Sizing Things Up

How Aero helped settle federal regulations for truckers

When Aero introduced the first-ever rolling tarp system, the Conestoga, in 1984, it was an immediate customer favorite. Its revolutionary motorized framework could turn a flatbed into a fully functional walled trailer in less than a minute. In fact, a driver could back a truck to a dock, unload and be back on the road with the load safely covered in seven minutes — faster than it took to hard boil an egg. But a decade later, legal problems threatened Aero’s most popular product — and the drivers who used it. Resolving the issues would require change at the national level.

Punching the Tickets

In the 1990s, Indiana State Police began ticketing haulers equipped with Conestoga systems for being 6 inches over the legal maximum trailer width. Then Michigan wrote citations. More states soon followed: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Alarm bells went off as the product racked up legal problems in 14 states. The issue was not specific to the Conestoga line; all tarp systems made trailers technically over width limits. The Conestoga’s problem was that it was one of the most popular on the roadways.

Police agreed that the safety that tarping provided trumped being picky about meeting width standards, but rules were rules. They would continue enforcing the federal laws, even if the way they were written included so much ambiguity in what could or could not be counted in width measurements that interpretation led to significant confusion. Both the trucking industry and law enforcement needed clarity to do their work effectively.

Taking the wheel

As Aero fielded a flurry of calls from both customers and competitors, it became clear that someone needed to take the lead. Aero stepped up. Under guidance from U.S. Representative Julia Carson and leadership at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aero brought the Conestoga to Washington D.C. Holding a copy of the regulations in one hand and a measuring tape in the other, officials pored over the system. At the end of the day, they proclaimed that not only was the Conestoga a legal product, it was a great one.

Cutting the issue down to size

Over a four-year period, the U.S. Department of Transportation conferred with stakeholders like Aero Industries to hammer out new nationwide width requirements to resolve the issue. These new rules simplified which devices would be included or excluded when measuring a truck’s length and width and cleared the way for a common standard. Conestoga’s tarp and tarp hardware, like all of Aero’s products, now fit within the requirements under most circumstances. No more citations.

The Aero team was proud to have been a part of the process. Aero’s culture of caring includes support for drivers, workers and communities both large and small, because we all benefit by putting safety first.

 

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