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Ask Joanne

How to transport your Christmas tree Add to ...

We’re going to have our first real Christmas tree this year and want to know the best way to transport it. Is tying it through the windows sufficient, or do we need a roof rack? – Adrian in Victoria, B.C.

The best way to transport your pesticide-free, sustainably-farmed Christmas tree depends on its size, the vehicle you’re driving, and how far – and fast – you’ll be going.

A roof rack is the ideal anchor, but if you’re only travelling a few blocks or kilometres at low speed, it’s not essential. Just remember to lay a blanket or tarp down to protect your vehicle from scratches and dents. Netting the tree first will ensure it stays compact, which decreases wind resistance and the chance the tree will get damaged.

At low speed, the baling twine supplied by most tree farms is sufficient to keep the tree secure.

“What’s good about twine is you have lots of it. You should cut the twine and use several pieces. If you just use one piece and wind it through the windows and over the top, and you have a failure at any one point, that means the whole thing is compromised,” says Raynald Marchand, general manager of programs for the Canada Safety Council. “If you’re going to use twine, or even other types of tie-downs, they should be separate tie-downs, so if you have a failure of one you don’t get a catastrophic failure of the whole tie-down system.”

If you’ll be heading down the highway, a roof rack and ratchet-style tie-downs are recommended. Avoid bungee cords.

“In a collision, bungee cords fail miserably. In a crash-test study conducted by the German Automobile Club, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC), the bungee cords used to secure a Christmas tree were shredded upon impact,” says Ken Cousin, associate vice-president of BCAA’s Road Assist.

Cousin advises using ratchet straps to keep the tree secure. “Have the stump or base of the tree face forward, sling the ratchet straps around the base, middle and tip of the tree, and then fasten to the roof rack. This should prevent lateral movement in the event of wind or a hard stop.”

What’s obvious to some, but not all, is that you need a vehicle appropriate for the load. If you want a 10-foot tree, a truck is ideal. In most provinces, anything that overhangs the front or rear of a vehicle requires a flag during the day and lamps at night. If the tree is being carried inside your vehicle, it should be fastened to the floor.

Avoid high-speed driving and freeways. “Because the tree will affect the handling of the vehicle, and because the wind might catch it,” says Marchand, who adds that you should give the tree a good tug before leaving to make sure it’s secure.

A study by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that vehicle-related road debris causes 25,000 collisions and nearly 100 deaths in North America each year.

“Unsecured items that become debris include mattresses, home furnishings, and building materials. According to the ADAC, when objects travelling at 50 km/h come to a sudden stop, they can take on 25 times their own weight,” says Cousin. “A 30-kg tree, for example, would hit its target with the force of an object that weighs a whopping 750 kg.”

Remember, these guidelines also apply after the holidays, when (hopefully) you’re transporting the tree to a municipal or charity depot to be mulched for compost.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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