impact on all the necessary actions you must undertake.


These guidelines encompass a wide range of aspects, including the types of tie downs permitted, the specific methods of securing objects, and the overall safety measures to be adhered to. By understanding and abiding by these regulations, individuals can ensure the proper and secure transportation of goods, thereby minimizing the risk of accidents or damage.


Conducting thorough research on the laws and regulations pertaining to tie downs is crucial, especially considering the fact that these regulations can vary from one state to another. 


Each state has its own set of guidelines that dictate the proper use of tie downs, taking into account factors such as the weight and size of the load, the type of vehicle being used, and the specific road conditions within the state. By being well-informed about the regulations in your particular state, you can ensure compliance with the law and avoid any potential legal consequences. 


Additionally, understanding the variations in tie down regulations between states allows individuals to adapt their practices accordingly when traveling across state lines, ensuring the safety and security of their cargo throughout their journey.

Lets Tie it Down

Our objective in this guide was to offer users sufficient information to enhance their comprehension of tie downs.


Nevertheless, it is impractical to delve into extremely detailed descriptions and provide every specific detail. We aimed to avoid overwhelming you right from the start.


In the upcoming weeks, we will be producing a series of articles on this subject. Each article will be highly informative and will focus on subtopics derived from the main article.



A Beginners Guide to Ratchet Straps


We have added an excellent video for your next stage of understanding ratchet straps. This video serves as an ideal introduction for those looking to learn about the proper use of tie downs. 


It is concise, direct, and will certainly offer you a solid foundation if you are unfamiliar with utilizing such cargo control systems.

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