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December 2003

Hauling Crushed Vehicles - Will You Be Ready?

What You Need to Know About New Legislation

Times have changed and the way you haul scrap and other forms of solid waste will soon be affected by new federal legislation. On September 27, 2002 the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), issued a final rule implementing new standards for protection against shifting and falling cargo. Enforcement of this new legislation is set to begin January 1, 2004 throughout the United States.

Complete copies of the final rule describing the new law are available on the web at While the new law will impact several areas of the scrap and recycling industries - including the transport of roll-offs, hook lifts and intermodal containers - here’s what you need to know about hauling crushed cars.

This new legislation was effective December 26, 2002 but motor carriers have until January 1, 2004 to be in full compliance. It applies to trucks, truck tractors, semi-trailers, full trailers and pole trailers. In general terms, the law requires cargo on all commercial motor vehicles used on public roads to be loaded and secured to prevent the cargo from leaking, spilling, blowing or falling off the truck. In addition, the cargo must be contained or secured to prevent any shifting that could adversely affect the safe operation of the vehicle.

The law is detailed and addresses such fine points as tie-downs and edge protection, and establishes guidelines for their use. There are specific requirements for drivers as well.

Drivers’ responsibilities

Under the new law, a driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier cannot require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle unless the cargo is properly secured. Drivers must also inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip. Any adjustments necessary to the cargo or the securement devices must be made at that time. Furthermore, drivers are required to inspect the cargo and tie-downs whenever there’s a change of his/her duty status; or the truck has been driven for 3 hours or 150 miles, whichever comes first.

Cargo inspection by the driver is not required if the load has been sealed and the driver is ordered not to open it for inspection, or if the cargo has been loaded in a way that makes inspection impractical. A change of driver duty status occurs when a driver stops driving to eat, rest, load or unload. So for example, a driver must inspect the secured load when he/she stops driving to eat, then again before starting to drive.

Flattened or crushed vehicles

The new law prohibits synthetic webbing (e.g. nylon, polyester) for use to tie down flattened or crushed vehicles. However, no tie-downs are required if the vehicle has four (4) containment walls that extend to the height of the load. On vehicles with three (3) containment walls extending to the height of the load – a minimum of two (2) tie-downs per vehicle stack is required. With two (2) containment walls – a minimum of three (3) tie-downs per vehicle stack is required. Lastly, with no containment walls, the law requires a minimum of four (4) tie-downs per stack.

In addition to securing crushed cars, any vehicle transporting flattened or crushed vehicles must be equipped with a means to prevent loose parts from falling from the truck. The means to contain loose parts must extend to the full height of the load on all four sides of the vehicle. It may consist of structural walls, sides, sideboards, or covering material, alone or in combination. The means used to contain loose parts, such as tarping or webbing, may be made of synthetic material.

The FMCSA has clearly stated that having loose parts is inevitable given the process of flattening or crushing an automobile, so even if no loose parts are visible, haulers must comply.

The only exception is transporting damaged automobiles from the scene of a crash. The transport of these vehicles would be subject to the general requirements of the rule though.

Recently, the FMCSA clarified that the terms “flattened” or “crushed” do not apply to automobiles that have been compressed into a log-like shape. Therefore, the transport of “baled” or “logged” auto bodies would be subject only to the general requirements of the law. This means that “logs” could be secured using metal or synthetic tie-downs and the number of tie-downs required would only need to be sufficient to prevent the logs from falling from the truck and to prevent any shifting that could adversely affect the safe operation of the vehicle. However, if a loose part should accidentally fall from one of these “logs,” then the transporter would be in violation of the general law which requires that all cargo be loaded and secured to prevent leaking, spilling, blowing or falling from the truck.

The law does not require a specific type of containment barrier to be used for loads of flattened or crushed cards on flatbed trailers. What is required is that the containment barrier extends to the full height of the load and prevents loose parts from falling from any side of the trailer. Containment barriers are required except on four-sided vehicles where the sides extend from the floor of the trailer to above the height of the load. If there are holes in the sides through which parts can fall, then a containment barrier is required.

The FMCSA has clarified that any containment barrier that extends to the height of the load and prevents loose parts from falling from the transport vehicle would meet the requirements of the law. The law does not require a cover in addition to vertical containment barriers that extend to the height of the load. However, if an inspecting officer observes loose parts falling over the top of the containment barriers, it is possible that the officer could determine that containment procedures for this load are inadequate.

The law provides that covering material alone can act as a containment barrier. The cover must extend from the top of the load down to the floor of the trailer on all sides. Also, the cover should be secured in such a manner that loose parts could not fall from beneath the bottom edge of the cover. Requirements for openings in the cover would be the same as for vertical barriers.

While the law does not specifically address holes in the floor of a transport trailer, it stands to reason that the law enforcement officer on the scene could interpret that any opening sufficient to let loose parts fall through would be a violation of the general requirements of the new law.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association has recently clarified that neither the DOT nor the agency approves or endorses products, nor does it issue public or private rulings whether a product complies with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Further, the FMCSA has stated, “Equipment manufacturers and designers may self-certify that their products comply with the applicable safety regulations, but we do not approve or endorse products or the manufacturer’s claims for those products.”

Enforcement of this new legislation will begin January 1, 2004. Fines for non-compliance could be costly and the effects of the new law have the potential to impact the scrap industry in a number of ways. Securing and containing a load to comply with the law will require drivers to spend more time loading and moving material. Capital investment in new equipment is expected throughout the industry.

To prepare for doing business after January 1, 2004, several things are advised.

Be sure you understand the requirements of the new law and how they apply to your situation. Go to the and get a complete copy of the final rule that describes the requirements in more detail. Inspect your equipment. Be sure you have enough tie-downs for your needs and be sure they’re kept in good condition. Carry several spares. Inspect your trailer(s) and be sure you meet the requirements of the new law. Repair or replace them accordingly.

Just how rigorously the new law will be enforced is anyone’s guess. With so many different enforcement agencies involved, some variation or individual interpretation seems likely. Times have certainly changed. Hauling scrap isn’t as simple as it used to be. Come January…ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Editor’s note: We’d like to thank our friends at ISRI for sharing research associated with preparation of this article. Questions regarding interpretation of, or compliance with this new legislation should be directed to the appropriate law enforcement agencies in your state.

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