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Posted: October 19, 2013

Heavy Duty Tonneau Covers For Work Trucks

How Roll-Up Tonneau Manufacturers Add Features And Heavy-Duty Components For The Rugged Work Truck Environment…

By Dan Sanchez

Any truck with a tonneau cover used in a working environment, is definitely going to see hard use. With a growing number of light-duty trucks that serve a dual-purpose for work and weekend fun, tonneau manufacturers have integrated features that improve durability, access and functionality. “As the economy has continued to strengthen since the recession in 2008, we have seen steady growth in our commercial/fleet business,” says Andy Nephew, sales and marketing director for Retrax. “Fleet managers who had put off making purchases are now doing more than ever, and our sales are showing it.“

According to a variety of manufacturers, the roll-up or retractable tonneau cover seems to be one of the most desirable for truck owners who use their vehicles on the job. The ability to open, close, and lock, at various points along the bed, make this type of tonneau design very versatile for carrying tools and temporary loads that are taller than the vehicle’s bed sides. But easy access to the front, sides, and rear of the truck bed isn’t enough to satisfy work truck owners anymore. Many have been asking for additional features that make it easier to also store and secure cargo with greater flexibility.

Working With And Around The Truck Tool Box
One of the best examples of how tonneau manufactures adapted designs for work trucks is how they fit onto a truck with an existing tool box, or has one integrated into the tonneau cover itself. One perfect example is Truck Covers USA, who developed the first retractable tonneau with an integrated tool box. “It was from listening to feedback from our dealer network, fleet customers and end users over the years that the American Work Cover was born,” says Nils Forssman, President of Truck Covers USA.  “We were able to satisfy all of our customer’s needs by securing their cargo and having a lock-up, high-quality toolbox, while maximizing truck bed space.”

Other manufacturers went a different route, and decided to offer tonneau covers that can fit onto the vehicle with an existing truck tool box.  Access Roll-Up tonneau covers for example, have designs that are compatible with 19 to 21-inch truck tool boxes. “Our increased capacity design offers additional protected storage in the truck bed without losing entry to your existing toolbox,” says Amy Wobbema, marketing manager for Agri-Cover. “The cover operates independently from the toolbox and will not interfere with its operation when loading or unloading items.” For other manufactures like Retrax, their option was to offer a customized tonneau that will work with the truck owner’s specific toolbox application. “We offer options for customers with toolboxes in their pickup box, and customers who have utility beds,” says Nephew. “Our goal is customer service and we strive to help our customers utilize their pickups as best they can, whether it’s for work or play.”

Having A Thick Skin
Within a work environment, durability plays a major factor. So it was important for tonneau manufactures to integrate a tough outer layer that can take the abuse. Many retractable covers use aluminum slats that provide extra strength without compromising light weight use and durability.  “The heavy-duty aluminum slat construction of the RetraxPRO is especially suited for commercial use,” says Nephew. “Our covers are made in the U.S.A. and constructed of the highest quality parts.”

“The top on Roll-N-Lock retractable tonneau covers is comprised of thick aluminum slats which are covered in a sheet of UV resistant marine grade vinyl,” says Beaulaurier “The cover-body is riveted to the reel mechanism, and the housing is then covered with a formed aluminum lid that is coated in a durable powder-coat finish.”

One might think that a soft, vinyl roll-up tonneau cover has no business in the work truck environment, but some manufacturers know that many work truck owners may also require the flexibility that a vinyl tonneau can provide. “Agri-Cover made covers for grain carts and semi trailers before it invented the roll-up truck bed cover,” says Wobbema. “So we understand how important it is to have heavy duty products. Our high strength hook and loop sealing system is designed to last 10,000 peels and seals. The textured, double-coated commercial grade vinyl remains flexible at -40 degrees, won’t shrink in heat, and resists fading in the sun. Furthermore, the use of super tough fiberglass reinforced nylon components are less likely to crack in the cold than plastic.”

Keeping Stuff Secure
Because owners of work trucks typically store expensive tools in the bed, security is an important function that tonneau manufacturers have put a lot of thought into. “The custom made locking system on our American Work Cover is designed and built to match the quality, strength & durability of our product as a whole. Our locking system underwent 27,000 cycle tests before it was released to the market, which is a key component on knowing a product is ready for the end user,” says Forsmann. While locking methods may differ, the concern towards convenience and allowing the truck owner to feel secure leaving his tools in the bed is very important. “The locking features of the RetraxPRO make pickup boxes as secure as ever,” says Nephew. “This feature allows you to safely leave tools and equipment in the truck box. Also, being able to open and close the cover easily without having to open the tailgate combines functionality with convenience.”

Accessorizing Plays An Important Role
With the variety of applications a work truck can be used for, tonneau manufacturers have also found that offering the right accessories can add to improved sales for truck accessory stores, and come in handy at the work site. Rack systems for example, are popular accessories on work trucks, and manufacturers such as Agri-cover found they could be adapted to their roll-up covers. “The Adarac truck bed rack system is a great complement to the Access roll-up cover,” says Wobbema. “It’s a sturdy framework that creates a safe and handy way to carry a 500 lb. load with ease. This rack system has trouble-free stake pocket installation and can be easily removed. It can easily be used to haul ladders, lumber, pipes, tubing and more.” Realizing that work trucks are also used for play, manufacturers like Truck Covers U.S.A. offer a different type of rack system that allow easy installation of a Yakima rack system for bicycles and other outdoor equipment.

Lighting is also an important accessory in the work truck environment, and several manufacturers offer LED lighted strips that make it easier to access items under the tonneau cover. “Access LED lights are another useful addition,” Wobbema explains. “These super bright LED strips are completely waterproof, and use high strength 3M adhesive to bond right to the truck bed, toolbox or rack system. They are available in three different sizes, so you can choose the right amount of light for your needs.”

While there are many choices of tonneau covers, the levels of research and design manufacturers take to make them as versatile and tough as possible, continue to improve. For the truck accessory retailer, it makes sense to become knowledgeable of the various features manufacturers add to their product. By matching the right tonneau to how the truck owner will be using it at the job site, customer satisfaction and relationships with companies who have fleets can improve to make a big difference in overall sales.




Truck Covers U.S.A.

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