In a victory for both transportation and crane members, SC&RA successfully worked to petition FHWA to clarify a long-standing definition of “nondivisible load.”
On any given day, SC&RA staff field calls from federal and state agencies and members about issues that could significantly impact industry operations. Operating behind the scenes to advocate for positive changes is part of SC&RA’s mission. Thus far, 2018 has proven both busy and successful for SC&RA advocacy with these top four issues:
#1 Defining “Nondivisible”
In a victory for both transportation and crane members, SC&RA worked tirelessly and successfully to petition FHWA to clarify a long-standing definition of “nondivisible load” that has been interpreted very differently between states and even within various jurisdictions within states.
The Federal Definition 23 CFR 658.5 – “nondivisible” means any load or vehicle exceeding applicable length or weight limits which, if separated into smaller loads or vehicles, would:
- (i) compromise the intended use of the vehicle, i.e., make it unable to perform the function for which it was intended;
- (ii) destroy the value of the load or vehicle, i.e., make it unusable for its intended purpose;
- (iii) require more than 8 workhours to dismantle using appropriate equipment.
“Feedback has been very encouraging, thus far,” said Steven Todd, SC&RA Vice President, Transportation. “As an example, after reviewing SC&RA’s material, Wyoming immediately dropped their divisible-load $14,000 fine against a member. And it appears as if there is reason for optimism that this will set a new precedent in Wyoming, one of our top barrier states on this issue, to reconsider their original interpretation in all future cases – at least as it pertains to specific equipment involving a mobile crane.”
The heavily watched MSHA vs Sims Crane case came ended with Sims losing its appeal, which emphasized the industry’s position that a spreader bar is not “part of the load.”
SC&RA Senior Vice President Beth O’Quinn echoed Todd. “This is a win for both transportation and crane and rigging. It opens the opportunity for these operators to get their equipment to the site in the most efficient and cost-productive manner possible. Often, a win for permitting or axle weights is also a win for crane companies, because it impacts mobile cranes.”
#2 Letter of the Law
The heavily watched MSHA vs Sims Crane case came to an end earlier this year with Sims losing its appeal, which emphasized the industry’s position that a spreader bar is not “part of the load.” SC&RA was an amicus curiae in the appeal, and while the Association was disappointed in the decision, it recognizes the overall outcome wasn’t all negative.
“Even though it was a split decision,” explained O’Quinn, “and though we’re not always going to win every advocacy effort, it’s important to recognize that industry was able to secure a program policy letter from the Mine Safety & Health Administrator which affects rigging operations on MSHA sites and allows riggers to do their jobs – per OSHA standards. It’s a positive result in this regard because we wouldn’t have received the letter otherwise, and we believe that with this letter in place, we won’t see further companies getting citations for working under or around a spreader bar – or during rigging operations.”
In late March, SC&RA announced an ambitious initiative – Uniform Permit Transport 2021 (UPT2021) – to establish harmonization between all 50 U.S. states on OS/OW envelope vehicle configurations.
“Two of the primary goals for UPT2021 are to encourage all states to allow minimum weight thresholds, and to analyze and issue permits via automated permit systems, 24-7,” said Todd. “The aim is to gain one hundred percent compliance across the country by the year 2021. We’re also endeavoring to get all fifty states harmonized in terms of the allowable weight they will give us on eleven common configurations for our members, which have already been approved in several states.”
On a related note, the Federal DOT released a report in 2018 on “Best Practices in Permitting of Oversize and Overweight Vehicles,” which highlight the reality that, as states implement and enhance automated permitting systems at an increasing rate nationwide, a consensus regarding the safety and efficiency benefits has grown.
The report lists a productive list of benefits that Todd believes will be “ … substantially more powerful coming from the Federal DOT than from anyone within our industry. We look at it as a win-win-win: for the traveling public, the state government(s) and for industry.”
SC&RA supported the change of requiring crane operator certification “by type and capacity” to certification “by type and/or type and capacity.” The Association has worked diligently to get OSHA to listen to the industry.
#4 Crane and Derricks
In May, OSHA permanently clarified and extended an employer’s duty to ensure crane operators are competent by means of training, certification or licensing and evaluation.
On behalf of its members, SC&RA submitted formal comments stating that it supports the requirement for employers to evaluate their operators and operators-in-training, however it does not support a prescriptive list by which employers must evaluate their operators, nor does it support the requirement for independent third-party evaluations.
“We believe it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees are properly trained to operate the piece of equipment they are assigned to,” said O’Quinn. “A certification, while it establishes a baseline of knowledge, does not deem the person qualified.”
In a letter to OSHA, SC&RA also supported the change of requiring crane operator certification “by type and capacity” to certification “by type and/or type and capacity.” Additionally, the Association supported the requirement that a trainer should be a “qualified person” as defined within the standard.
“The decision isn’t finalized yet,” said O’Quinn, “but we have worked diligently over the last several years to get OSHA to hear industry – that certification by type and capacity isn’t necessary – because capacity is out. So that’s a win for us, and it lessens the amount of additional burdensome and unnecessary testing that would have been required for crane operators. We will continue to fight for our members on these issues.”