Rolling tarps retract either forward or aft to allow a flatbed to be loaded normally. Then, when rolled back and locked, the cargo is protected as though it were in a van. Photos: Tom Berg

Rolling tarps retract either forward or aft to allow a flatbed to be loaded normally. Then, when rolled back and locked, the cargo is protected as though it were in a van. Photos: Tom Berg

Quite a few years ago I was at the Mid-America Trucking Show, chatting with an owner-operator about the loads he carried on his flatbed trailer. Some of the loads required tarping, which is a lot of work, especially in foul weather.

“Why don’t you have a Conestoga or something like it?” I asked, referring to the semi-permanent rolling tarp systems displayed at the Louisville show every year.

“I’d buy one today if it weren’t for my best customer,” he answered. “They make metal fencing that ships in rolls. They lay crossways on the bed and hang over the edge, just above the rub rails. Those systems move on tracks that are on the edges of the platform. They wouldn’t work with that load.”

The o-o had his own operating authority and had lined up a group of customers who paid well and gave him steady loads. The fence manufacturer was one of them, so for him, a bare deck and manual tarping was the only way to go.

I thought of this guy while at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in September in Atlanta. Chameleon Innovations’ booth had a flatbed trailer equipped with one of the Canadian company’s rolling tarp systems. I stopped to take a look and saw that its tracks were just outside the platform. I’ll bet that might work with those rolls of fencing, I thought.

This Chameleon system, spotted at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, mounts outside the deck, making room for full-width loads.

This Chameleon system, spotted at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, mounts outside the deck, making room for full-width loads.  

The builder’s literature says the firm offers inside widths of up to 104.4 inches and heights of up to 144 inches, plus custom dimensions to suit a customer’s operations. If the flatbed must carry outsized loads, the rolling tarp can be slid off and onto a stand, so it can be left at home. Swivel casters allow that stand to be rolled around for storage.

Of course, the tarp allows the trailer to be loaded like any flatbed by folding forward or aft, then rolled back into place and tightly secured so it protects the load like a van.

Chameleon offers a stand to store a rolling tarp system, allowing the flatbed to carry an outsized load.

Chameleon offers a stand to store a rolling tarp system, allowing the flatbed to carry an outsized load.

Chameleon, based in Pointe-Clair, Quebec, offers many other features for its rolling tarps. Those include van-type rear doors and headboards with access doors, vents, lights, shelves, and aerodynamic improvers.

Custom colors and graphics for the PVC fabric are available from Chameleon and other makers of rolling tarp systems. Platform trailers equipped with these tarps are some of the most handsome on the highway, I think. And they eliminate manual tarping, saving time and work. If I were in the flatbedding business, I’d try to find a way to make a system work.

Author

Tom Berg
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

View Bio
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