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Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

I am a profesional engineer working for a roof truss manufacturing company.  My company's insurance company tells me that I am covered for the engineering work I do for sealing roof truss shop drawings.  I have hired an attorney to review our insurance policy and he states there is an exclusion in the policy that would prevent me from being covered.  My question is this... Can someone who works for a roof truss manufacturing company out there, and who is sealing roof truss shop drawings, tell me what kind of insurance they are carrying? And is there anything that needs to be added to a typical product liability policy to cover an employee, who is an engineer, providing engineering services?  

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

You may be industry exempt, depending on your state.  In one of my previous posts in another thread I mentioned that during my last NSPE chapter meeting we had a rep in from the registration board.  We covered a topic like this and outside of being industry exempt, when does an engineer NOT have to stamp drawings.

In this example, if you work for a truss manufacturing company and this company also installs the trusses, then you don't need to stamp the plans at all because you are not performing engineering service for the public.  You are performing an engineering service for the company and then the company is just selling the product, not the engineering service.  This is a very grey area and therefore your specific state laws need to be reviewed for this.  Contact your state board for clarification.

On the other hand, if you only design trusses and then sell the designs to a truss manufacture, then you are performing engineering service for the public and do have to stamp the plans.

In my particular state, if the truss were to fail, then the home/business owner could sue the truss manufacturer.  Of course, in today's society some lawyer will try to get all the money they can and therefore also try to sue the engineer.  In my state, that lawsuit would automatically get thrown out because the engineer did not perform any engineering service for the public, only a company, and therefore the company assumes all liabilities for it.  The law was written this way because since the design and build was internal to the company, there is difficulty and internal conflict of interest to post blame on multiple parties within the company.  To elaborate - the home owner sues the company and the engineer within the company.  He wins both lawsuits.  Does that mean the company can turn around and sue its employee, the PE who stamped the design?  What if the design IS good but manufacturing was not up to spec and based on company procedures the engineer has no authority over the manufacture of the truss?  You can see why it is a grey area and why design-build is widening the grey area.

State boards and working with local legislature all over the country to better define industry exempt as well as when an engineering service is provided to the public compared to when the product of an engineering service is sold to the public.



RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Typically, the IBC requires the truss drawings to be sealed.  Not sure you can get out of the liability with an industry exemption.

If you seal a drawing, and the truss fails, and it can be shown you acted with gross negligence, you could loose your license.

Don Phillips

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

99% of what we do is residential.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe the IRC requires the truss layout to be sealed.  I am pretty sure that the shop drawings need to be sealed.


RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

The IRC does not specifically require a seal but Chapter 1 Administration is what the the local building official may hang his hat on to require the shops to be sealed.  The layout drawing should match the shops and if they do not, this typically needs to be addressed.

Don Phillips

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Check out:


The WTCA, representing the structural building components industry, has set up a Tech Notes for each state, citing problems, issues, etc. specific to that state.

These aren't a "law", from what I understand, but it is encouraged that you include them with your bid package so that each person's responsibilities are clearly outlined.

We spend hours arguing back and forth with customers regarding sealing layouts, calculating loads on the trusses, etc. and this very clearly spells out who does what.  Just yesterday someone in my office argued with an outside structural firm regarding the drift loading they put (or didn't put, in this case...) on the plans.  It's an ongoing battle.

In the Michigan version of the Tech Notes, it very clearly says that individual truss drawings should be sealed, or that you can seal just the top index sheet (section 2303.4.1.2 Appendix D) and that the truss placement drawing "shall not be required to bear the seal or signature of the truss designer".  

Our truss "designers" aren't registered anyway - we send the trusses out for seals and I think most companies do that, maybe I'm wrong on that?

There also states in section 2303.4.1.3 an "EXCEPTION" and that is "if the truss placement diagram is prepared under the direct supervision of a registered design professional, it is requred to be signed and sealed."

My boss wants me to get my PE ASAP, supposedly so I can seal connection details, etc.

Scary, considering the amount of problems I've seen here so far.  

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Thanks michfan.  I have my PE and my company wants me to seal truss shop drawings in house.  Currently we send them to the plate supplier for seals.  
Is the EXCEPTION you note just in the IBC, or is it in the IRC as well?  Most of what we do falls under the Ohio Residential Code, which is modeled after the IRC.  I am not overly concerned with sealing the shop drawings, it's the requirement to seal the placement diagram that concerns me.  Just as a note, if you decide to get your PE and seal drawings in house, make sure you review your company's insurance policy to make sure that you are covered.  I've hired an attorney to review our policy and he found a few items that needed to be addressed.  

