The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a petition submitted by the American Trucking Associations asking the agency to determine if Alabama's Metal Coil Securement Act is preempted by federal law. The ruling means the state can no longer impose the law's requirements on interstate movements, effective April 4.
In a Federal Register notice issued Tuesday, the agency said the law imposes certification requirements on Interstate drivers that are not required under FMCSA regulations and are more stringent than those imposed by federal law.
The law, adopted in 2009, prohibits a motor carrier from transporting metal coils in a movement that originates or terminates in Alabama unless the driver is certified in load securement. The law, as originally enacted, also required the driver to carry a copy of the certification in the vehicle and produce it upon demand. Maximum penalties for violating these requirements include fines of between $5,000 and $10,000, jail time and/or a court order prohibiting the driver from operating a CMV in the state.
On June 26, 2009, FMCSA sent a letter to then-Alabama Gov. Bob Riley stating that the law appeared to be incompatible with the requirements of FMCSA's Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. FMCSA also drew attention to two federal laws authorizing preemption of state legislation and indicated that they might be applicable. The agency urged state officials to work with FMCSA officials to resolve any conflict between state and federal law.
Gov. Riley responded by explaining that the law was adopted in response to a number of accidents in Birmingham, Ala., involving metal coils falling off trailers along Interstate routes. He took the position that federal law did not preempt Alabama’s metal coil load securement certification requirements.
On Dec. 22, 2010, ATA petitioned FMCSA for a determination that Alabama's metal coil load securement certification requirements and penalties create an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce and are preempted under federal law. ATA contended that Alabama's requirement that drivers obtain certification in metal coil load securement is more stringent than and incompatible with federal metal coil safety regulations.
In 2011 Alabama issued regulations offering drivers three options to become certified in load securement: obtain a Metal Coil Certificate by taking and passing the “Securing Metal Coils Course'' available for $25 and on the web site, www.metalcoiltraining.com, obtain a commercial driver's license endorsement that allows the driver to haul metal coils in the state, or obtain a Metal Coil Certificate from a motor carrier authorized by the Alabama Department of Public Safety to issue the certificate, which would require the carrier's safety compliance officer to submit a notarized affidavit that they have personal knowledge that the carrier requires every driver to be trained in the requirements of hauling metal coils.
Later in 2011, Alabama amended the Act, rescinding the requirement that drivers carry copies of their metal coil load securement certification in their vehicles. It continued to require drivers to obtain certification, but drivers are no longer were required to produce the certification upon demand.
FMCSA published a notice in the Federal Register on Nov. 23, 2011, seeking comment on whether the Act is preempted by Federal law. The five comments opposing preemption included one each from an individual driver, a motor carrier, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Alabama Trucking Association and the Alabama Department of Public Safety. The eight comments supporting the preemption petition included four from motor carriers, and one each from an owner-operator, ATA, an Alabama aluminum coil producer and the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association.