How to Transport a Ladder

A ladder may come as a huge investment, therefore it is important to ensure that it is properly secured before transporting it. In this way, you’ll prevent damaging the ladder and your car.

To help you protect the ladder, your car, and yourself, we’ve listed some useful methods you can follow to make transporting a ladder easier and safer.

Techniques for Transporting a Ladder

Using a Car

Any telescoping ladder or compact folding ladder can be easily transported using your car, however, transporting a long extension ladder may be trickier unless you know how to properly put the ladder on the roof of your car. So to help you, we’ve listed a step-by-step guide below.

Step 1 Fold and secure

Completely fold and secure the extension ladder and check that the locking mechanism is engaged correctly.

Step 2 Roof it

Lift the ladder and place it onto your car’s roof. Call a friend or a family member to help you lift it if it’s too heavy. If not, you have to make sure that the top of the ladder is angled upwards when carrying it alone.

Position the ladder safely at the middle of your car’s roof or onto the roof rack, if you have any. If you don’t have a roof rack, you need to put a large cotton towel, foam or anything that will protect your car’s roof from scrapes, scratches or dents.

Step 5 Legal stuff

Once the ladder is positioned on the roof of your car, check any legal requirements regarding the transportation of overhanging loads on vehicles.

Step 6 Pre drive checks

Check if the ladder is properly secured before starting the car.

If you have a roof rack, you need to tie the ladder with the use of a rope or bungee cords. You can also use ladder clamps, ratchet straps, stretch strap, locking ladder holder to secure it to the rack.

If you do not have a roof rack, then you simply have to feed the rope through the windows of the car to secure it.

Double-check and make sure that the ladder is laid flat and secured properly. You also need to check that all the sides are tied before you move the car.

Step 7 Start slow

Once everything is secured, drive slowly for a few minutes to make sure that the ladder is not shifting or slipping off. Try driving through sharp turns and try to listen for rattling, if you do hear something is off, then stop and secure the ladder tightly by adjusting the rope or clamp as needed.

Using the Car’s Trunk

For stepladders that are shorter in length, you can simply transport it in your car trunk. Here’s how:

Step 1 Seats down

Make the rear and front car seats as flat as possible and push the passenger seat forward.

Step 2 Slowly enter

Open the car trunk and lead the top end of the ladder over to the back seat.

Step 3 Safety flag

For safety purposes, use a red flag, ribbon or cloth and place it on the unsupported end of the ladder, if some portion hangs out of the trunk.

Step 4 Secure it

Secure the trunk lid with the use of a ratchet strap, a rope or bungee.

Using a Van or Truck

`If you are using a van or a truck, use the following methods to ensure that the ladder is positioned safely and conveniently.

Method 1: Ladder Rack for Vans

Step 1 Quality rack

Use a high-quality ladder rack to safely and easily transport a ladder using a van or truck. 

Step 2 Stowed rack

Put the rack in a “stowed” or “up” position and hold the t-handle with both of your hands and use your thumbs to disengage the lock.

Pull the rack bed away from the van and approach the rack with your ladder and place it the top of the ladder in the front clamp pad.

Step 3 Loaded position

Put the bottom of the ladder on the ground. It should be adjacent to the van’s rear wheel, so that it will be in the proper position when loaded.

Let the top clamp bracket support the top of the ladder and use it as a pivot point as you lift the ladder from its lower rungs.

Step 4 Become the master

Keep the ladder perpendicular to the ground until the bottom half of the rack is in the rear clamp bracket.

The ladder should be kept in a vertical position until it is resting in the clamp brackets on the rear. You can practice loading the ladder a few times so you can master it.

Step 5 Rack bed

After the ladder is on the rack bed, hold the grab handle with both hands and push the rack bed straight to a horizontal position. Then slide it into place until you hear the lock engage. Make sure to use the safety latch pin and use a padlock for added security.

Method 2: Rear Bar for Trucks

Using a rear bar along with the truck rack will elevate the ladder off the truck or van and protect the vehicle from dents or scratches. It will also provide an excellent level of security.

Step 1 Truck rack with rear bar

If you are transporting a long ladder or an extension ladder, use a truck rack together with a rear bar to be able to secure the ladder on both ends.

Step 2 Position ratchet strap

Simply position the ladder and secure one end of it to the truck rack with the use of a ratchet strap, rope or a bungee cord.

Step 3 Secure

Secure the other end of the ladder to the rear bar

Method 3: Transporting without a ladder rack

Here are the steps you can do to be able to transport your ladder without using a ladder rack.

Step 1 Positioning

Lift the ladder to your truck or van so that it is closed to the tailgate and leaning on the cab.

Step 2 Blanket down

Put some foam, blanket, or any cushioning on the places that the ladder will be laid at

Step 3 Secure it

Drape a rope or ratchet strap over the ladder, just behind the tailgate and pass each end of the rope or strap through and around each side of the ladder’s side rail

Step 4 Ratchet strap

Using a ratchet strap, connect the Truck Bed Tie-Down Anchor and tighten it. Then hook onto one of the rungs or steps with the use of another rope or strap beyond the tailgate.

Step 5 Safety flag

Tie a red piece of cloth, flag or ribbon along with the unsupported part of the ladder as a warning to others during transportation.

Things to avoid when transporting a ladder

  1. Do not drag the portable ladder across the ground when moving it
  2. Do not let the unsupported end of the ladder fall to the ground
  3. Do not pull the ladder roughly out of the truck bed or pipe rack
  4. Do not transport the ladder if it is too long for the ladder rack or trailer bed
  5. Do not throw the ladder on the truck bed or trailer
  6. Do not put anything over or under the ladder that can cause it to not lie completely flat

Transport Ladders Tips

  • Before starting, make sure you research and see if there are laws or restrictions regarding the transportation of overhanging loads.
  • Make sure that the ladder is fully folded and the locking mechanisms are engaged properly.
  • If you do not have a roof rack then simply put a blanket,  foam, cloth or any cushioning material between the ladder and the roof to protect your car.
  •  Be careful when lifting the ladder onto the roof of your truck or van and ask a friend or a family member to help maneuver the ladder into the proper position. 
  • Do not try to do a two-person task alone and get some help if needed.
  • The most important tip is to make sure that the ladder is secure. Use ladder clamps and secure it with ratchet straps, ropes or bungee cords
  • Listen out for any ratting because this will mean that the ladder is not secured tightly. 

Is it illegal to have something sticking out of your trunk?

The USDOT or department of transportation has federal regulations that state that if you have something protruding over 3 feet at the front and/or 4 feet from the rear of a truck or car, then you have to properly mark it with a red or orange safety flag.

This rule also applies to when the object is protruding more than 4 inches from the sides of the car or truck.

How much can a ladder overhang a car?

This depends on the state you are in since overhang limits can be different in every state and only a few of them have no restrictions. Generally, limits range from a few feet to 15 feet.

For instance, if you are in California, a cargo can overhang a vehicle by 4 feet beyond the rear, 3 feet beyond the front, and 4 inches beyond the side of the car, van, or truck.

And if you are in Washington, an overhang limit must not exceed 3 feet to the front and 15 feet to the rear.

With this, it is best to research and check what the rules and restrictions are in the location you are in.

Transporting Ladders Frequently Asked Questions

Summary

To safely and properly transport a ladder, you need to check for any regulations first and then follow any of the techniques or methods above.

Remember that your goal is to load the ladder safely and securely without damaging the vehicle before, during and after transportation.

It is also wise to read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and warnings regarding the transportation of the ladder.

Once you reach the destination, unload the ladder properly and inspect for any damages.