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

I've done a little more searching, and came up with the steel version for the recommendations.  The link above takes you to the Wood Truss Components version, but they are very similar.

Here is the steel link:


The second box down on the page has:
     STCA 1 - 2003 Design Responsibilities:

Following that is a commentary to the STCA 1 publication.  It goes a little more in-depth on some of the points.

And you can click on the link to view the PDF, you just can't print it (they want you to buy 50 copies, no free distribution of it).  

These are just "recommendations" based on a consensus in the industry - no state law or codes are specifically noted the way the WTCA does in their document.  Unfortunately, the steel truss industry doesn't seem to be as advanced as the wood truss industry, which has been around a lot longer, obviously.  

Either way, it is very clear in item 6.6:

6.6 Where required by the Contract, the Steel
Component Manufacturer shall prepare the
Steel Components Placement Diagram. The
Steel Components Placement Diagram shall
be permitted to include identifying marks for
other products, including Structural Elements
otherwise supplied by the Steel Components
Manufacturer so that they may be more easily
identified by the Contractor during field
erection. As the Steel Components Placement
Diagram serves only as a guide for Steel
Components installation and requires no
engineering input, it does not require the seal
of a Steel Components Design Engineer (as
defined in 7.3).

I did read somewhere (trying to find it again) that a few jurisdictions do require a sealed PLACEMENT drawing, I think Miami was one of them?  And the commentary says:

Since the Steel Components Placement Diagram
prepared by the Steel Components Manufacturer is
not an engineering document, it should not be
sealed. When a sealed structural framing plan is
required, it should be prepared by the Building
Designer responsible for the overall building design
to ensure the adequacy and safety of the entire
structure. The Steel Components Placement
Diagram prepared by the Steel Components
Manufacturer should ordinarily be reviewed and
accepted for conformance with the overall building
design by the Building Designer of record.

That pretty much lets you and I off the hook for ever providing a seal on a placement diagram.  

So, I'd make sure that any contract or work order that your company uses clearly states that any sealing of the Placement Diagram will be by the EOR and not you as a PE at the truss company.  If your boss isn't willing to go along with you making recommendations to cover your own butt, I'd look to move on.

I've only been at this company about 6 weeks now - I haven't  yet had time to approach the owner with my growing list of concerns about the way things are done around here.  He's been out sick, on vacation, or traveling to job sites pretty much since I've started, but I've seen a lot of things that are starting to concern me already.

This place operates differently than any place I've ever worked.  Each person has a specific task to do with regard to the truss package.  One guy does just the building layout in 3-D, and that generates the truss profiles.  Another guy runs the trusses and sends for seals.  A 3rd guy does some detailing in cad in order to set the lasers on the jig table, etc.  

Last time I worked with trusses was about 6 years ago.  I did nothing in 3-D at that time.  I don't remember ever having as many errors in design as I see here.  We've got bearings in incorrect spots, profiles are just plain wrong, etc.  We've run trusses (or tried to..) thru a CMU gable wall because no one noticed it on the plans and had to do a field mod on those.  It's like they think the 3-D software is foolproof and nothing is checked.  Plus, with 3 people doing 3 different parts of the design, and a 4th person writing the RFI's and handling the paperwork, no one person really gets a handle on  the work they are doing.  I used to see a job through from start to finish, estimating it, designing it, running the trusses, etc.  I kept track of the job-specific issues that way.  

Here, I'm handed two truss drawings and told to get a connection between them designed.  I have no knowledge of what's gone on before this point.

I find that a hard way to work.  And there is absolutely no checking procedure between the different stages of work.

So that's my reasoning for not knowing if I want to stay here long enough to start sealing anything.  

I haven't even begun to look into insurance issues.  That's a whole nother ball of wax, I guess...

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Oh, and I didn't see where the STCA's Standard Practices differentiates between commercial and residential at all - the way the WTCA's documents seem to.

