Truck Bed Tonneaus: More Than Simple Covers

Innovation, versatility & demand are advancing today’s tonneau cover market...

What could be simpler than providing a four-sided cover to protect items in a truck bed? Well, quite a lot of things, it turns out.

Already known for its choices and options, today’s tonneau cover market is more versatile—and more detailed—than ever. Manufacturing, material and technological advancements mean a wide variety of offerings and options for truck owners, and a lot of homework for shops wanting to provide the perfect solution for any project.

Suppliers in this competitive market are working hard to stand out and deliver quality options with wide appeal. They offer tips for shops regarding market trends, product developments and sales techniques for what have become something much more than just simple covers.


Suppliers agree that manufacturing advancements are helping the industry keep pace with the evolving new-truck market.

“Machine automation has helped American-made tonneaus to be not only more precision-made, but also made at a more aggressive price,” says Steve Raivio, director of sales for Worksport. “The equipment in our West Seneca plant allows Worksport to manufacture tonneaus with improved quality at an aggressive price.”

Improved quality includes the use of top-end construction components, says D.J. Potter, CEO of Sawtooth Tonneau.

Sawtooth stretch tonneau on red truck
Not all customers are equally educated on the types of tonneaus available. (Photo courtesy Sawtooth Tonneau)

“One way in which new technology has affected the tonneau covers market is the development of innovative materials and manufacturing techniques,” he says of his company’s expandable covers. “In the past, tonneaus were all ‘flat-only’ tonneaus, but that’s changed.”

Some of the advancements have come thanks to high-quality metals.

“Aluminum construction all but eliminates corrosion concerns and the aluminum extruded rails and aluminum panels maintain strength and reduce weight,” says Tim Watts, VP sales, Rough Country LLC.

As truck sales continue to outpace cars, the tonneau cover market has attracted a wide variety of suppliers.

“Jobbers and installers are becoming increasingly aware that several tonneau cover manufacturers are owned by their competitors. As a result, they feel trapped and are seeking alternative options,” says Mike Timmons, VP of sales and marketing for EGR Inc. “Fortunately, there are many excellent small bedcover (companies) in the market that are growing and willing to assist these retailers.”


Whether hard or soft, hand-controlled or electric, today’s tonneaus can include features buyers might not expect.

EGR tonneau on blue truck rear view
Today’s tonneau cover market is more versatile and more detailed than ever. (Photo courtesy EGR Inc.)

“The Electric EGR RollTrac has an ECU that manages all the functions. Our cover connects to your OEM central locking system and can be operated from your factory remote, the buttons on RollTrac, and even with the lock/unlock button inside the cab. Drivers have the ability to open, close, lock and unlock the cover from multiple locations,” says Timmons.

And digital and Bluetooth technology haven’t missed the truck bed cover market either, notes Emily Humphrey, marketing manager – truck bed covers for RealTruck.

“The Retrax EQ uses Bluetooth and your truck’s power to open and close the cover with the press of a finger,” she says. “Figuring out ways to use new technology is always on our mind.”

Bed covers are one of those accessories that get a lot of hard use, making quality construction a priority.

“Engineered tonneau covers that do more than one thing better fit today’s ever-evolving way consumers use their trucks beds,” says Shawn T. O’Neal, director of sales and marketing for Fas-Top, pointing to engineered fabrics, strong rails and secure clamping systems as in-demand features.

Nils Forssman, president of Truck Covers USA, has seen advancements in raw materials, manufacturing processes and more.

“Staying ahead of the game when it comes to technology has allowed us to refine not just the way we build our product but also actual features of the product—automatic locking toolboxes, LED lights that are wired into the truck and other unique features. We’re really excited to see how the next frontier of technology will continue to transform our business.”

Quadratec tonneau on orange Jeep Gladiator rear view
Educate customers on features such as material differences, fitment mechanisms and ease of operation. (Photo courtesy Quadratec)

No doubt, the products have come a long way. Howard Fullerton, senior category manager for Quadratec, recalls how the vinyl roll-top covers of the 1990s never seemed to quite fit if the temperature dropped.

“Now you can get vehicle-specific covers in multiple material types that use a belt-rail system for an exact fit,” he says. “The material quality these days is so much better—much more secure, less expensive to make and retail—and is way easier for the consumer to operate.”

It’s no surprise that such innovations are often spurred by the changing needs of drivers.

“Customers want functionality and versatility that match their lifestyle. We designed a patent-pending hinge bracket that allows a platform to pivot on top of the cover to retain unrestricted access to the truck bed,” notes Scott Moyer, director of marketing for Dee Zee.


As larger, bulkier items, tonneau covers are a natural for professional installation.

“Providing both a truck bed cover and installation opens the door to creating a satisfied and repeat customer,” Humphrey says. “If they are happy with their initial experience, it is very likely they will come back to continue accessorizing.”

Rough Country tonneau panel open on silver Toyota
Bed covers are a high-demand product. (Photo courtesy Rough Country)

That makes for an attractive repeat customer, says O’Neal.

“There’s an opportunity to upsell accessory items that complement the cover and the vehicle,” he says. “There are profits to be made in the installation bay, as customers who go to retailers expect to pay for installation and are seeking professional installation and operation instructions on the products they buy.”

