New hay-hauling rules could pose safety risk

Issue Date: March 21, 2007
Ching Lee

Ivar Amen, owner of Shasta Farm and Equipment in Cottonwood, ties down a load of hay. California shippers are concerned about safety elements of the new federal load requirements.

California hay haulers are concerned about public safety because of a new law to conform the state's cargo-securing standards to federal regulations. What's more, the new regulations are requiring additional time to secure the loads, they say, and that could result in higher hauling prices.

Assembly Bill 3011, which went into effect Jan. 1, made the state's standards for securing cargo consistent with federal standards, which cover how hay bales should be tied down to the back of a truck. But those who haul hay say the federal rules are too general and may be fine for most cargo, but not for transporting large bales of hay that need special tie-downs to prevent shifting and falling.

Previously, state law required hay haulers to use two longitudinal straps from the front to the back of the trailer to hold the hay in place. Federal law says the hay should be tied down from side to side, a method that haulers say is unsafe for moving hay, especially the big bales that are often used in Western states.

"Research has proven that having the longitudinal straps, with minimal lateral straps, is safer for the truck driver and the public," said Emily Robidart, California Farm Bureau Federation director of field crops and farm policy. "Having the required number and placement of lateral straps does not unitize the load as the longitudinal straps do. In fact, it increases the chance that the hay may fall off, or the trailer may actually roll over, in the event of a quick reflex by the driver."

The new rules are in line with requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and enforced by the California Highway Patrol.

This load of hay at Shasta Farm and Equipment in Cottonwood uses the newly required side straps as well as the traditional long straps to hold the load securely.

Unwilling to risk losing their loads, many haulers have continued to tie down their hay the way they know it will stay—by using longitudinal straps—on top of using the lateral straps now required by the new law.

"We're got to be safe, no matter what," said Ivar Amen, a hay producer and hauler in Shasta County. "I don't want a load of hay falling off and killing a family. I don't want that on my conscience and I don't want my truck involved in a wreck. None of us can afford an accident. Everything we do has to be done right or I don't want to do it, so we're going to do whatever is the safest."

Others will be paying more for their hay. Amen said he began charging on Jan. 1 an extra dollar per ton of hay he has to move by truck. He agrees that the old longitudinal tie-downs work much better because they go from corner to corner and across the middle, binding the whole load together.

Duane Chamberlain, a hay producer in Yolo County, said with the new law, there is now additional labor involved in a typical haul.

"You've got to put (the additional straps) on, and then when you get to your destination, you've got to take them all off and roll them up again," he said. "It takes more time now to tie it down than it does to load the truck."

Chamberlain estimates the side straps will add an extra 20 minutes to each load he has to haul. He trucks his hay to racetracks in the Bay Area and says the time he loses on each load will hurt his efficiency and reduce the number of loads he can haul in one day.

Because most truckers are paid by the load, Robidart added, the extra time it takes them to load a truck would cut into their productivity.

"So the truckers are going to be pulling longer days as well," she said.

Robidart said the California Farm Bureau is working to change the new regulations and is encouraging producers to voice their concerns during the public comment period ending April 16.

Written comments may be faxed to (916) 446-4579; e-mailed to; or sent to: CHP, Enforcement Services Division, Commercial Vehicle Section, ATTN: Officer Jason Golenor, P.O. Box 942898, Sacramento, CA 94298-0001.

Important points that farmers and haulers can make to the CHP during the public comment period:

  • I am concerned that the new regulations will decrease public safety by increasing the chance of hay falling off of the trailer. There should be a special, commodity-specific rule for hay and straw bales.
  • Longitudinal straps are the primary straps that bind the load together and are critical to keeping the load secure.
  • Research has proven that two longitudinal straps and two lateral straps is the best combination to secure three tie bales on a trailer.
  • While the initial intent of this regulation was to "enhance the competitiveness of California," the end result could actually increase the price of hay hauling up to $2 per ton due to the increased labor involved in adding the additional tie downs.
  • A special public hearing should be allowed to investigate a possible exemption from the rules for short hauls. Many farmers sell their hay to neighboring dairies or other ranching operations, and having the additional, secondary lateral straps would add additional time in transporting the cargo.

(Ching Lee is a reporter for Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.