If I find anything on that, I'll let you know.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Our company manufactures wood roof trusses, so the original link you posted was okay.  We have one person handling a job from start to finish.  I have seen companies who handle jobs the way you guys do.  It seemed efficient in some ways but also seemed to create a coordination problem, particularly with the way the trusses are loaded.
I also did some more research and found that the IRC does not yet have the EXCEPTION you mentioned.  They will however adopt it in a future release of the code.  
Ohio and Kentucky, the two states where we do most business, are behind on adopting new codes, so we both still don't require placement plans to be sealed.  

One other question I have is this... If a truss designer does a truss layout within our company and I seal the truss shop drawings, is that layout done under my direct supervision?  Or can I say that I am only sealing the truss design for the loading for which the designer provided?    

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

I think if you review what he's done and verify the loading, spacing, etc. then you could seal it.  That would be directly supervising and checking their work.  

I guess I would always try to put it all back on the EOR for the building design either way, since they are ultimately responsible for the loading on the building.

Michigan has a good state engineering website where you can submit to a Q&A forum - maybe Ohio has the same?  It would be worth asking someone to clarify what your code says.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Absolutely, I agree that it should be on the EOR.  I guess what I was trying to ask was am I obligated to directly supervise their work since we work for the same company?  I would argue no, but I'm not sure what others' take on this is.    

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

I've always understood that to mean that the work has passed by your desk, you have checked it for errors, omissions, etc. and you put your seal on it when you feel it is correct.

I don't think it means to stand over the person's shoulder, watching their every move while they do the calcs.

Then again, maybe that's why it takes so darn long to get the seals back from our engineer...

It would be interesting to know how PE's in supervisory positions work this.  During all my work experience, I've always done work and sent it out to be sealed, but my work was only the preliminary steps - I'd size beams and things and submit calcs - and sometimes they'd make changes but most of the time I'd get it back sealed.

Interesting thing to think about.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

So, if I choose not to review an employees' work who is working for our company, then I do not have to seal it?

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Are you asking whether you can pick and choose what to seal?   I guess that would depend on your boss' mood that day!  

According to the Ohio engineer's website, if you seal it, you better have had a hand creating/calculating/designing etc.

Here is what I found online:

From the NSPE website:

The NSPE Code of Ethics states that engineers may approve only documents that are in conformity with applicable standards and that engineers cannot sign any plans or documents dealing with an area in which the engineer is not competent. In addition, engineers may not sign “any plan or document not prepared under their direction and control.”
The Code says that engineers may assume responsibility for an entire project and sign and seal the engineering documents for that project, “provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed only by the qualified engineers who prepared the segment.” This wording is important because it specifies that each portion of the plans must be sealed by the PE who was in charge of the creation of that section. Review of plans alone is not enough.  When it comes to plan stamping and responsible charge, NSPE’s Board of Ethical Review defers to state licensure law, says William Lawson, former chairman and current member of the BER. “You need to understand what your law says,” he adds.  But in general, for an engineer to have responsible charge over a project, he or she must be closely involved in the process from beginning to end. “They don’t have to physically be in the room, but they need to be directly involved,” Lawson says. In addition, the responsible engineer needs to have appropriate procedures in place for communication in case issues arise that need to be addressed during the project.  Most important, the BER is always concerned that engineers know their state law requirements in order to prevent plan stamping from occurring, Lawson adds.

And directly from your state’s website

What is plan stamping?

From Ohio Administrative Code 4733-35-07 (A): The engineer or surveyor shall not sign and/or seal professional work for which he or she does not have personal professional knowledge and direct supervisory control and responsibility.”

Plan stamping is demonstrated when a Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor places his or her registration seal on any drawings, designs, plats, descriptions and/or specifications that he or she did not author or for which he or she did not have personal professional knowledge and direct supervisory
control and responsibility.

Personal professional knowledge is best demonstrated when a Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor has been personally retained by an owner, registered design professional or a design/build contractor
and is personally aware of a project’s scope, needs, parameters, limitations and special requirements. It is preferred that the professional engineer or professional surveyor contract directly with the owner for all professional services to be rendered and then subcontract services such as drafting as needed.

Direct supervisory control and responsibility is best demonstrated when a Professional Engineer or
Professional Surveyor has direct professional knowledge and is the actual author or has been in responsible charge of a design or project from its very inception to its completion.

In some cases it may be necessary for unregistered individuals, such as technicians or drafters, to assist the Professional Engineer or Professional
Surveyor; however, the Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor must maintain responsible charge of
the project and total control of all design decisions in order to be in compliance with the Board’s laws and
administrative rules.

