Cargo-securement final rule debated

April 1, 2003
THE final rule on protection of shifting and falling cargo is, well, final. Or, in the words of Bill Gouse, vice-president of engineering for the American

THE final rule on protection of shifting and falling cargo is, well, final.

Or, in the words of Bill Gouse, vice-president of engineering for the American Trucking Associations, whose comments were quoted extensively in the final rule: “We have no activity regarding pursuing any changes.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has spoken. Billed as a North American standard, the rule was published in the Federal Register of September 27, 2002, became effective December 26, and gives motor carriers until January 1, 2004, to comply. The rule generally does not prohibit the use of tiedowns or cargo securement devices currently in use.

The good news is that it is expected to have only minimal impact on trailer manufacturers. While it is being touted as an improved and overdue (nine years in the making) cargo tiedown regulation, it will primarily impact carriers and should not result in significant compliance costs for manufacturers.

The bad news is that it was a setback for the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers, which offered public comments asserting that the new securement requirements should not apply to commercial motor vehicles with GVWRs less than 26,000 lb — comments that were rejected by FMCSA.

“To be honest, we didn't really attempt to provide a rationale for that exemption,” NATM general counsel Kim Mann says. “We more or less relied on naked assertions that were different. We're not terribly surprised. Maybe a little disappointed.”

In the final rule, NATM stated, “Our association is dedicated to promoting safety in trailers under 26,000-lb GVWR. We focus on that segment of the trailer industry. We have observed repeatedly that regulations are written based on experiences of tractor-trailer rigs — the big ones — all over 26,000-lb GVWR, and then are automatically applied to the much smaller and much different trailers.

“We respectfully submit that the major differences of frame structure, platform height, axle placements, and towing methods are significant, and they do affect handling, loading, and safety characteristics of those trailers. Therefore, our general concern and fear is that regulations are developed and applied to our segment of the industry without considering their real needs, designs, and ultimate impact on manufacturing costs. We suggest that rulemaking in this case of cargo securement be applied only to those trailers (over 26,000-lb GVWR) where they are needed.”

FMCSA's response

FMCSA said NATM did not present any justification for creating an exception with the FMCSA's cargo securement rule; the FMCSA regulations historically have applied to the full range of cargo-carrying commercial vehicles subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. (The FMCSRs, with few exceptions, apply to all commercial motor vehicles with gross vehicle weights greater than 10,000 lb)

FMCSA's response to NATM: “There is no readily apparent reason why any particular class or category of cargo-carrying vehicle subject to the FMCSRs should be excepted from basic requirements to ensure that the cargo is secured to prevent it from falling from the vehicle, or shifting to the extent that the vehicle's stability or maneuverability is adversely affected.

“We agree with commenters' assertions that there are differences in frame structure, platform height, axle placements, and towing methods. However, there is no data to suggest that differences in the design of the commercial motor vehicle, or the manner in which it is towed … negate the need for ensuring that cargo is properly secured to prevent accidents. The agency does not believe that the rules being adopted represent a one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring safety. The rules are performance-based to the greatest extent practicable resulting in requirements that increase with the size of the articles of cargo, or the complexity of the load securement system necessary to ensure that the articles are properly secured.”

Mann says NATM is pleased that FMCSA is not going to engage in a one-size-fits-all approach.

“That's a good start,” he says. “Our organization has been attempting for some period of time to get recognition that the GVWR trailers by weight class have some differences that merit consideration. They do recognize there are differences in frame structure, platform height, axle placements, and towing methods. They're saying, ‘Yes, we recognize there are differences, but those differences have not yet been shown to warrant some special exclusion from these new securement regulations.’

“I don't know that I would quarrel with that. At least we're getting them to talk about these differences and hopefully where there can be justifications for different treatment, we'll have our foot in the door.”

Tiedowns and anchor points

The FMCSA rejected a request to require all tiedowns and anchor points to be marked with their working load limits. FMCSA concedes it has made no estimate of the economic burden on trailer manufacturers if it were to prohibit the use of unmarked securement devices. It also declined at this time to mandate the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association recommended practice, “RP 47-99, Testing, Rating, and Labeling Platform and Van Trailers for Cargo Securement Capability.”

FMCSA observes that, “the vast majority of cargo-securement related accidents do not involve problems with the anchor points. The majority of these accidents appears to involve an inadequate number of tiedown devices, improper placement of the tiedowns, or other factors unrelated to the design or performance capability of the anchor points.”

The rule adopts new performance requirements concerning longitudinal, lateral, and vertical accelerations that cargo securement systems must be able to withstand. Cargo securement systems must be capable of withstanding the following forces, applied separately: 0.8g deceleration in the forward direction; 0.5g acceleration in the rearward direction; and 0.5g acceleration in a lateral direction.

“Most of our trailers are not involved in handling these specific commodities they have singled out for special treatment,” Mann says. “We do have a few manufacturers of flatbeds that will be engaged in handling some of these commodities, and they do have to worry about these new forces that have to be withstood with rails and other types of securement devices. But for the most part, this is not going to impact our people. That's another reason why we're not too upset.”

That was the consensus of six other trailer manufacturers contacted by Trailer/Body Builders.

