You can drive down any interstate in America and see flatbed trailers being used to carry all sorts of cargo. Moreover, truck drivers are known to use very creative solutions for securing their cargo. In light of that, there’s an ongoing debate among drivers over how to deal with rub rails. When you are using webbing straps to tie down cargo, should you route the straps inside the rub rails or outside?
For the uninitiated, a rub rail is an extra rail mounted to the side of a flatbed trailer intended to minimize damage should the trailer come in contact with another vehicle, a loading dock, a wall, etc. The rails are designed to offer protection to the trailer only. They are not structural elements that make a trailer stronger.
Getting back to the question at hand, it might seem that there would be just one way to route webbing straps. That is not the case, though. The question continues to be debated today thanks to an old law that has since been repealed. The law required webbing straps to be routed inside rub rails.
Protecting Straps against Abrasion
In its infinite wisdom, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a rule in 2002 requiring drivers to route webbing straps inside rub rails whenever it was practical. The rule was so beloved by regulators that it was adopted in Canada as well. However, it didn’t last long. Problematic enforcement caused the government to rescind the rule just three years after its implementation.
The point of the rule was to protect webbing straps against abrasion. The thinking was that allowing webbing straps on the outside of the rub rail could lead to accidents if contact caused a strap to break or fray. That thinking proved vain given the low likelihood of such contact on a regular basis.
Reasons to Route Inside
Repealing the rule put the decision back in the hands of truck drivers. Some drivers familiar with the rule insist on only routing their webbing straps on the inside. Younger drivers who have never heard of the rule may not necessarily have a problem with routing straps on the outside. But is doing so a good idea?
Mytee Products, an Ohio company that sells webbing straps and other cargo control supplies, suggests there are a couple of reasons to continue to practice the old rule even though it has been repealed:
- Damage Is Still Possible – While it was determined that the kind of contact the government was worried about is not very common, it still does occur. As such, webbing straps are subject to damage. The last thing a truck driver needs is a damaged strap breaking loose en route.
- Rub Rails Are Not Structural – As previously stated, rub rails are not structural elements. Therefore, running straps over the rails and then tightening them down could damage the rails themselves. Attaching straps directly to the rails is a bad idea, too. They are not strong enough to be used as anchor points.
Mytee Products recommends adhering to the old rule when possible. If webbing straps do not have to be routed on the outside of rub rails, they should not be. And under no circumstances should a rub rail be used as an anchor point. When straps do have to go outside rails, drivers should use extra caution.
Rub rails exist to protect the trailer in the event of contact with another object. They are in no way related to cargo control, and they should never be thought of in that context.