The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a limited five-year exemption to relieve motor carriers operating stinger-steered automobile transporter equipment from a requirement to place warning flags on projecting loads of new motor vehicles.
The exemption was requested by the Automobile Carriers Conference of American Trucking Associations. ACC said the agency’s requirement is not needed for stinger vehicles transporting a load that extends more than 4 feet beyond the rear of the vehicle to be marked with a red or orange warning flag at the extreme rear if the projecting load is 2 feet wide or less, and two warning flags if the projecting load is wider than 2 feet.
“The agency has determined that the lack of warning flags on stinger-steered automobile transporter equipment when transporting motor vehicles would not have an adverse impact on safety, and that adherence to the terms and conditions of the exemption would achieve a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level of safety provided by the regulation,” FMCSA said in a Feb. 15 Federal Register posting.
Stinger-steered vehicles are those with the fifth-wheel hitch located on a drop frame behind and below the rear-most axle of the power unit.
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ACC said the transportation of new motor vehicles poses a dilemma in adhering to the flag requirements. Affixing flags or anything else to the surfaces of the vehicles is not allowed by vehicle manufacturers as it can lead to scratches and other damage to the vehicle. Auto transporters have attempted to adhere to the intent of the regulations by affixing flags at the end of the trailers. This in itself can still lead to vehicle damage by virtue of the flag rubbing on the vehicle surface, ACC said.
“However, this attempt to comply with the regulatory intent does not adhere to the letter of the regulations and has resulted in carriers receiving numerous citations for being in violation of the flag requirements,” the conference added.
The ACC request noted that the automobile transporter-vehicle population is a fraction of the overall commercial motor vehicle population, consisting of approximately 16,000 units, and that the stinger-steered vehicle population is a subset of that.
Further, ACC noted that since the enactment of the FAST Act, the industry has not experienced an increase in collisions into the rear end of trucks with the additional 2 feet of allowable overhang. The ACC said, “Statistics show that the accident frequency of collisions into the rear end of auto transporters is minuscule with a rate of less than 0.05%.”
ACC added that it believes that the reflex reflectors that are required to be installed on the new motor vehicles being transported, in conjunction with the various marking and conspicuity requirements required on the trailer transporting the new vehicles, provide a level of safety that is greater than that achieved by the warning flags required by federal regulations.
FMCSA said it did not agree with objections raised in comments by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which expressed concern that carriers transporting automobiles have not developed any practical alternatives to comply with regulations such as flags that do not damage the surface of an automobile.
“The very limited exposure of these stinger-steered auto transporters, coupled with the fact that the automobiles they are hauling are easily identifiable by oncoming motorists leads FMCSA to believe that granting the temporary exemption is likely to provide a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption,” FMCSA said.