CHICAGO Federal laws
override an Alabama law regulating the securement of metal
coils on trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (FMCSA) has ruled.
"FMCSA has determined there is
insufficient support for the claimed safety benefits and that
the (Alabama law) places an unreasonable burden on interstate
commerce," according to the decision published March 5 in the
Federal Register. "The ripple effect of the (law) in imposing
both potential burdens and costs beyond dedicated metal-coil
transporters is extensive." The ruling goes into effect April
Alabamas Metal Coil
Securement Act, adopted in 2009, prohibits motor carriers from
transporting metal coils that originate or terminate in Alabama
unless the driver is certified in load securement (
amm.com, March 12, 2009). Federal regulations do
not require such certification. The law also required the
driver to carry a copy of the certification in the vehicle and
produce it upon demand, although Alabama rescinded that
requirement in June 2011.
Federal law provides for
preemption of state truck-safety laws that are more stringent
than federal regulations and have no safety benefit; are
incompatible with federal regulations; or would cause an
unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.
The FMCSA notified then-Gov. Bob
Riley in June 2009 that the state law appeared to be
incompatible with federal regulations and urged state officials
to work with federal authorities to resolve any conflict
between the two standards. Two months later, Riley told the
agency that the state adopted the law in response to several
accidents involving the transport of metal coils, and argued
that the state law was not preempted by federal law.
The American Trucking
Associations petitioned the FMCSA in December 2010 to rule on
preemption. The agency sought comments and received 13
responses: eight supported preemption and five opposed it, with
one respondent noting that there were eight metal coil spills
in Jefferson County in the three years prior to the laws
adoption and none thereafter.
One driver said he was required
to obtain an Alabama Metal Coil Certificate before he could be
hired by a Minnesota-based motor carrier. "Although the carrier
did not haul coils into or out of Alabama, it apparently wanted
to be prepared to handle that kind of business should the
opportunity arise," he said.