WT245 – Truck Yeah!

On today’s Wood Talk “Weekend Edition” we’re talking about how we get the lumber to our shops.

This topic was inspired by an email from Vinnie who had this to say,

I have a question about what might possibly be the most expensive but least talked about woodworking tool. A truck. Or van. Or some way to get lumber from its source to its destination. Our family of four currently owns a Prius which can fit a large bag of toothpicks IF I take all the car seats out. I know I can get lumber delivered but getting a bunch of pine delivered seems silly when I’m 30 minutes away from my local lumber yard and I just want a couple of 10 foot boards. How do you guys transport your lumber?

How about you?

How do you transport your lumber? Ever tied it to your back and biked home?

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37 replies on “WT245 – Truck Yeah!”

2012 Jeep Patriot, 9 Ft. boards fit inside onto the dashboard. Front Passenger seat folds completely forward. 4′ x 4′ sheets fit inside the back seat, side to side.
Also has a 110v inverter in the armrest…….

2009 Chevy Traverse. Seats 8 or a few full sheets of plywood with the seats folded down. Great for hauling the soccer team or the beginnings of the next project.

I have a GMC Pickup with an extended cab and it is my fifth truck including one that was a 3/4 ton van. I like trucks for two reasons, I like to be able to haul stuff and since, I’m old and fat, I can’t fit into those tiny death traps that have been mandated by governmental intrusion into the auto industry. In the pre-truck past, I had a ’65 Chev Impala and I made a roof rack out of some hardware and 2X2’s that worked fine for both lumber and plywood but that was in the days before cars were made of plastic and beer cans and you could do that sort of thing.

I used to put it all inside my car but i found it scraped the plastic, even though i put covers down, and left whole mess of wood shavings that i would be constantly having to clean out.

I then went to renting a Uhaul truck which was great but cost 20 dollars but mileage on top. even though my lumber yard was only 30 mins away, it ended up costing about 80 bucks.

Now i have the perfect solution for me. i have a hitch and rent a uhaul trailer for a flat $20 fee. no extra mileage costs. i can get full sheets inside the trailer and long boards. its been working great! hope that helps.

I find it a bit frustrating that some vehicles are actually better suited to hauling wood than trucks. The reason is, most (1/2 ton) trucks sold today are commuter vehicles rather than utilitarian. I had to visit 2 dealerships in order to find a 1/2 ton with an 8ft bed. Most have 6.5ft bed, and quite a few now come with 5.5ft beds.

/rant, but the point is, it’s definitely worth considering other vehicles such as a vans, suvs, and even a big station wagons(if you can find one) for hauling stuff. My boss has an old chevy caprice station wagon that will haul plywood flat in the back with the seats down.

Okay this is a topic I can relate to. In November 2008 I had the need for about six 12ft. 2×4’s so I raced up to Home Depot in my Grand Marquis, got there just before they closed. Loaded up the lumber with about 4 feet sticking out the front passengers side window, like a javelin. November in Michigan, 8:00 at night, dark, rain snow mix, I pull out onto a 45 mph road, get about 1/2 mile and all of a sudden there’s three huge explosions. For at least 2 full seconds I had NO idea what had happened. When I looked in the rear view mirror I saw parts to three mail boxes and a bunch of lumber flying across the road. See here in Michigan people tend to build big wooden walls next to the mail boxes so the snow plows don’t blow them up as they fly by.
Now I have a P/U.

I have a sedan with a carseat and Marc is right, you just don’t want to move it if you can avoid it. I have always done the whole run it up to the dash angled towards the passenger side so I can keep the shifter free, this works, but there are certainly limitations and frustrations.

I have been thinking about adding a roof rack from yakima or thule, like you would use for bikes, kayaks, or those roof luggage things. The racks aren’t necessarily cheap, but they are not to bad. I wonder how much lumber you could strap down on top of the car?

I used to tie lumber to the luggage rack on the roof of my wife’s station wagon. Now we have a 4×8 trailer and class 1 hitch on one of our cars. It works great for hauling hardwood lumber, plywood, etc. Since it has a fold-down ramp, it has worked even better than a truck bed for loading and unloading a couple heavy stationary woodworking machines that I’ve bought used.

I use a trailer also. Big enough to haul everything that doesnt fit the trunk and i don’t need to clean the inside of the ford mondeo i haul it with afterwards.

