DOT Tie-Down Regulations

Flatbed truck carrying lumber
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One of the Federal Department of Transportation's (DOT) roles is to oversee interstate shipping and trucking. In this role, it sets safety standards for commercial trucking to protect truck drivers as well as all others on the roadway, like motorists and pedestrians. Among these safety standards are requirements for loads on flatbed trucks that require tie-downs, including requirements for specific types of tie-downs to secure cargo. At weigh stations, inspectors perform tie-down checks in addition to cargo weight checks to ensure that drivers are meeting these standards.

Compliance with these regulations is necessary for truck drivers. If a driver is in violation of one or more of these requirements, his or her company can face a citation and face fines and other repercussions.

Tie-Down Strength

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that tie-downs be of sufficient strength to secure cargo. When using indirect tie-downs, or tie-downs secured on both ends to the trailer, the tie-down's working load limit must be half of the total weight of your cargo. When using direct tie-downs, which secure the cargo to the trailer, the strap's working load limit must be equal to the load you carry.

Tie-Down Specifications

All tie-downs must be free from knots, repaired in DOT-approved manner for the type of tie-down and protected from rubbing or abrasion through the use of edge protection. Each tie-down must be secured in a method that keeps it from coming undone or loosening while in transit. Tie-downs must be adjustable so drivers can tighten them if items settle in transit. Tie-downs can be made of steel, chain, webbing, wire rope or cord.

Minimum Number of Tie-Downs

The size and weight of your cargo determines how many tie-downs it requires. If your cargo is less than 5 feet long and weighs less than 1,100 pounds, one tie-down is adequate. You must use two tie-downs if you transport an item less than 5 feet long that weighs more than 1,100 pounds or on any item between the length of 5 and 10 feet, regardless of weight. For each additional 10 feet in cargo length, you must use one more tie-down. Thus, a 12-foot load requires three tie-downs and a 22-foot load needs four.

Specific to Cargo

Although the Department of Transportation requirements on securing loads is broad enough to cover most cargo, detailed requirements for special situations including transporting logs, automobiles, rolls of paper, pipe and tubing, boulders, lumber and metal bands. Specifically, logs must be bound together for transportation. A truck may not transport more than four processed logs at once. For many other items, such as vehicles, whether general tie-down requirements or more specific requirements apply depend on the weight of the item.


  • To keep cargo tied down securely and safely, the Department of Transportation imposes requirements for the straps used. They must be free of knots, adjustable and have working load limits equal to the weight of the secured load. Additionally, certain types of cargo have specific tie-down requirements and may require two or more tie-downs.

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