Ratchet straps are must-have tools for a number of different cargo transportation operations. These include moving heavy items like furniture and cars, as well as the transportation of multiple boxes from one location to another.If you’ve not used ratchet straps before, we’ll be taking a closer look at how to use them correctly and safely, as well as a more in-depth look at certain situations when they could be very useful. We will include advice and tips from the professionals, as well as information on how to assemble the ratchet straps, how to safely store them and what materials they are made from.Ratchet straps: what to look forIf you’ve never seen or used a ratchet strap before, the basic design consists of two long pieces of heavy-duty material. Piece number one comes with a hook at one end and a ratchet assembly at the other. Piece number two has a hook at one end and a plain end of material at the other.The straps work when the hook end of piece one is attached to a loop or eye bolt either inside, on the floor of, or underneath the vehicle in which you are transporting goods. At the other end of piece one is the ratchet strap. The plain end of piece two is fed into the ratchet (making sure that the strap is not twisted as this can cause problems when it’s time to use the ratchet mechanism), with its hook end also attached to an eye bolt on the vehicle. The two straps are pulled together until they are tight. The ratchet mechanism is then used to tighten the straps to a further degree, securing the goods to be transported.To ensure a snug fit, experts say you should pull the strap tightly by hand to remove any slack but not so tight that it causes any damage to the cargo. Then, using the ratchet handle, pull up and down until the strap is tight enough to begin transporting your goods. Experts also advise that you use as many straps as is feasible and safe. This will provide extra support during transit.Once you have experience using ratchet straps, it will be a quick and easy way to transport heavy and unwieldy goods with minimal effort. You will also see that high-quality ratchet straps are far more secure than using ropes, chains or other unreliable solutions.Why you need ratchet strapsNot only is it dangerous to drive a vehicle carrying a heavy load that is not properly secured, it’s also against the law. If you are caught doing so, you could face a huge fine. And if your vehicle with an unsecured load is involved in an accident, then the punishment could be even more severe. Any cargo that falls off a moving vehicle is not just destructive and costly to the load itself, it can also cause a significant amount of damage to other people and property on the road.Assembling ratchet strapsSo, to safely transport goods from your business warehouse, or simply during a house move, you need to know how to correctly assemble the ratchet straps. This knowledge will help you to avoid the potential for damage caused by poorly secured goods, as well as the cost of paying fines.Securing a ratchet strap correctly does involve a certain amount of strength and physical ability, although you don’t need to be a superhero. It is also vitally important that you use well-made straps from a trusted brand name and supplier. Poorly made straps can provide false confidence, and buying cheap often means buying twice, at best. At worst it can result in an accident.It’s also very important to know that ratchet straps are rated by how much weight they can hold when breaking. This weight limit will be clearly marked on the product label and in the instructions. If you are unsure you should seek advice from a salesperson or goods expert. It’s always worth erring on the side of caution and going for the strongest straps you can in order to ensure a strong and secure fit.When securing the straps, make sure that they fit all the way around the cargo and that you are able to tighten the straps adequately using the ratchet mechanism. If you have any doubts about whether you have secured the cargo correctly, don’t risk the journey. Find someone else with experience of using ratchet straps and get them to carry out a quick inspection. You really can’t be too careful. For your own benefit and that of anyone else who might be using the road, you have a duty to make sure your cargo is held in place securely.The range of ratchet strapsAs we have mentioned above, ratchet straps are available in a selection of different strengths. Levels of load strength will vary according to manufacturer, but you will commonly find straps with a rated break force of 800kg, 1500kg, 2000kg, 3000kg, 5000kg and 10,000kg.You should also check that any ratchet strap you buy is made in accordance with the relevant safety legislation. Look for the safety mark on the packaging and if you are unsure, ask a salesperson to double check.You are also able to buy straps in different lengths. Again, these will vary according to the individual manufacturer, but you can usually find straps between 4m and 15m. These will cover the various sizes of trailer, truck and van, from a small trailer to a large HGV.There is also a selection of ratchet strap ends to choose from, depending on what kind of securing points you have available. This comprehensive range includes claw hooks, d-rings, snap hooks, chassis/rave hooks, s-hooks and endless straps – which are made from high-quality and hardwearing polyester webbing.How to load goods correctlyFirst, you should assess the vehicle to ensure it has adequate eye bolts for strapping, and that you have the correct strap ends for a secure fasten. You should practice fastening the straps to the eye bolts before you load the cargo so that you know how they function.When loading, put the items on the truck or trailer in a strategic manner ensuring that there is minimal space between every item and its eye bolt. This will ensure the items don’t move around once they are secure. Do not overtighten the straps, especially if the goods you are transporting are fragile. It might be a good idea to try and cover any valuable items with a sheet or thick blankets to ensure that no damage is done during transit.At the destination, take a few seconds to make sure that nothing has shifted (if you’ve used the straps correctly you should be fine but it’s always best to check). The last thing you need is for the load to topple or collapse when you undo the ratchet. When you release the ratchet, it should come away easily, unless the material has been twisted during the assembly process.How to store ratchet strapsOnce you’ve bought a good quality and solid set of ratchet straps that are suitable for your needs then it’s a good idea to look after them. By using them correctly, as outlined above, and storing them properly, you can make your straps last for years.Before storing them, you need to make sure that your straps are cleaned off and dry. If they are still moist when you fold them up, this can cause damage to the material. Preventing the build-up of mould and mildew will help to prolong the life of your straps.And, while it may be more convenient to throw your straps in a pile when not in use, taking that little extra time to sort them out will pay dividends when you next come to use them. Unwinding tangled straps can be a frustrating business. Plus, safely and neatly stored straps are not a safety or trip hazard in your workshop or garage.Some people prefer to use a bag for storage, with specialist versions available. Another great way to store them is in old socks, with one strap to one sock. Zip ties also come in handy, as do rubber bands.With a good quality set of ratchet straps, you can secure and move all sorts of objects. Whether it’s at a commercial level or simply for personal use, these straps make a good addition to any workshop or tool collection. And with correct usage and storage, you’ll be finding uses for your straps for years to come.