“In the low-bed business so to speak, it doesn't affect anything we do, unlike what it does in the dry freight van business with regulations on sidewalls and bulkheads and so forth,” says Bernie Van Wassenhove, vice president of engineering for Trail King. “The only thing we've been doing — and it's been an ongoing thing for several years — is to do a bit more pull testing on tiedown and anchor points. We've found that all our anchor points are very sufficient to fall within regulations. It's safe to say this final rule will not affect our manufacturing process.”

Canada more stringent

Gregg Hanson, engineering manager of flatbeds for Wilson Trailer, says that the company already had certified many of the anchor points for Canadian rules, which are more stringent than American rules.

“When we rate our tiedown points, our anchor points, we have an actual force rating,” he says. “Based on that rating the consumer knows how many have to be used for any given load. The Canadian requirements are that there be 15,067-lb braking strength on anchor points in order to be accepted in the Canadian market. Those are the numbers we looked at. It was a static test: Could we get to the point of meeting or exceeding the Canadian capacity requirements?

“There's always some question as to at what point, rather than securing the cargo to the trailer, are you securing the trailer to the cargo? If you've got a 10,000-lb platform and 50,000 lb of cargo, what comprises the biggest control component? If the cargo is going to go to the side and go over, the trailer is going to go with it. That's always an interesting point for debate.”

Charlie Fetz, vice president of research and development for Great Dane, says the new final rule is not much different than the previous rule, which he says didn't have much of an effect on the company's manufacturing process.

“When that previous change took place, there was more of an awareness in terms of trying to have those who build trailers, supply tiedown assembles, or use tiedown assemblies use the same terminology and same rating systems,” he says. “With the new rule, they're trying to do a better job of explaining things and citing specific examples for guidance purposes. The older rule was, in a lot of areas, more general.

“When we ask people in responsible positions that were in the rule-making, ‘Is there a problem? Is there something you're trying to address?’ … the answer was no. When good practices are used, there is not a problem. We're trying to ensure that good practices are used in every instance.”

Little impact

Says Gerry Still, vice president of engineering for Stoughton Trailers, “When you read through the document and the way these items are stated, it looks like it's written to the guy who's going to use the trailer. He's got to ask himself certain questions when he looks at what kind of cargo he's going to haul in it. I don't think there's much of an impact on us, unless we were to put some specialized devices on it such as winches and bullrings.”

ATA's Gouse says that his organization was generally supportive of “most of the work” that was done on the final rule and is simply waiting for the training manual, which is expected to arrive in May.

“A lot of the items in the rule have been the reasonable best practices of the carriers anyway,” he says. “This takes away any ambiguity there might be when there's unlabeled equipment a carrier might have, or if an enforcement officer pulls someone over and can't determine what it is. It's in the charts with the rule that says this is what it will hold, and you're either in compliance or you're not.”

Gouse says ATA's primary disagreement with the final rule is on the issue of chains. ATA believes that the National Association of Chain Manufacturers is inconsistent in its use of safety factors. ATA believes grade 4 chain has a safety factor of 3 (the ratio of the breaking strength to the working load limit is 3), but grades 7, 8, and 10 have a safety factor of 4.

ATA's comments: “Past regulatory practice and industry experience shows that, employed in conjunction with the stipulations in the FMCSRs, a safety factor of 3 is appropriate for chain that is used to secure cargo. Currently grade 4 chain and webbing both use a safety factor of 3. So, the assumption made to ensure that changing from a rule based on static breaking strength to one based on working load limit would not require more tiedowns, succeeded for them. However, as noted, NACM assigns chain grades 7, 8, and 10 a safety factor of 4. Hence these products are now penalized in that they cannot be employed as they were prior to 1993, when all chain used for load securement was selected on the basis of its static breaking strength.”

ATA's recommendation that all load securement chain be assigned a safety factor of 3 — which it believes would keep the rule from being overly conservative and avoid penalizing motor carriers for using a superior product — was rejected by FMCSA, which says it does not believe that this rulemaking “is the forum for resolving the issue.”

Says Gouse, “We don't see eye to eye with the chain people on that one.”

ATA agreed with the proposed performance criteria, offering this comment in the final rule: “For many years, a 0.6g deceleration was the best that could be attained. However, today's truck tires and brakes are more capable than ever before. In discussions with tire, brake, and vehicle manufacturers, there was agreement that the g forces defined in the proposal are now achievable.”

On FMCSA's decision not to prohibit the use of unmarked tiedowns, ATA offered this comment: “Ultimately, when all manufacturers mark their products with their working load limit, it will be possible to prohibit unmarked tiedown devices. The possibility of doing this will arise several years after the proposed rule goes into effect, and manufacturers and consumers realize the benefits of making and using marked products.”

The history

The new final rule resulted from a series of events that began on July 27, 1993, when the House of Representatives held a hearing concerning the adequacy of federal regulations on cargo securement, as well as enforcement of those regulations. The hearing was prompted by several cargo securement accidents in New York between 1990 and 1993.

A cargo securement research working group was organized by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to discuss the research methodology with industry groups and federal, state, and provincial governments from the US and Canada. Tests were conducted to examine the fundamental issues of anchor points, tiedowns, blocking and friction, and issues related to securement of dressed lumber, large metal coils, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, and other commodities.

Almost all of the research was completed by late 1997. The final version of the North American Cargo Securement Standard was published in May 1999 by CCMTA. On Dec 19, 2000, the agency published a notice of proposed rulemaking to adopt rules based on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations (65 FR 79050).

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.