Sounds like you are going to be busy...
I think I'll start looking for work as an estimator, something where you can't hurt anyone with what you do every day...   

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Exactly.  Basically I'm trying to avoid having to seal the placement drawings.  I know I will be sealing the truss shop drawings.  But, if I can get around sealing the placement drawings in the future by simply stating that I did not have direct supervisory control over the project, then that will make me a happy man.  

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Definitely.  Because you didn't design the building, and therefore didn't design the bearing conditions...cmu walls, beams, columns, etc.,  and you did not directly supervise the EOR at whatever structural firm did the work, you are not obligated to seal the placement diagram.  

You aren't analyzing that entire system to make sure it "works", just the individual truss components.  

I would say that if you do design-build work, where you may find yourself sizing beams to carry the trusses, etc., that's another story.  Just stay away from that kind of work would be my advice, though my boss seems gung-ho to stick his finger in every type of pie once I pass the PE...again, scary for me.

As an aside, if you do see something that you are pretty sure won't work, you would be obligated to point that out to the building EOR.  Last week, I was looking at plans for a retirement home and they had 4 girder trusses coming in to sit on a 3.5" x 3.5" HSS column.  The trusses had a combined reaction of about 50k.  Like setting an elephant on a pixie stick, I thought.  A couple of the girders were 3-ply, or about 6" deep, sitting on a 3.5" tube steel column.  I felt the need to mention to the engineer that he may need to check that column again, now that the trusses were designed.
My nerves aren't going to let me stay here too long, I think.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

<B>michfan</b> said it best. You're sealing the truss components, not the system.  The EOR has a seal on his framing plan which covers the engineering aspect of the system, your stamp covers only parts of that system.

Here the local building department wanted truss placement diagrams sealed and we went back and forth with WTCA's help getting this problem resolved.

Similar situation, our in house PE stamped our drawings.... not the layout.

(truss designer of 7 years and WTCA certified, level III)

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

I'm curious what the benefit is to your company to have you seal the component drawings rather than having the plate manufacturer's engineer sign them?  It seems like the agravation and liability avoided would be worth the wait for a couple day turn-around on seals.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Where I work, it's a 2-week turnaround, if you are lucky.  And, I think in my situation, the owner of the company thinks he'll be able to "get away with" stuff that the current engineer won't seal.  Also, instead of passing on a $500 fee for a repair and paying that company $400 of it, he's seeing the business pocket the entire $500, less what they pay me...

If I did decide to stay here once I have my PE, which isn't looking likely, I hope he realizes I'm going to cost him quite a bit more in salary.  smile

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

The issue with us isn't turnaround.  We get our drawings back in a very timely manner (one day maximum).  There are a few benefits to having me seal the drawings.  First, obviously is financial (both for me and my company).  Second, it allows me to utilize my P.E. license, after all I spent a lot of money and worked hard to get it.  Kind of a waste leaving it to collect dust in my desk drawer.  Finally, the way things are going, truss engineers may soon be responsible for the entire roof system, not just the components.  If this ever happens, it will greatly benefit us to have a P.E. in house sealing the entire truss system.

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Honestly, I don't see the financial benefit for  your company, especially with the liability associated.  Sure, if the local requirements head toward "entire roof system design" you'll be ready to fly while the other manufacturers scramble to find engineers.  Just my unsolicited opinion.

I work for a lumber company where we make trusses, fabricate steel, and sell engineered lumber products.  I'm also an engineer (and so is the owner), but I'm never itchin' to use my stamp.  I let the Alpine engineers stamp the truss drawings.  If someone requires an engineer's design, we charge for that service.  But like you've said, if we included "engineering" in every quote, we'd never get any business.

Btw, its good to see others that are facing the same dilemmas we do.  

RE: Truss Manufacturing Professional Liability Insurance

Our plate manufacturer charges us for seals.  We spend a significant amount of money on seals each year.  By sealing in house, that cost now becomes direct profit.  Also, as a manufacturing company, our product liability insurace covers me, so, there is no increased cost for liability.  I am only covered for products we manufactured however.  
We include component engineering in our quotes.  Just not "system" engineering.  If we ever have to seal the entire roof system, it is likely that we will need to obtain an errors and omissions policy.        

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