Yup, a trailer is the go. Hardly a week goes by when we or a family member does not use it. The last time we had to hire a trailer was when the wife bought 4 pallets of industrial steel shelves for the shed, two pallet loads of fluro fittings (for my led fluros) and one pallet of pavers. Now that was a haul! My modest 4×6 was rather too small 🙂


The van I have now and the one before that one would hold 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. When I had the previous van I was young enough to man handle a 4 x 8 sheet myself and had a walk in cellar. Now I’m too old and it’s a pain in the but hatch way to go down. So when I use plywood I know before I go to pick it up what the rough cut sizes of the pieces I will need are and have it cut down, soooo much easier. As for lumber, I know I can fit 10 ft pieces in the van. The problem is the pieces my supplier has are usually longer. So once again I go knowing my rough cut lengths and he will chop the pieces to whatever I ask him to. As you guys said, most projects don’t require 10 foot lengths. So if Vinnie goes knowing his rough cut lengths his supplier would probably cut them for him or he could cut them himself if he has a hand saw. These short weekend shows are great.

My preferred method has been to borrow a car – but for a single board I will happily carry it on a bicycle. And for a small haul I have used a trailer on the bike which will carry 6ft boards and 1/4 sheet ply. So even if I can’t borrow a car I’m not stuck … and you thought using a hand-saw at the lumber yard got strange looks.

There’s always a way.

Currently I have a old Ford Ranger but are getting rid of it fairly soon. If I get rid of it, I will get a light duty ‘harbor freight trailer’. (carries 4×8 plywood flat without hanging over – folds in half to roll vertically into a garage for a couple of hundred – I had one before)

I have also considered renting a u-haul pickup for $30/day or so + gas. Cheaper than owning one if you can get it when you want it. — Or just depend of friends with pickups (but makes me feel like a moocher after the 2nd time!)

I used to have one that folded up and rolled into my garage vertically, that was when I had small car only. Used it to haul wood, bicycles for wife, me and kids to a ‘bike trail’ several miles away, etc also. (Painted it red to go with red minivan we had at the time)

Before I have a old car, and carried boards either on top (with cartop carriers) or for long boards, I would lash them along the passenger side with ropes going across the hood and trunk and hooked over to the driver side wheel wells. Really awkward to use, but it worked.

I had an OLD Dodge 440 Station wagon – it was cool because it would take a 4×8 plywood sheet flat in the back behind the front seats with the tailgate closed and tail window rolled up (so the AC worked in Texas traffic!). That was probably the best transporter I had. Also hauled fence posts, tools, etc in it – almost impossible to overload!

I have a Subaru Forester which can can easily accommodate 8’ boards with the seats folded forward, but with two car seats to wrestle with I prefer just strapping longer boards and sheet goods to my Yakima rack system. I had a similar system on my previous Ford Fusion and I never had a problem picking up lumber. However, I do recommend placing a couple 2×4’s under sheet goods for added support as the cross bars are typically only 3 – 4 feet apart.

A base rack system could run about $300 – $400 depending on your make and model but I’ve found it to be well worth the investment.

At some point having a truck/van of some sort will be nessasary not only to buy lumber also move finished product. thow getting to the right means of transport is part of the journey. I remember being 17 and four of us decided to become carpenters. All we had was my 80’s something Buick Skyhawk tools loaded up the trunk and floor boards and a lot of rope straping down lumber everywhere we could and everyone still put one arm out the window to hold down the plywood on the roof. Next came an S10, not a hole lot better than a car but after another 20 years life’s good with a 2500 pickup althow sometimes it is still nice to make a call and have it all brought right to me

Next weekend, my woodworking guild chums and I are making a trip to the 2 hour away lumber yard to pick up lumber together. It was a get excuse for us to get together again after our really fun trip together to Handworks.

Our guild has used a visit to the lumber yard as a fairly routine excuse to get together and we generally use a member’s truck to bring home the bacon .. so to speak.

When I go to lumber yard by myself, my yard really caters to wood workers so I can take my chalk, tape measure, plan and mark out my lengths at the yard. The yard will make one cut per board for me, so I have them do that to fit boards into my short bed truck.

Love the single topic episodes.

One more option … instead of the ridiculous prices for name brand roof racks made for carrying toys, make your own roof rack out of wood. I’ve done that for two tiny Honda two seaters, and carried home long lumber and plywood with no problems.

Also good are trailers (rent or buy). And bicycles, for small quantities of long boards strapped to the top tube.

I used to have a Honda Accord (now my wife’s car) like Shannon. That fold down truck/interior separator was great. From the edge of the trunk to the backside of the front seats is about 6′. I frequently loaded up that car with 100 board feet at a time. 8′ boards would stick 2′ out the back of the car. Staple a flag to the boards and tie the truck lid (door?) to the boards. Good times. I have a truck now with a short bed. The short bed isn’t really an issue. For longer boards, I leave the gate down and bundle the boards together with a ratchet strap. Staple a flag on and go. Flags solve all issues.

There are two things that work really well for me. One is taking home boards on top of my 2 seater convertible. I put boards across the luggage rack and the top of the roof. It sounds weird, I know, but it works really well if it’s not precipitating, and it allows me to drive the car I like: http://s-a-w-s.blogspot.com/search/label/HSLB_wood_transportation

Every now and then I do have to carry something that doesn’t work on my car though, and I’ll borrow my wife’s car with a roof rack. I use a few of those “quick” clamps to clamp the boards down to the bars. It is so much faster than using straps. Sometimes I use 1 strap as a backup, but haven’t needed it yet.

