Can You Drive with a Tonneau Cover Open?
Generally speaking, yes you can. Exactly how it is secured, how fast you can drive, and what limitations there are, depend on the type of tonneau cover you have or are planning to purchase. Here is the information for each of the major types of tonneau covers. Hard Tri-fold, Soft Tri-fold, Soft roll up, and one piece.
The bed of your truck accounts for more than 40 percent of the space in any pickup. Without a tonneau cover, you really cannot even count it as usable space except for when you are hauling something. Then, the large percentage of your truck becomes the most valuable and usable space in the truck. For work trucks, hauling equipment, tools, and machinery is a daily affair. For the daily driver, the most common accessory is a good tonneau cover. Having a tonneau bed cover installed on your pickup truck makes that 40 to 50 percent of your truck space because completely usable. Add an organizer or toolbox under the tonneau cover and you will be amazed with how much it frees up space in the cab of the truck.
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When you maximize the utilization of space on your pickup by adding a tonneau cover, what happens when you want to carry something that does not fit under the tonneau cover? For instance, a refrigerator, an ATV, loads of lumber, furniture, etc. Do you have to remove the cover to haul larger items? Generally, no, but it does depend on the type of tonneau cover that you have.
Driving with a Hard Tri-Fold Cover Open
Hard Tri fold covers like the BakFlip G2 or the MX4 can be secured in various positions. You can flip up the first section opening up about 18” at the back of the bed. In this position, there is no way to secure the section in place. It is okay for driving at lower speeds up to about 35 mile per hour. Flip two sections up and leave open about 36” at the end of the bed. In this position, there is a plastic clip with a nylon strap to secure the cover in place. In this position you can drive down the highway with no problem. Flip the last section up and you will have all but about 8” of your truck bed open to the sky. In this position, the entire folded tonneau cover is resting against the back of the cab against foam bumpers that are part of the cover. Support bars that are mounted under the cover flip up and secure the cover against the bed. In this position it is also safe to drive down the highway. The only downside is that your rear window is completely blocked. You can no longer see your load and your only view out the back of your truck with the tonneau cover flipped completely up is via the side view mirrors.
Driving with a Soft Roll Up Cover Open
Soft roll up tonneau covers like the Gator ETX can only be secured once rolled completely up against the cab. Unlike the trifold covers, soft roll up covers are either completely closed or completely opened. Once the cover is rolled up completely towards the cab and secured using the nylon straps and plastic clips, your bed is completely open (with the exception of the width of the rolled-up cover) and you are good to go to drive on the highway. Another positive about the roll up cover vs the trifold cover is that when the roll up cover is completely rolled up; it does not block your view out of the rear window.
Driving with a Soft Tri-Fold Cover Open
Soft tri-fold covers like the Extang Trifecta can be secured at the 2/3 open position only. That means that if you have a 6.5’ truck bed, you can over 4’ of bed open to the sky in just a minute’s notice and be ready to haul refrigerators, furniture, lumber, and other large items. Some hard tri-fold covers like the Rugged Liner E-series offer the same amount of opening. You can only drive with the bed 2/3 open.
Driving with a One-piece Hard Cover Open
One piece tonneau covers like the UnderCover SE one piece cover either need to be fully closed or need to be secured from underneath with a strap of bungee cord in order to drive down the highway. However, a short trip at low speeds (25 mph or less), you can leave the cover in the open position but remember that even in the open position, you do not have complete access. You are victim to an angled space and will not be able to haul a refrigerator standing up or any kind of tall load. The one-piece cover is the most secure of the tonneau cover types in regard to theft but it limits you on this aspect of truck ownership.
It is important to understand what type of tonneau bed cover you are buying and make sure you pick the right one for you. Personally, I like the BakFlip line of products for the ability to flip the cover completely up against the cab and have the ability to use almost 100% of my truck bed to haul stuff at a moments notice. It is a rarity to come out of Home Depot or any other store and not be able to load my purchase in my truck.
A great set of ratchet straps con really be handy to secure both your tonneau cover and your load.
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