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Posted: July 06, 2013

Tight Security

Tonneau Manufacturers Make Cargo Security A Top Priority

By Dan Sanchez

Keeping your truck’s cargo out of sight, doesn’t always work to keep it from being stolen. That’s one of the reasons why tonneau manufacturers have come up with a variety of methods to improve security.  Many incorporate heavy-duty double latches, impenetrable exteriors, and the ability to work with the OEM locking tailgate, all in an effort to keep cargo as secure as possible. “For 75 to 80 percent of truck owners considering a lid purchase, their main reason is security,” says Ken Wilkes, Technical Services Manager at SnugTop. Because of this, the emphasis on cargo security plays an important part in overall sales. This is why many manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve the security of their products, and market it as the primary feature.

One Lock Is Better Than Two
While there are many new methods tonneau manufacturers use to add security to the vehicle’s truck bed, it wasn’t always the best and most convenient. For example, early fiberglass models used key locking latches on each side of the cover to provide an adequate level of security. But the locking mechanisms would often come loose, and twist within their mounting holes, rendering them almost useless. In addition, having to lock and unlock both sides of the tonneau with another set of keys soon became a chore many truck owners didn’t want to live with.
So manufacturers came up with a dual-latching system that uses one center-lock to secure both sides of the cover. “The locking mechanism is very similar to those used on the truck’s passenger doors.  It is a rotary latch which locks on a striker pin, providing a very secure closure,” says Kevin Douglass, Director of Engineering for Truck Accessories Group. “SnugTop systems also incorporate a slam latch, that when the lid is closed down, the customer does not need to use the key to close and secure the lid again,” adds Wilkes. These methods were adopted by many manufacturers and remain as a standard feature on most hard covers.

Some retractable tonneaus also adapted the use of a similar dual-locking mechanism and center key operation.  “The manual Pace Edwards models, Jackrabbit, and Full Metal Jackrabbit, all use a top mounted, weather protected key cylinder which also functions to open the cover,” says Vern Kaufman, Sales and Business Development Manager, Pace Edwards/Truck Accessories Group.

The One Key Approach And Beyond
Taking the one-key approach to an entirely new level, manufacturers such as STRATTEC, who created the BOLT one-key locking technology, have eliminated the need for a separate tonneau cover or truck cap key. “Tonneau cover manufacturers learned from their customers that they don't want to carry another key on their key chain to unlock the tonneau cover or cap,” says Erika Garcia, Sales Manager at BOLT. The company’s technology allows the vehicle’s ignition key to also be used on the tonneau cover lock.
Manufacturers such as A.R.E. now offer BOLT technology as a standard feature in its Deluxe Commercial Units. Extang also offers the technology on its Encore hard-folding tonneau cover. “BOLT technology is also helpful to the manufacturers so they do not have to take customer calls requesting a 'code specific' key replacement due to a lost or broken key,” says Garcia. “Besides offering the one-key convenience, BOLT locks are made to OEM quality specifications that provide durability and corrosion resistance. This is also very attractive to tonneau cover manufacturers that are always looking to offer improved locking mechanisms in their products.”

While the one-key technology is very convenient to the truck owner, some fiberglass and retractable tonneau cover manufacturers are able to do away with keys entirely by incorporating a remote control operated system. “The Snuglid SL has the flush to the surface automotive key operated lock cylinder that triggers the rotary latches with a turn of the key,” says Wilkes.  “But it also has a keyless entry option that uses a FOB to remotely trigger the locking system. This allows the customer to open the lid without the key. We are also looking at improved keyless entry systems that can be integrated into the trucks keyless system.” Electronic retractable tonneau covers like the Pace Edwards BedLocker, utilize the motor as a means of preventing the tonneau from being opened and operates solely from the key FOB remote control.

Security With Or Without A Locking Tailgate
But not all tonneau cover manufacturers agree that locking covers and keys are necessarily the answer to improved security. Many believe that no cargo is completely secure without a locking tailgate.  “To create a totally secure environment for cargo, one needs an OE tailgate lock, an aftermarket tailgate lock, or a tonneau cover with an integrated tailgate lock, says Dan Beaulaurier, Director of Sales & Marketing at Roll-N-Lock Corporation. 

Manufacturers of hard folding tonneau covers, take this to heart, and rely on the vehicle’s locking tailgate to optimize the security features of their product. “OEM tailgate locks add additional security to hard folding covers,” says Scott Williamson, President at Rugged Liner. “Simply because hard folding tonneau covers are incredibly strong, they offer more of a challenge to break into the vehicle.” Hard-folding tonneau covers also latch to the underside of the truck’s bedrails at multiple points. This way, they can only be released once the tailgate has been opened, and thus provide added level of security without the need for keyed locks.

In the same way, some retractable tonneau covers lock into the tailgate to increase their security measures. “One of the most valuable features of a retractable tonneau like the Roll-N-Lock® M-Series™ cover, is our patented four-point locking system, says Beaulaurier. “When the operator pulls the cover-body rearward, two spring-loaded latches automatically engage the bedrail mounted tracks. At the same time, the two other latches automatically engage a tailgate mounted lock extrusion. In one easy motion, and with one key, the operator is able to secure both the cover and the tailgate.”
Despite the advantages a locking tailgate can have on the security of the tonneau cover, not everyone agrees that a locking tailgate is necessary. Some fiberglass tonneau covers fit over the bedrails and tailgate to prevent the cover from being opened. “Our Leer and Century tonneaus are designed to wrap over the side rail of the truck to prevent access between the bottom of the cover and the top of the bed,” says Douglass. “They also wrap over the tailgate which provides additional security of the truck bed, whether the tailgate locks or not.”
“The OEM locking tailgate makes a locking trunk; so to speak,” says Kaufman. “If you don’t have a locking tailgate you can always use a cover like the Pace Edwards electric Powergate, which locks the tailgate with a press of your factory remote.”

Security, Convenience & Appearance
So what’s the best way to steer your customers into the most secure tonneau cover that’s right for them? Most of the tonneau manufacturers we spoke with agree that while security is mandatory, convenience and overall appearance also are very important factors. Ask some basic questions that can help steer them into the right cover for their particular needs. Does the truck owner want to open the tailgate without having to open the tonneau? Do they want easy access at the front of the bed, near the cab? Do they want an extra key on their keychain or a key FOB that operates the cover with a push of the button? Do they want a hard tonneau cover that is secure and color-matched to their vehicle? And what type of budget do they have in mind that matches the security and convenience options that are available?

It’s clear there are many choices. But tonneau cover manufacturers have proven they are committed to improving security measures and convenience. Based on consumer feedback, both features are merging to change the way tonneau covers are designed. With the integration of these new technologies, it’s definitely become much safer to store valuables in the bed of a pickup truck while at the same time, improving the vehicle’s overall appearance.

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