What the hay? Why aren't hay truck loads covered up?

What the hay? Why aren't hay truck loads covered up? »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Why are hay trucks rumbling down our highways uncovered? A viewer wants the answer, and called "Ask Eyewitness."

It turns out hay doesn't have to be covered up, and it's one of just three exceptions for commercial trucks.

The viewer complained with hay not secured under something like a tarp, the contents can fly all over the road. But, California Highway Patrol Lt. Commander Dave Wymore said trucking loads of hay come under both state and federal codes.

"The hay doesn't produce a danger," Wymore told Eyewitness News. He said there are regulations about how the entire load must be strapped down to prevent it from spilling. "But, the individual strands of hay coming off does not constitute a spilling onto the roadway."

Those individual strands that come off are called "chaff," according to Manuel Machado from Circle M Hay.

"That blows off," Machado admitted. "Generally, that happens in the first couple miles you go down the road, and then it might all settle out, and there's no problem."

Machado added that hay or straw is bio-degradable, and not a hazard. He says straw is even used to help the environment. He cited the example of straw used to prevent erosion in areas after wildfires.

"They take it up, and they grind it, and they blow it up on the hillsides to keep it when the rains come to keep everything from slipping down," Machado said.

But, the viewer who contacted Eyewitness News also complained it's simply not fair that loads of hay are not covered up, while someone taking a load to the dump or landfill must have that all secured by something like a tarp.

Lt. Wymore said that situation comes under different laws regarding trash and rubbish.

"That law says it specifically has to be tarped to keep anything from coming off the vehicle," Wymore explained. "That's recyclables or rubbish."

It turns out there are three exceptions when commercial loads do not have to be covered.

The California Vehicle Code in Section 23114 (a) was amended to outline two of the exceptions. "A vehicle may not be driving or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed, covered, or loaded as to prevent any of its contents or load other than clear water or feathers from live birds from dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing, spilling or otherwise escaping from the vehicle," it reads.

Then, a Technical Review adds "the incidental blow-off of individual stems of hay and straw shall not constitute loss of load." So, hay is the other exception.

As a hay hauler, Manuel Machado said it makes sense that their product doesn't fall under the same rules at taking a load to the dump. "This is not trash," he said. It's a valuable commodity.

Machado also said even if the "chaff" or stems of hay or straw blow off, that would not scratch or damage other vehicles on the road. He's convinced it doesn't represent a hazard.

"We do have to sweep our trailers before we go on the road again," Machado said. "But, basically when you're loaded -- there's not much you can do about it."