FMCSA Eases Hay, Straw Tie-Down Rule

Endorses Traditional Cargo-Securing Method

By Michael G. Malloy, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 15 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said last month that bales of hay and straw could be secured by less stringent methods than standard cargo-securing regulations require, because of the nature of those commodities.

Truckers had been working with FMCSA for the past three years on setting regulations for hay and straw, industry representatives said. The agency put in place stricter cargo securement, or tie-down, regulations last year (7-3-06, p. 5).

FMCSA issued its decision on hay and straw Sept. 28.

“At the start of the rule-making process, the agriculture industry was not aware or did not comment [on the regulations], and the agency thought everything was fine and did not create a commodity-specific section of the rule for things like hay,” said David Nguyen, an automotive engineer with American Trucking Associations.

He said securement regulations for general cargo require lateral straps of “about every 10 feet or so,” but that is not necessary for hay, which traditionally is hauled using longitudinal straps parallel with the length of a flatbed trailer.

“Carriers were requir-ed to use an inordinate amount of securement devices in order to comply,” Nguyen said. “This action now enables carriers to continue to largely haul hay using traditional industry practices, which have proven to be effective.”

The final regulations reflected that there was a safe way in place to haul hay, said Taylor Stack, a Nevada-based hay hauler who has worked in the hay industry for 36 years and who was a leader in getting testing data to FMCSA.

“We got it back to about where it used to be, but there must be one strap for bales of 32 feet or less and two if they are between 32 and 48 feet,” Stack told Transport Topics last week.

Both Stack and Russell Laird, executive director of ATA’s Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference, said that there is more testing being conducted on other agricultural commodities, such as fruits and vegetables, which also may get some leeway from strict securement requirements.

“The bottom line for fruits and vegetables is they are hauled in unique trailers,” said Laird.

He added that the California Highway Patrol was testing agricultural cargo in that state to gauge the strength necessary to meet securement standards.