How to Unload Dirt/Gravel from a Pickup? A Complete Guide

When pickup trucks are used in landscaping jobs, it does involve a lot of gravel, dirt, wooden logs hauling. Although the truck bed does a great job of transporting them but becomes a pain when it’s time to unload. Practically, in landscaping and other field work related jobs the efficiency of the pickup truck is in its ability to quickly haul material and dump on the side faster.

If you are in one of these businesses, you know you need to do something about that truck bed; it’s not efficient to manually dump or unload all that material faster. You would be really benefited if you improve your truck bed’s material dumping capability. You can’t always hire a Class 5 dump truck and a certified driver, every time to transport gravel or dirt. So, what can you do?

Here are a few options that will enable you to significantly increase your truck’s dumping ability:

  1. Replace the existing truck bed with a dumping bed.
  2. Convert the existing pickup bed into a dump.
  3. Install a dumping bed on top of the pickup bed.

Using Dump Bed Inserts

This is by far the easiest way to turn your pickup bed into a dump bed. You will find inserts for both short and long bed pickups. Moreover, it can be transferred to another pickup, in case you purchase a new one. It is basically a second bed unit that rests on top of the existing bed. Installation doesn’t require much modification to the truck and of course, the bed doesn’t have to be removed. Your truck’s fuel fill cap and filler hose remain in their original location. On the other hand, it does add a lot of weight to the bed, using up a lot of your bed’s payload capacity.

Hidden Hoist Kit

If you don’t want your pickup truck to look like a dump truck but still want the easy dumping capability, you could opt for a hoist conversion. It keeps your pickup look the same but gets an added capability underneath. Most of the kits are undetectable until you raise the bed. This is a great way to use your truck bed full payload capacity yet able to unload without using inserts. Plus, it keeps your truck’s original design.

On the other hand, it does have a downside. The installation requires some work done such as modifications to the fuel fill location, hitch components, etc. Installing hoist units require relocating spare tire well area, including much other modification.

Full Conversion

A full conversion means you have to completely remove the stock bed and replace it with a dump bed from the aftermarket. This is one of the modifications many chassis cab owners do. Full conversion will enable you to repurpose an existing pickup, maximize payload capacity and use it dedicatedly for hauling and dumping only.

On the other hand, your truck will not look the same. Plus, you can’t just reverse it back to its original design as you again have to make a lot of modification.

Maintain Your Truck’s Payload Limits

Every pickup has its own payload limits which are set by the manufacturer. It will vary depending on the make and model of your truck. Keep your payload within the limits will prevent unneeded damages to your truck as well save you from potential danger, and legal issues. Also, keep in mind that adding aftermarket part will add-up to the truck’s weight thereby decreasing your pickup’s payload capacity.

SEE ALSO:  How to Make a DIY Truck Bed Drawer Storage System?

However, if you plan to use your pickup’s maximum payload capacity you could upgrade your truck’s air springs and suspension modules to increase stability and performance.

Truck bed modifications are not going to increase your pickup’s GVWR limits. These weight ratings are allowed not just based on the weight but also considering the tires, transmission, engine, brakes, suspension, and axles.

It is advised to not exceed this limit, which otherwise will surely damage your truck and may even cause accidents.

Here are Some Benefits of Using Dumping Equipment on Your Pickup

  • Many dumping modifications such as a dump insert are self-contained and come with the hydraulic unit, frame, and cylinder, that mounts snugly and wires to your power source.
  • Control the dumping unit from your cab.
  • Eliminate manual intervention and speed up work to save time and money, especially if you are in the landscaping business.
  • They are practical and durable build which last the lifetime of your truck and pays for itself. It will also save you labor cost.
  • Efficiently carry gravel, dirt or logs to your construction site without damaging itself
  • Stays with your pickup and goes wherever your pickup can. You can easily maneuver where you want to dump, even in tight places.
  • Provides all-around protection to your truck and cab from hauling related damages and accidents. Plus, it does manage to make your truck look good.

Other Inexpensive Ways to Dump Gravel

Install a truck bed unloader. It is basically a sheet of durable fabric which rolls in using a handle, thereby unloading gravel from the truck bed. Some of the popular names in the market are LoadHandler, Harbor Freight and Boxer. The sheet is typically made from polypropylene drag sheet. It installs under the tailgate without making any modification or drilling to your truck. They can handle payload weight from 2000 lbs to 3000 lbs. Most, importantly they are cheap for the convenience they provide.

Many truck owner simply lay flat plywood on the truck bed on which they load their gravel and dirt. They would attach chains or a similar pulling device to the tailgate end of the plywood. When they have to unload, they would simply pull the plywood out. Many would tie the tailgate end of the plywood or an underlying sheet to a tree or a fixed post and drive forward to remove the gravel out of the bed.

Truck Bed Loading, Carrying and Dumping Safety

Major road accidents occur due to unfastened cargo and get even more dangerous where there are loose items such as gravel, dirt, bricks or logs. You too may have experience dirt flying off the truck bed in your front and blinding or cracking your windshield. It’s common to hear of such roach accidents where a tree truck just smashed into somebody’s car or logs just rolled out of the bed causing catastrophe on the road. Which is why it brings us to the necessity of proper loading and securing of the cargo, as well as safe unloading.

Even if you have secure your cargo the truck be just screaming from overloading. Many accidents occur during unloading as well as where the truck trips over due to an unstable ground. This is the reason why truck owners, especially contractors or those in landscaping and construction business should take proper measures in every step from loading to securing, covering, transporting and unloading. The cargo landscaping workers deal with is much dangerous than cargo carried by family truck owners.

