The Contractor’s Guide to Tonneau Covers
By Larry Walton
If you have multiple pickups on the job site, you have the option of setting up each bed differently. For example, my brother’s pickup has a bed cap with everything he uses on a jobsite safely stored and organized inside.
My pickup, however, has a tonneau cover over the bed because I pull a trailer with tools for the crew and I sometimes remove the cover to have an open bed.
Bed caps, or “toppers” as they are called in some parts of the country, and tonneau covers both provide a measure of security and protection for the contents within the bed.
The choice of which is best for your application can be tough as there are a lot to choose from in both camps.
But for now, let’s focus on the covers and leave the toppers for another time.
CHOOSING A TONNEAU COVER
Tonneau cover designs have seen tremendous changes in the last few years. The choice is no longer just hard or soft. Many of today’s tonneaus can be rolled up, folded in half or hinged side-to-side or front-to-back.
Some are designed to work with cross-bed tool boxes and fuel-transfer tanks while others offer the structural strength necessary to carry heavy cargo on top as well as underneath, adding another level of cargo management and utility to your pickup
Several manufacturers offer covers that lock, unlock, open and close with the touch of a key fob remote control.
Hard tonneau covers can be ordered to match your pickup’s OEM paint color, while soft covers have limited colors. Roll-up covers offer versatility when you need to haul a pallet of sod or slide a 1-yard bucket in the bed.
Beware, however, that many of the hard roll-up covers need to store somewhere and the required storage area often takes away precious cargo space.
Apply a little common sense when making your selection. A one-piece cover that extends over the bed walls is probably going to keep things drier than models with folding or roll-up surfaces.
Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to go wrong.
Soft covers may not offer enough security from theft for the situations in which you need to park your pickup.
Tonneaus that open at the front may not be as desirable to the owner of a lifted pickup who can’t reach over the bed walls from the outside.
However, this type of access for a pickup that rides at stock height can present real advantages for accessing gear in the front of the bed.
Regardless of what type of tonneau cover you decide to go with, adding one to your pickup will bring with it many benefits including improving fuel economy along with the protection from the elements.
Tonneaus are a sound upgrade. Here’s a selection of the newest tonneau covers, hard and soft, that would work well on heavy-duty pickups.