How to pick the right tie-down strap

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

When it comes to choosing the right winch strap or ratchet strap to secure a load of freight, it’s not one-size-fits-all.

Because cargo straps come in a variety of widths and lengths and are made to secure loads of varying shapes, sizes and weights, it’s crucial to know how to “read” the information on the strap – from the colour to the lines down the middle – to understand which is the correct strap to use.

“Tie-down straps are an effective way to properly secure cargo on a flatbed trailer or other vehicle,” says Robert Spooner, director of sales – Canada for Kinedyne.

“But not all straps are created equal or can be used for every type of cargo. Knowing what to look for and how to interpret the information on the strap helps drivers avoid potentially dangerous situations that may result in property damage, injury and even fatalities caused by using the wrong strap.”

Quality cargo straps use tags, stencils and Web, Sling & Tie Down Association (WSTDA) webbing markers to quickly convey Working Load Limit (WLL) and webbing breaking strength. WLL refers to the maximum weight a piece of cargo securement equipment can handle under normal conditions.

WLL Tags and Stencils

One of the primary ways winch and ratchet straps are marked is with a WLL tag. For a WLL tag to be considered legal, it must be marked with the manufacturer’s name and WLL in both pounds and kilograms.

A strap without the appropriate ratings and markings could be deemed out of service depending on federal, state or provincial regulations.

Always ensure the WLL information is legible; if it is not, the strap should be taken out of service and replaced. Even when made from weather-resistant materials, WLL tags can become damaged or lost over time.

In 2005, Kinedyne became the first cargo control manufacturer to stencil WLL information directly on its winch straps. This ensures that the WLL information is always available, even if a tag goes missing.

Webbing Markers

The WSTDA established webbing markers as part of its manufacturing guidelines. Straps should also include WSTDA webbing WLL and breaking strength information.

One or two red lines run down the center of the strap to indicate web breaking strength. Breaking strength equals three times WLL. A single red line represents 5,000 lbs. per inch and double red lines represent 6,000 lbs. per inch. For instance, a 4-inch, 30-foot strap with one line has a breaking strength of 20,000 pounds (4 inches times 5,000 pounds).

A strap’s WLL is based on the weakest component of the entire assembly, so it is imperative that drivers consider all the components that make up the winch strap (both webbing and hardware) to verify that the WLL rating on the tag is accurate.


Manufacturers make cargo straps in a variety of colours, widths and lengths, and with different WLLs to secure a variety of loads. The colour on a strap comes from a protective coating that helps protect the webbing from UV damage and limits water penetration. There is no industry standard linking strap colour with a specific WLL, but manufacturers use colour to differentiate its straps, and some offer custom colours.

Knowing how to read the information on a winch strap helps drivers protect their cargo, adhere to industry cargo securement regulations and keep other vehicles on the road safe from accidents that can lead to cargo damage claims and at times injury or loss of life.

Using winch straps with the appropriate ratings and markings could keep the truck from being taken out of service, limiting downtime and fines from failed inspections.