Whether it's gear within a pickup cab, things in a pickup's bed, or items in or on a trailer, it all needs to be secured. Why? Because Newton's First Law of Motion dictates that any cargo will stay in motion even if the vehicle suddenly decelerates. That's why the laws of this nation require that cargo is tied down.
It may seem like SUVs and vans would present less of a problem, since the cargo can't easily leave the confines of the vehicle whether tied down or not. But it's important to ensure things stay put when the unexpected happens. And in today's hectic high-tech environment, complete with distracted drivers who feel that their new airbag-laden, crumple-zoned machine will save them from bodily harm no matter what, it's more important than ever to expect the unexpected.
Whether it's better to be within the same structure as the cargo or to have it outside and behind you depends on the situation, and, of course, the type of cargo. A dozen small, stuffed animals in the back seat of your SUV could potentially kill you in a head-on collision, but not with the same certainty as having 12-inch diameter cast-iron pipes in the bed of a pickup.
An Almost Endless Variety
In a short story like this, there's no way to properly mention, much less cover, all the various straps, chains, anchor points, and methods to secure cargo, but there's one thing to keep in mind: The hardware should be rated for the task.
Consider a 40-pound ice chest in the back of an SUV. Here a 1000-pound-rated ratchet strap from the home improvement store should be more than enough for the job, right? In reality, that's very unlikely. For starters, those cheap ratchet straps are generally not as strong as advertised, but they are good for holding down tarps and for other non-critical jobs. Even with quality straps, it may take two of them to actually hold such an object securely in place in a collision. There's a lot more to securing cargo than you may realize.
Armed and Safe
Armed with quality straps and good anchors, it should be an easy operation to properly secure cargo in a pickup bed, or in or on a trailer. That may be so, depending on how and to what those anchors are attached. When reputable trailer manufacturers install 5000-pound-rated anchors in plywood, without backing plates or even large washers, that 5000-pound rating isn't worth the zinc-plated metal into which it's stamped. Do yourself a huge favor and check the anchors' attachment points, and what the anchors are mounted to, before trusting any tie-down points to anything of weight and/or value. There is always a weakest link, but it may not be the most obvious.
Maybe we tend to play it overly safe when it comes to securing cargo (as well as with some other objects that could kill us). If the law says to use two straps, we use four. If you also follow this policy, you greatly increase safety, and it'll be a lot harder to lose any cargo off a trailer or have anything disappear from a pickup bed.
Chances are that, someday, somewhere, we'll find out just how good (or bad) our straps, anchors, and tie-down methods really are. Be it due to a drunk driver, a deer, or merely a visit to the ditch caused by our own stupidity, wrecks do happen. The best thing you can do is be prepared for them.
The kinds of tie-downs and anchor strengths needed depend on the size and weight of the load. This 72,000-pound locomotive is a prime example of where stout chains are better than the more forgiving and normally preferred ratchet straps. If locomotives, bridges, bulldozers, and such aren't what you normally haul, ratchet straps are probably a better choice.
This 135-pound box might seem secured, but there's only one hook with a safety clip (snap hook), and that's on the black strap. The red strap is weakened by abrasion, and the yellow one is the only one hooked to what the factory provided on this pickup. The other six much more useable anchor points are Mac's VersaTie Track and the safety chain loops for the B&W Turnover Ball hitch.
Single Stud Ring
This is a Single Stud Ring, used with Mac's VersaTie Track. In this case, it's a Truck Tracks kit, which gives 360-degree coverage in a pickup bed. Rated at 3000 pounds, these connectors can be placed at 1-inch intervals anywhere along the bed's sides. To install, push down on the spring-loaded center as shown, then set it in the track, move it half an inch to the side, and let go.
Double Stud Rings
For holding down heavier stuff on trailers and flatbeds, the Double Stud Rings have a 5000-pound rating, ideal for securing cars and such.
This may not look overly stout, but the half-inch D-ring is rated at 11,000 pounds minimum breaking strength and a 2750-pound working load limit. There is a substantial crossmember below the oak flooring, making the bolts the weak link here.
B: Its large size and the use of a near-mandatory backing plate inspire confidence, but the 6000-pound capacity and 2000-pound safe load limit say differently.
C: This very common anchor is rated at 5000 pounds, if it's installed in something substantial and with the optional backing plate. A pickup bed, especially a late model one, is not substantial.
D: A 5/8-inch D-ring is near the top of the food chain with a 6000-pound working load and rated at 18,000-pound capacity -- if it's welded to something meaningful and the welds are good.
E-track is very common, and there are a multitude of fittings available for it. The pictured E-track fitting has a 6000-pound breaking strength, most likely exceeding this track's attachment. As with any anchoring system, the E-track must be well-secured to be able to do its best.
Be they small or large, try using straps with a snap hook (clip) whenever possible. Should something slip or move, leaving slack in the strap, at least the hook will stay in place and the strap may still do some good.
Ultra Pack From Mac
Rather than trying to save a few dollars by using inferior straps from the local home improvement store, get proven quality straps. This Ultra Pack by Mac's Custom Tie Downs comes with 2x6-inch ratchet straps and 24-inch axle straps, all in a handy bag.