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Federal law pre-empts Ala. coil law: ruling

Keywords: Tags  Alabama Metal Coil Securement Act, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Bob Riley, cost burdens, preemption, corinna petry

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 4.

Alabama’s 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 (, 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required the driver to carry a copy of the certification in the vehicle and produce it upon demand, although Alabama rescinded that requirement in June 2011.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 law’s 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.

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