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April 17, 2019 2:45 PM, EDT

FMCSA Grants Ag Haulers a Five-Year Exemption Permitting New Cargo Securement Techniques

Strawberries are loaded onto a truck Strawberries are loaded onto a truck in Florida. (Mark Elias/Bloomberg News)

Federal regulators have granted a five-year exemption to the Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference of American Trucking Associations, clearing a variety of alternative methods to secure agricultural commodities grouped into large singular units.

The exemption lets agriculture haulers nationwide use the alternative methods to secure commodities transported in wood and plastic boxes and bins and large fiberglass tubs, and hay, straw and cotton bales, which is what the conference proposed to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The agency’s exemption is from April 15, 2019, through April 15, 2024.

Agricultural&Food 2019 ... by on Scribd

“This conclusion is based on the results of a comprehensive test program conducted by FMCSA in collaboration with the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Trucking Association,” the federal agency said.

Prior to the exemption, agricultural haulers were required to follow general cargo securement rules.

“This has been a long time coming,” Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference executive director Jon Samson said of the more than decadelong request. “It’s been so long in coming that some people have forgotten about it.”

He called the new securement guidelines “extraordinarily complicated,” but a way to make sure that nothing is shifting.

Samson also said that agricultural commodities transporters, particularly those in California, have since the early 2000s been complaining that general cargo securement rules didn’t exactly fit with some of the agricultural products being transported.

“So back in 2007, FMCSA along with the California Farm Bureau, the California Trucking Association and one other group did a series of tests and research to show alternative methods of tying down these different agricultural products in tubs and bins and the like,” Samson said.

The result was a 2008 report of testing and research that called for a better way to secure fruits, vegetables and bales of hay, straw and cotton.

Truck carrying hay bales

Truck carrying hay bales by Bloomberg News.

For many years prior to the final exemption approval, the California Highway Patrol was granting one-year exemptions to California ag haulers to allow the newer tie-down methods.

The alternative cargo securement techniques were tested and proven safe and effective by the John Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in cooperation with FMCSA and the California Highway Patrol.

Most of the information for the Volpe testing was gathered from commercial agricultural commodity transport operations in California, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico, and sources contacted included state farm bureaus, trucking associations and state law enforcement agencies.

FMCSA said the testing showed that the addition of welded or bolted blocking at the front of the trailer to inhibit the sudden movement of the “unitized” cargo during a hard brake application appeared to be highly effective for plastic and wooden bins. The addition of a lateral cargo securement device generated significant improvement in the longitudinal and lateral cargo securement testing for maintaining the cargo on the trailer, FMCSA said.

In addition, the testing showed that the best method for securing agricultural commodities hauled in plastic bins involves using a combination of perimeter 3/8-inch wire rope tie-downs combined with corner irons, and in specific conditions lateral cargo securement devices were included to control lateral movement of the cargo.