Winter Hauling 55 Gallon Drums

How to Haul a Full 55 Gal. Drum of Fuel

Specific Difficulties

A 55-gal. drum of gasoline weighs around 355 pounds. This makes it awkward to handle and the round shape makes it hard to strap down.

Hauling Liquids

The barrel will want to shift, slide, and tip on the sled due to the liquid contents sloshing inside the barrel. For every action there is an equal & opposite reaction so every bump you go over the liquid will try to slosh in the opposite direction.

The sloshing is especially bad when you are stopping, going around a corner, or up & down hills.

The more space the liquid has inside of a drum the more momentum it picks up before hitting the opposite side. This shifts the center of gravity of the barrel, which could flip your sled, in turn flipping your snowmachine or atv.


Sloshing is why tanker trucks & big fuel tanks have baffles in them. They reduce the space the liquid has to move and break up the amount of the liquid in each section so it can’t all shift to one side. If left unrestricted the momentum of the heavy fluid could actually roll the tanker over.

You Can’t Baffle Me!

To minimize sloshing, you need to eliminate the space the liquid has to move inside the barrel. Baffels are the key to eliminate that space in a tank, but in a 55-gal barrel it isn’t an option.

The only way to minimize the space in the barrel is to fill it as full as possible. While most people would think by adding more fuel and weight you would be making more momentum, but it isn’t the weight of the fuel causing the problem it is the movement of the liquid which changes the center of gravity.

By eliminating the headspace in the barrel you cut down on the movement of the liquid.

Are You Sure?

When hauling in 110 gallons of Aviation Gasoline for a neighbor last year, the bulk fuel plant suggested only filling & storing the barrel with 53 gallons of Av. Gas. in it. This is so that there was room for thermal expansion in the summer.

When they heard I would be hauling it in by snowmachine though, they suggested filling it the full 55 gals. to minimize sloshing. They suggested that I pumped out 2 gallons for thermal expansion once I got it to where it would be stored for the summer.

Deck Blocking

Even properly strapped, an object can slide on a wooden deck, which can loosen or snap the straps. Use wooden blocks, screwed to deck to prevent this.

To keep the barrel from sliding around, use a wooden decked sled, which wont flex. Once you center the barrel where it is going to ride, screw blocks down tight up againsts all 4 sides to box it in.

The barrel has a lip that sticks out about 3/16″, on the bottom edge. Placing the block over this lip helps lock the barrel down to the deck.

Use plenty of screws so they don’t shear off.

Make sure you use plenty of 3″ exterior screws to attach to the deck or they will just snap off in transit. Nails can also be used, which can be handy in a pinch if you don’t have a drill with you. You shouldn’t travel anywheres without an axe so keep some nails under the seat of your snowmachine for trail repairs.

I sometimes use a combination of nails and screws. A screw has more strength holding two objects together, but has very little shear strength, where as nails have more shear strength because the shaft is solid steel, but unless ring-shanked they can pull out much easier.

The longer and wider the blocks, the more places to screw to the deck.

Being round, the barrel only touches the blocking in four spots. Four small blocks could be used, but by using longer & wider blocks it’ll spreads out the forces onto the deck and give you more places to screw each block w/o the risk of splitting.

I was only moving this barrel up off the ice and across the yard to its summer storage place so I just used screws. If hauling a long distance both nails & screws should be used.

When I am hauling atv’s on my 4’x8′ sled deck that fits inside my 2’x10′ U.H.M.W. sled, I block all four sides of each tire. I use two layers of 2x’s on the fronts & backs of the tires to prevent the tire rolling/jumping over the blocks.

By screwing the blocks over the lip of the barrel, even if a strap loosens, the barrel shouldn’t move vertically. Because of this, one layer of 2x blocking (1.5″) should be enough to eliminate problems.

How to Strap a Round Top?

Once the blocking is finished it’s time to strap down the barrel. People always frown about square pegs in round holes but in this instance the square & circle are the perfect match!

Build a wooden top to strap across

It is near impossible to keep a flat strap on the round top edge of a barrel. To fix this you can make a square, wooden, top that allows you multiple places to strap across.

Wooden top made of plywood & 2×2’s.

The top is made out of plywood & 2×2’s. The 2×2’s are tight against the barrel so the top can’t slide back and forth, which could loosen or cut through the straps.

The width of the barrel is just barely under 23″ so adding the width of two 2×2’s the plywood ends up being 26″x26″. The top edge of the plywood can be sanded smooth to help protect the straps from wear.

The 2×2’s are 24.5″ long and are screwed to the plywood from the top with 1 5/8″ screws. If you plan on hauling a lot of barrels then I suggest 3/4″ plywood and contractor adhesive the 2×2’s to the plywood.

Securing the Load

By using multiple straps in each direction you reduce the forces on each strap.

For long hauls I suggest using 2″ ratchet straps just to reduce the chance of a strap breaking and the load coming loose. 1″ will work but you should check them regularly to make sure they aren’t getting worn.

A friend of mine was heading down a hill one time and a full barrel broke lose and passed him. It scared the hell out of him, as it should have, if it would have hit him, it would have wrecked his snowmachine and may have killed him.

Save Your Straps

Anytime you are strapping anything that is rough, fold some thick cardboard and place between the strap & freight. Place on the corners/edges as this is where the straps wears the most.

Broken Straps

Even though we use multiple straps, if one breaks the rest now have more force on them. If the broke strap allows the load to shift or wiggle, it can cause the other straps to wear & break.

If one strap it breaks, too much strain on the remaining straps could cause the load to come loose. This could damage it or anything in its path, including you! This could cause severe injury or death.

Never use a damager strap, especially to secure a heavy load. If straps are worn discard or shorten them.

Hauling Fuel

Once your load is secure you are ready to haul. Always go slow when hauling a liquid, you may forget there is 350+ pounds behind you until you hit a corner, a hill, or when you try to stop.

Give yourself plenty of extra room to stop. Prepare for the slosh which may push your machine foreward while braking or going down hill.

It is a good idea to stop after a 1/4 mile and retighten your load. This is once it has had time to shift on the trail.

Check Your 6

Always keep looking back when ever towing. You may catch a broke strap or a loose load before it breaks free and destroys something expensive!

Ready to Haul!

Stay safe on the trails,


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