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0607 FG: Hay transportation rules get closer to reality

Darren Olsen Published on 26 November 2007

On September 28th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a memorandum concerning the transportation of baled hay and straw.

As noted in previous columns over the past year, this issue has been one that has continued to create problems for individuals trying to transport forage commodities. It appears, however, that relief is here, and the process is nearing an end.

While this is not a permanent law, this temporary change to current laws looks like it will become official in the upcoming year. As noted in a recent correspondence with Taylor Stack, the individual behind this work, this was the major hump those working on the problem needed to overcome. There is still some testing and follow-up that needs to be completed, but after three years, it appears that everyone involved in hauling hay and straw are about to get the laws needed to effectively and efficiently move hay and straw throughout the United States.

The following is the text portion of the memorandum that was released. If you have any questions regarding this or other hay or straw transportation issues, please contact your state motor transportation office. They have received this memorandum and can assist you with any questions you might have.

Baled hay and straw are not currently covered by a separate commodity-specific rule under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), and as such, must be secured in accordance with the general cargo securement requirements outlined in 49 CFR 393.100-114.

Concerns have been raised with respect to the proper securement of loads of square bales of hay and straw. Industry representatives contend that square bales of hay and straw can be secured in a manner that satisfies the current performance requirements under 49 CFR 393.102, although the securement methods may not necessarily satisfy the prescriptive requirements under 49 CFR 393.113. The current industry practices – which in some cases have been formally adopted into state law – employ longitudinal ropes or tiedown assemblies, in conjunction with a loading pattern which interlocks adjacent square bales together to ‘unitize’ the load such that the individual bales effectively act as a single unit.

The Office of Bus and Truck Standards’ Vehicle and Roadside Operations Division has reviewed the results of a series of tests that were conducted to gather data concerning (1) friction coefficients for typical loads of square bales of hay and straw, (2) strap tension, and (3) the performance of these securement systems under simulated accelerations. The results demonstrate conclusively that the combination of longitudinal tiedown assemblies and a loading pattern that effectively unitizes the bales of hay and straw, along with the addition of one or two lateral cargo securement devices (depending on vehicle length), provides a securement system that meets or exceeds the performance criteria established by the FMCSRs and does not result in any degradation in the level of safety during transport. Therefore, the adequacy of many of the long-standing industry practices concerning the securement of square bales of hay and straw should be considered as satisfying the performance criteria under 49 CFR 393.102.

Technical finding
In consideration of the Agency’s review of the testing performed by the industry, loads of square bales of hay and straw satisfy the ‘equivalent means of securement’ requirements in 49 CFR 393.102(c) under the following conditions:

1. For square bales of hay or straw that are unitized using longitudinal ropes or tiedown assemblies:

a. Trucks or trailers 32 feet or less in length require the use of a minimum of one lateral tiedown placed in the approximate center of the length of the truck or trailer.

b. Trucks or trailers greater than 32 feet in length require the use of a minimum of two lateral tiedowns which must be positioned at approximately one-third and two-thirds of the length of the truck or trailer.

c. In both cases above, the aggregate working load limit requirements of 49 CFR 393.106(d) still apply.

2. For loads of square bales of hay or straw that ARE NOT unitized using longitudinal ropes of tiedown assemblies:

a. These loads must conform to the general cargo securement requirements of 49 CFR 303.100-114.

Communication of FMCSA policy with state agencies
Division Administrators and State Directors are to contact the lead Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program agency in their states and advise them of the Agency’s technical finding concerning the securement of loads of square bales of hay and straw. Please request that the states refrain from penalizing motor carriers that use the ‘equivalent means’ of cargo securement which includes the use of longitudinal ropes or tiedown assemblies – as outlined in the above guidance – instead of applying 49 CFR 393.110 concerning the minimum number of tiedowns based on the length of the articles of cargo.  FG

Darren Olsen
Progressive Forage Grower