Shops can compete based on installation, service and ongoing cover maintenance, says Raivio. “Many covers are available at discounted prices online,” he notes. “The consumer needs a reason to buy from the shop instead of choosing to purchase online.”

Handling jobs efficiently also scores points with buyers.

“Given the inconvenience of being without your vehicle, consolidating all the product upgrades at once benefits both the shop and the customer,” Moyer says.

Truck owners want to place trust in the professionals they work with, Potter explains.

“A common misconception is that all customers have the same level of knowledge about these products. Some customers may be well-informed and know exactly what they want, while others may be relatively unfamiliar with tonneau covers and require more guidance and education,” he says. “Shops may mistakenly assume that all customers are equally knowledgeable, which can lead to misunderstandings or dissatisfaction if the customer’s expectations are not met. It’s important for shops to approach each customer with patience and readiness to provide information and assistance tailored to their individual needs and level of understanding.”

BAK black tonneau on red truck with kayak rack
Adding installation services to bed cover sales opens the door to satisfied repeat customers. (Photo courtesy BAK/RealTruck)

Manufacturers are also counting on shop personnel to understand their products.

“The shops in our network end up having a large impact on the sale and experience of our end users,” says Forssman. “We rely on them to provide the proper education to the customer on our product and its features and strengths. Sometimes there may be a misconception that all tonneau covers are created equal, and it is really important to have shops that can explain the relative strengths and unique features that we offer with our group of products.”

Sometimes helping customers involves explaining what the products can’t do.

“All folding bed covers will have some small amount of water intrusion in extreme conditions,” Watts notes. “‘Leaking’ is something different and generally an issue with manufacturing or the design itself, but it is not uncommon to see a small water spot in extremely wet conditions. Most quality covers are water-tight, but no folding cover on the market is IP68 waterproof.”

Professional recommendations go a long way, so shops should offer them wisely.

“Let the consumer know there may actually be multiple applications for even just one vehicle, and educate them on material differences, fitment mechanisms and ease of operation,” says Fullerton. “And then, after talking with the customer, recommend one that will best fit their needs and budget.”


Tonneau covers can be an effective way of attracting brand-new customers.

“A lot of consumers don’t even know what a truck bed cover is,” says RealTruck’s Humphrey. “We need to educate them on what they are and why they need one on their truck.”

Fastop tonneau on Ford Maverick driving
There are profits to be made in the bay, as customers who go to retailers expect to pay for professional installation. (Photo courtesy Fas-Top)

Even customers who have never heard of the automotive aftermarket may be in the market for a tonneau cover once they acquire a new pickup—introducing them to the wide world of personalization.

“It’s all about upselling,” says Timmons. “Offering accessories for accessories is a great way to increase the customer’s purchase amount. At EGR, we provide racks and S-bars, which are specifically designed to work with the EGR RollTrac, resulting in more profit for the jobber and installer.”

Watts from Rough Country suggests looking for incremental sales of related products.

“Bed covers are a high-demand product. Good merchandising in the store and awareness of other products offered can easily lead to add-on sales,” he says. “Cargo boxes, MOLLE panel inserts, bed mats, etc., are easy recommendations when selling a tonneau cover.”

The products are important purchases for drivers, says Dee Zee’s Moyer, so it pays to treat them as such.

“Tonneau covers represent a significant investment and often lead to additional accessory sales,” he notes.

They also provide a chance to establish a long-term relationship with happy clients, says Sawtooth’s Potter.

Worksport tonneau partially open on maroon truck bed
Shops can compete based on installation, service and ongoing cover maintenance. (Photo courtesy Worksport)

“As a shop, one of the best things you can do for your business is to educate yourself about the various new options, listen to your customers’ needs and provide them with good, viable options. By doing so, your shop can evolve into a trusted authority and concurrently boost revenue. Effectively communicating the availability of unique and various options to consumers is paramount for a shop’s ongoing prosperity. This can lead to repeat business for other automotive needs as well as word-of-mouth referrals, ultimately enhancing the shop’s reputation and bottom line.”

Fullerton from Quadratec notes that a successful sale can “build community engagement and enhance the shop’s reputation with a loyal and vocal truck enthusiast market. By offering this type of service to that market, and doing it well with quality, dependable products, a shop can easily generate new and repeat business in the form of related sales like cargo management systems, bedliners, etc.”

The market’s many choices also make it easy to find the proper cover for any project.

“Shops selling covers like the AL3 allow for a product that is not in the saturated market. Worksports AL3 is not only patent-protected, but also not available through every shop and online retailer,” says Raivio. “These types of products help ensure that when you educate the customer about the benefits of the tonneau, they return to the shop that helped them.”

But it does mean asking a lot of questions.

“Getting to know the customer is key—finding out what kind of cargo they want to carry, what their budget is, what weather conditions they expect to encounter and more will help shops provide educated recommendations,” says Forssman from Truck Covers USA.

Meanwhile, Fas-Top’s O’Neal notes that truck owners are not necessarily always looking for the same thing they bought last time, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

“Warren Buffett says we need to ‘wow’ our customers,” he reports. “Are you wowing your customers by offering them the same things year after year without looking for the next best thing?”

Truck Covers USA black tonneau on silver truck in front of concrete wall
The next frontier of technology will continue to transform the bed cover business. (Photo courtesy Truck Covers USA)

Jef White

Jef White is the executive editor of THE SHOP magazine.

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