By Theodore Opara

MANY of us have memories of out of town trips with family and the need to pack the back of the family vehicle with as much luggage as possible. After all, no items should be left behind!

With the advent of modern pickups, like the Ford Ranger, all that has changed – with more and more families making the switch to versatile vehicles that have the comfort and technology of a passenger car, plus all the benefits of a capable workhorse.

This trend is backed up by the numbers, too – here in Nigeria, for instance, the Ford Ranger is Ford’s best-selling nameplate. And it holds the Nigeria Pickup of the year title by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Awards.

As versatile as they are, pickups really come into their own when you need to move large or heavy items – from furniture to bricks – and would rather not deal with the hassle of towing a trailer. Here are six expert tips from Keong Yip, a senior technical engineer for the Ford Ranger and all-round packing guru, which could save your precious cargo.

•It’s all about the payload: The combined weight of the driver, passengers and cargo should never exceed your pickup’s payload capacity; however, tempting it may be to add more when you see empty space. An overloaded load box may make it harder to stay in control, and you’re at a higher risk of rollover. Your owner’s manual will have everything you need to know about your pickup’s payload.

•Use a cover fitted for your load box: Pickup beds come in lots of different specs and dimensions. Instead of folding a tarp to fit your load box, invest in a properly fitted cover. Some come with elastic snaps that secure them, while others can be anchored with ratchet straps. To better secure the cover and protect your load box from damage, use only the recommended attachment points – don’t cut into the load box to make your own. If your load box comes with three sets of attachment points, always use the points at the front (closest to the cabin), plus at least the centre or rear points.

•Protect fragile loads with cling film: Think ahead: what does your trip to the hardware store involve? Wallpaper, carpets and wooden panels can easily flop around and get damaged on the way home. Luckily, you can find just the thing to protect them a few aisles down – pick up a roll of stretch cling film and use it to wrap both ends of your haul.

•Use netting for lighter items: Don’t let the appearance of small loads deceive you. Just because they fit comfortably in your load box doesn’t mean they will stay put. Secure lighter items, such as luggage, with custom-made and fitted nylon or polyester fibre cargo nets. The rot- and decay-resistant nets are light and can be easily stored.

•Use ratchet straps for furniture and household items: When hauling large furniture or household items, try using ratchet straps made of strong synthetic fibre. Secure your straps to the piece of furniture itself, or crisscross on top to prevent movement in all directions.

Distribute weight evenly: Unlike furniture, construction material such as gravel or sand often allow for better weight distribution – and you should take advantage of that. An uneven weight distribution may make steering more difficult. Keep the heaviest loads as far forward and as low as possible. Keeping your payload forward (near the driver and passenger) will help prevent the front of your pickup from becoming light and help you stay in control, especially when wet.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.