An attempt by the federal government to create uniform regulations for securely transporting products — including baled hay and straw — led to a one-man crusade for new hay hauling rules that would be reasonable and safe.

In 1995, because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. government enacted requirements to ensure that “general cargo” was securely transported in a uniform manner between states and into Canada and Mexico.

Unfortunately, says Taylor Stack of Fallon, NV, hay and straw bales were classified as general cargo. And that made bale-loaded vehicles subject to stringent strapping requirements. Even worse, he says, were some state patrol interpretations of those rules.

“Some law enforcement officers believed that you'd have to have a rope over every bale, which would mean 30 ropes down the side of a load. It was just getting ridiculous,” says Stack, a hay dealer who also hauled hay for 38 years.

So he decided to do something about it. Through sheer persistence, he convinced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide a temporary rule stating that the combination of a bale loading/stacking pattern, longitudinal straps or ropes and one or two lateral straps are enough to secure a hay or straw load for transport.

It took him three years to get that temporary solution. Now he's working for a permanent rule that will move baled hay and straw from the general cargo category to a commodity-specific law.

The idea of providing uniform requirements for transporting products across North America was sound, Stack says. The actual requirements for baled hay and straw weren't, he adds.

For 65 years, hay haulers have stacked bales so they hold themselves on trucks or trailers. Then longitudinal ropes are used to pull the hay together end to end.

“But when hay got put into general cargo, what they wanted were five lateral straps and never mentioned our longitudinal ropes — never asked for specific stacking so a load wouldn't fall off,” he says.

“Basically, it wouldn't have stayed on a truck. So we ran our original way plus we put five straps on just to keep from getting tickets.”

By 2003, however, hay securement was being interpreted “to extremes” in Nevada, he says. That's when Stack did some research, jumped into his pickup and invited himself to a North American Cargo Securement Harmonization Workshop in New Mexico.

“I wasn't on the agenda but when they knew I was there they made time for me and welcomed me,” he says. “They said: ‘If you're right, we'll try to fix it.’ So every six months I would attend (meetings) and bring more and more of what they needed.”

Stack soon realized that the government needed “proof on paper” that securing bales with longitudinal ropes and proper stacking was superior to lateral straps. He found it in an Oregon engineering study that had “put a load of hay through hell to see what it can take.” But the study researched synthetic strapping and not rope.

So Stack volunteered his hay, equipment, place and time to do a like study using rope. “We surpassed every one of those criteria with the way we secure loads, which proved all this extra strapping was unnecessary.”

He figures it will be another year or longer before the permanent rule is reality. But he's in it for the “long haul.”

“Just keeping your head down and working is not a bad thing, but it is not enough,” Stack wrote in a letter to hay industry colleagues. “Being involved and improving your awareness will prevent unnecessary and unjust changes like the one we have just experienced.”

At this point, about 200 people from the hay industry, law enforcement, federal agencies, the trucking association, Farm Bureau and ag-related publishing are working on the issue.

“Our effort has also helped the fruit and vegetable industry, as its problem was similar to ours. They were able to advance fast due to our efforts,” Stack says.