Great topic. Given the frequency of large lumber runs, even if it is EVERY month. Uhaul has pick-ups for $20/day in town…makes it pretty hard to justify buying a pickup truck when the extra gas alone for all of my other driving would exceed the $240/year I would spend renting (wish my wife was not so good at math!).

I can fit 8′ boards (or sometimes even up to 9′) inside my Subaru Forester. That was one of my requirements when i bought it. But i can’t fit 4′ wide plywood sheets in it.

For bigger stuff, i have a little 4’x8′ customized HarborFreight trailer (i usually use it in flatbed mode). I call it my portable 3/4-ton pickup truck. When not in use, i store it up vertically against my back garage wall inside the garage, back behind the jointer. The tongue folds down, which lets the thing just fit vertically under my 9′ garage ceiling, sucking up about 1’x5′ of floorspace, more-or-less. I have to store the thing inside my garage that way, because my HOA doesn’t allow anything in the driveways and my tiny sideyards are too small to fit a trailer through.

My first car was an old Chevy Nova. Since then I have owned pick ups. I like the ability to haul stuff, carry lumber, etc. My current one is a 2011 Toyota Tundra. I was asked, why? when I bought it until we moved my grandkid’s swing set/tower with minimal deconstruction to make it fit. For me; a truck just makes sense.

one word of caution about putting wood inside and using the front console to support the longer pieces; last winter when the windshield was particularly cold, I hit the brakes hard and when the wood shifted I was left with a nice crack in my windshield.

That’s why I purchased an old Toyota T100 and equipped it with a ladder rack. Now I can haul 10-12′ boards or full 4’x8′ sheets of plywood.

When I had 3 months left before retiring, I realized I’d have to give up my company vehicle. I planned on doing a lot of DIY stuff around the house, so I went truck hunting. I didn’t want a full-sized 1/2 ton gas hog. Inside a week, I found a 2012 Chevy Colorado pickup in near new condidtion with only 7500 miles on it. It’s an extended cab with a 6 ft bed. A lease trade in that was priced very low because it stunk of cigarettes. 2 cans of Febreeze and it was tolerable. A few weeks later it was fine. Been a good little truck for hauling anything. I especially like a feature where the tailgate lowers half-way to support plywood sheets between the tailgate and the wheel housings. The loading guy at the lumber yard said he’d never seen that feature before.

You just cannot beat a pickup for hauling things. I’ve got an older F150 with the 8′ bed. I will keep it until the wheels fall off.

Hey guys!

I have one of those badass, much-storied full size conversion vans with curtains in the windows, removable center bucket seats, and the back seat that turns into a bed. Yeah; we’re cool, and you’re jealous.

It’ll take a stack of 4×8 sheets like a champ and 10′ boards are never a problem. I also opted for the Triton tow package, which comes in handy when I get my fists on logs to have milled.

That’s it guys!

Have a good day!

I purchased a set of ratcheting straps, that make tying everything up on top of the factory roof rack of my Toyota 4Runner a breeze. I have carseats in the car, and sometimes have helpers on my lumber runs in those carseats, so have found having everything on top the better way to go. I have thought about the idea of renting a 4’x8′ trailer for those bigger runs that strain the weight capacity of the roof rack. Here is a blog post showing my lumber strapped to the top of my truck:

I know it might sound crazy given it’s lack of popularity but the Pontiac Aztek was designed with sheet goods in mind. Sheet goods lay flat in the back once the back seats are taken out. I can fit 11 ft+ boards enclosed in the vehicle if I lay them diagonal from the dash to the back corner of the vehicle. I can go longer than that if I leave the tailgate down. It might not have been popular when it came out(due largely to the fact that it’s pretty ugly)but dang was it designed with functionality in mind. Because of their lack of popularity you can usually pick one up for pretty cheap too.

I have a 1969 1 ton Chevy truck if I need to purchase wood, but mostly I just drag it out of the woods on my property with a tractor.

If you have a hitch you can use a pull behind either owned or rented. My favorite is to have my friend who has a Ford F-350 Diesel haul it for me. It’s always fun to make it someone else’s problem.

I have a GMC Yukon which is great for short stock and even better when it’s raining. If I desperately need a bunch of sheet goods or even heavy lumber I rent a truck from Home Depot for an hour or 2 and it’s only around $30 plus gas.

I used to have a truck but with commuting now ive dopped down to a 08 jeep patriot which is cheap on gas and can take 8′ lumber laying down with out being in dash.
Anything bigger or sheets of ply I hook up my trailer and have at it.

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