Maintaining ratchet straps – practical guidance

Ratchet straps are a vital part of keeping cargo safe but it's easy to overlook the maintenance of them, which could lead to them failing or needing to be replaced more often

In 2019, more than 5,500 incidents were caused by ratchet strap debris on the UK’s roads, according to data from Highways England. In addition, between April 2013 and May 2020 there were some 33,000 reports of ratchet straps causing debris on UK roads.

This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. To read the full issue, click here.

While ratchet strap debris on the road can be dangerous, it’s perhaps not ths largest concern. If they fail in transit, it also can threaten the safety of the driver and other road users if it causes a load to become unsecured, says Tom Napthine, product development manager at CargoStop.

“Any kind of damage to a strap can affect its working load limit and breaking strength, putting both equipment and individuals at risk, so we recommend replacing straps with signs of wear and damage immediately,” he says,

This demonstrates the importance of maintaining ratchet straps properly to take every precaution to ensure failures do not happen. It also makes financial sense – with margins being squeezed in road transport, operators can ill afford to be replacing equipment such as ratchet straps more regularly than they could be. While any equipment can fail, there are practical steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of it happening.

Prolonging life

“Where possible, care should be taken to prevent straps getting wet,” says Napthine. “Of course, there are times when loads have to be transported in wet weather and we apply a PVA coating to our heavy-duty straps which helps to stiffen the webbing and resist water absorption.”

If straps do get wet and don’t have a protective coating on, then it is recommended that they are thoroughly dried out before being stored to prevent mildew growing on them. 

Napthine adds that friction from the strap rubbing against sharp edges or other objects during use causing wear or damage should also be avoided.

Another way to prevent damage to your straps is to stow them away neatly when not in use, after hosing them down with clean water to remove any dirt and then hanging them up to dry, says Napthine. “These actions will help to ensure the webbing remains clean, dry and safe from accidental damage,” he adds. “The longevity of the webbing can also be increased by using things like wear sleeves and edge protectors to reduce friction and protect against sharp edges.”

When not in use, straps should be rolled up and placed in storage secured with a rubber band or zip tie, which will help to prolong their life, and, ideally, stored in a carrying bag. There are also products available to wind straps up, so they are ready for storage and to prevent multiple straps from getting tangled together. Additionally, there are also various storage solutions available that can be lashed down to a truck while it’s in transit to keep them safe.

Ratchet straps should be stored out of direct sunlight. Over time, ultra-violet light can make the nylon and polyester fibres they are made from brittle, which can cause them to discolour, break down, and potentially lose strength, according to Ratchet Straps UK.

It is also important to maintain the moving parts of ratchet straps, Napthine adds. “Steel sprockets and other moving parts will benefit from an occasional application of WD40 or other lubrication,” he says. “This will help to maintain a smooth ratchet action and act as a rust inhibitor.”

CargoStop produces a range of heavy-duty ratchet straps that fully conform to or exceed the requirements of the BS-EN12195-2:2001 standard in all areas. They include double sprockets, which make for a solid, more durable ratchet with a smoother action and an EN Stitch pattern – side-to-side stitching resists stitch failure which can lead to frayed webbing. They also include textured tear resistant vinyl labels, which keep the strap compliant with regulations at all times.

Driver responsibility

It should be remembered that operators and drivers are responsible for securing a load and should be aware of what to look for. “Companies should replace all straps regularly and provide training to all drivers on strap maintenance in some form,” says Napthine. “Vehicles should ideally be fitted with a safe storage area for straps and other load restraint equipment.”

Napthine adds that CargoStop recommend that every time a ratchet strap is used it should be inspected for damage. “Straps must be discarded if they show signs of tearing, cuts or abrasions,” he says.

“A ratchet strap where the webbing is knotted, or the strap has been cut or broken and then tied back together should also be disposed of as this will seriously affect the strength of the webbing. The blue labels sewn into both the ratchet and tail ends of the strap must be intact and legible for the strap to legally comply with the EN 12195-2:2001 legislation.”

Examples of ratchet strap damage

This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. To read the full issue, click here.

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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