SEE ALSO:  How does a flatbed tow truck work

Construction worker and landscapers carry a wide gamut of material on their truck bed such as dirt, compost, wood, paver, bricks, timers, stones, gravel, soil, grass clippings, leaves and lot of other stuff. Each type of material had its unique loading and handling needs. Lumber needs much different care than grass clippings.

Cargo materials can be broadly categorized Dry Bulk, Bagged Material, and Palletized Cargo. Dry bulk material generally includes loose aggregates such as sand, gravel, snow, mulch, dirt, construction debris etc. The bagged material would include fertilizers, soil, compost, grass seeds etc. Palletized cargo include solid or compartmentalized material such as sod, wall system, timber, bricks, tiles lumber etc.  

When loading up dry bulk materials, the hardest part is gauging the weight of the load. Then again you have to consider the moisture in the bulk material. A yard of soil would weight more when there’s moisture in it. If your cargo has got moisture, it is safe to increase the weight by 30%.

Weight in Cubic Yard


  • Mulch – 1000 lbs per cubic yard (not considering the moisture)
  • Soil – 2200 lbs per cubic yard (not considering the moisture)
  • Sand, Gravel, Stone – 3000 lbs per cubic yard

Materials Your Truck can Carry


  • Full-size Pickups – 2 cubic yards of soil, 3 cubic yards of mulch, 1 cubic yard of stone or gravel.
  • Small Pickups – 1 cubic yard of soil, 1½ cubic yards of mulch.

Securing Your Cargo

Palletized cargo is generally stable and easy to carry. But being pieces of blocks, it poses a greater threat to other road users if it comes loose. The best way to secure them is to shrink-wrap each pallet and tie them down using ratchets. It would come in handy if you have tie-down anchors installed on the truck bed.

For the dry bulk material such as gravel or sand, ta arp is the best solution. There is no chance of your sand being sliding out with the tailgate up, but it may fly away at high speeds. Tarps can by polyvinyl which are sturdy enough to hold material down on the bed. A canvas tarp will keep moisture out, whereas woven fabric tarps is a breathable fabric used when carrying grass clipping.

Safe dumping is even more critical than safe hauling. While unloading, keeping the truck on a level ground is essential. Unloading shifts a lot of weight to a rear, which could trip the truck if all wheels are not stable. However, if you are shoving it out of the bed, much of the safety precautions wouldn’t matter.

An unloader as mentioned earlier is convenient if the load is lighter. It will do its job if the load is sand, gravel, compost, soil etc. However, for bricks and bagged cargo, it’s a terrible option. This is why, many truck owners use the insert or hydraulic lifts, where the bed actually tilts back to release its load on the ground.

This is when most of the accidents occur. If the construction is on an off-road site, it’s always risky to dump your load without checking the ground. Wheels may look stable, but when the weight shifts to the rear, the concentrated weight pushes a lot of pressure on the rear axle.

SEE ALSO:  A Complete Guide To Build a Truck Bed Camper?

If there’s a soft spot, you didn’t know, the truck could tip over. So, before dumping always find a hard spot. Take help of a crew who would give feedback as you backup your truck or unload your material.

Pickup Dump Bed Products You Could Consider

This is a high-quality dump insert from ‘Buyers Products Company.’ The insert is made from 12-gauge steel that turns regular pickups into dump trucks. The company produces an 8-foot model with 2 cubic yard capacity and a 6-foot model with 1.5 cubic yard capacity. The inserts include in-cab indicators and fits with a 3hp hydraulic pump, producing a dump angle up to 45 degrees. It’s powder coated steel frame and sturdy tailgate hinge pins support up to 6000 lbs of payload capacity. All models come with double-pivoting and removable tailgate as standard.

The company provides a 3-way dump hoist option which enables you to dump up to 3500 lbs of load to the left, right or rear of the pickup. This is an all-aluminum insert made from T6 aluminum parts for strength and durability. The drop-sides, tailgate, and bulkhead are anodized to make it weather resistant. The insert also features a bulkhead screen window and 6 recessed tie-downs.

The insert comes in 4000 lbs or 7500 lbs lifting capacities and features a 12V Monarch electric hydraulic pump. The body is made from 12-gauge steel and offers models for both short bed and long beds. For safety, it includes a self-locating body prop along with a tether for hand control.

  • Venco Venturo VP/VC 6600

This is a pickup hoist designed to fit only 2011 – 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup models. The model uses a scissor hoist which gives a 45-degree dumping angle and supports 6000 lbs of payload. The pickup floor is supported by an integrated lifting nest, body stiffener, and hinge assembly. The company keep your truck’s original look and comes with in-cab electronic controls as well as handheld pendant operation for convenience.

The company is one of the oldest and original manufacturers of dump inserts. It fits most full size or short bed and also offers custom-made inserts for your truck. The inset dumps at an angle of 51 degrees and tilts using a 12V double-acting Monarch hydraulic pump. It has a payload capacity of 6000 lbs. The floor is made from 12 gauge steel and the sides from 14 gauge steel. The double-acting tailgate lets up dump as well as spread your material.


There are many creative ways to unload gravel and dirt. Many would keep a plywood or poly sheet underneath and pull it out to unload. Some use pickup unloader which is basically a sheet rolling on a drum using a handle; it’s cheap and does its job. However, if you are a professional and carry landscaping material on a daily basis you need to consider using hoists, or inserts.

More important than unloading is how you carry these loose items on the road. Take proper measures to ensure that your gravel and dirt stays put and doesn’t fly away. Moreover, check your truck’s payload capacity and decide if you can unload your material on a single trip or you have to make multiple trips; but don’t overload your truck bed. That said, following the aforementioned instructions will help you carry and unload your gravel safely to your spot.  


Leave a Comment