PRESSURE vessels dominated the regulatory update during the 1997 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar, held October 27-29 in Chicago, Illinois. Government officials weren't able to discuss specifics because the final rule was still being written, but they were adamant that new regulations were coming.
This was the 13th year for the Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar. The event is co-sponsored by National Tank Truck Carriers Inc (NTTC), Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), and American Petroleum Institute (API).
The newest version of the HM-225 final rule was published in the December 10, 1997, issue of the Federal Register. Specific requirements are outlined on page 30 of this issue of Modern Bulk Transporter.
Ron Kirkpatrick, Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT), told those at the meeting that the new rules were essential to counter industry practices that had created unsafe conditions. He described the accident that prompted RSPA to begin reviewing pressure vessel safety issues:
On September 8, 1996, propane was being unloaded from a tank trailer into a bulk storage facility in Sanford, North Carolina. The hose assembly failed, initiating a product release. At the same time, emergency shutoffs in the trailer and the storage tank failed to actuate. More than 35,000 gallons of propane were released during the incident. Fortunately, there was no fire.
"Even without a fire, the North Carolina incident was major," Kirkpatrick said. "It's a miracle that the propane didn't ignite."
Safety Problems While investigating the incident, RSPA found a number of problems. Investigators found that the bolts on the hose coupling were only finger-tight. The failure occurred on a brand-new hose.
In addition, the excess-flow valves failed to function. These valves are supposed to close automatically in the event of attachment failure.
Studying the issue further, RSPA officials discovered that the propane transportation and distribution industry has known since at least 1978 that the excess-flow valves would not function as intended in many instances.
RSPA has decided to address the problems in several ways, according to Kirkpatrick. Daily hose testing will be mandatory. RSPA's emergency interim final rule says that pipes and hoses must be checked for leaks and secure attachments before loading or unloading.
The emergency interim final rule also states that new hoses must be pressure-tested at 120% of the maximum allowable working pressure marked on the cargo tank. The test must include all hose and hose fittings as they will be attached during product transfer. Unloading Attendance
Kirkpatrick said RSPA believes strongly that propane bobtails and transports must be attended at all times while hazardous materials are loaded or unloaded. The attendant must be awake, be within 25 feet of the vehicle, and have an unobstructed view of the tank.
"We've learned that bobtails often carry up to 200 feet of hose, and operators can't ensure an unobstructed view during residential deliveries and such," Kirkpatrick said. "We didn't realize that this was the situation.
"However, we have discovered that two attendants are required for propane deliveries in Australia. An attendant must be stationed at each end of the hose."
RSPA wants to encourage technology-based solutions to the emergency shutdown problem. The agency is calling for development of radio-controlled shutdown systems, hose-failure sensors, and sensor systems that can be incorporated into the internal stop valves.
RSPA is working with various industry organizations to promote these developments and others. "Progress is being made," Kirkpatrick said. "The National Propane Gas Association and The Fertilizer Institute have set up taskforces to develop hose management programs and improved training and emergency response procedures. Working groups are investigating alternative means to achieve automatic shutdown in the event of hose failure."
Michigan Incident Sergeant Dave Ford, Michigan State Police, agreed that HM-225 has stirred up a lot of controversy. Still, stricter requirements are needed, he said.
"We had an incident in Michigan that was similar to the one in North Carolina," he said. "In our case, fire resulted. Better training is needed, and drivers must be a part of any program. They must report storage and loading facility problems and violations." Ford went on to discuss vehicle inspections conducted as part of Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) programs. "Officer discretion is a problem," he said. "Abusive officers give law enforcement a bad name, and problems should be reported to the CVSA."
Ford also commented on the NTTC lawsuit challenging the use of CVSA out-of-service criteria for enforcement purposes. "In Michigan, we oppose consideration of the CVSA criteria as anything more than a guideline," he said. "CVSA has no more right to make law than any other association. We are concerned that the guidelines might be adopted in the federal regulations without going through the formal rulemaking process."
Higher Costs Returning to the pressure vessel issue, NTTC's Cliff Harvison acknowledged that RSPA has found some problems that need to be addressed. "We realize that RSPA is very concerned with the ability of emergency shutoff valves to function properly," he said. "We know they are taking a hard look at this issue."
New rules will add to the cost of operation for tank truck fleets running pressure vessels, he said. Hardware retrofits may be needed, and hose management programs certainly will be required.
"We expect the hose management program to be extended to all types of tank truck operations," Harvison said. It's just a matter of time before mandatory testing and recordkeeping are required for all product hoses."
Harvison predicted brisk activity on the regulatory front for the next couple of years. "The Clinton Administration is winding down," he said, "and we're going to see a big push on pet projects by the appointees who head a number of departments and agencies, including EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), DOT, and so on."
Congress also will be involved in the regulatory flurry. The Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act (HMTUSA) was last updated in 1990. It is up for reauthorization this year, and it is a very powerful law for the tank truck industry.
Preemption is coming under review. It's important for the transportation industry to have a single set of rules, according to Harvison. Chaos will result without uniformity, and the industry would face significantly higher operating costs. However, resistance to preemption is growing at the state and local government levels.
Satellite Tracking DOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have said that they want access to satellite tracking records as part of a crackdown on hours of service. This move comes at a time when the trucking industry is moving more freight than at any time in the past, according to Harvison.
"The question that must be asked is, does DOT have the jurisdiction to demand this data?" Harvison asked. "It will be tested in court. Fleets need to be aware of this issue and must pay attention to future developments."
DOT seems certain to review wetlines on petroleum transports in the wake of a fiery crash last fall in New York. Fire resulted after an automobile crashed into the manifold area of a petroleum trailer. Fatalities resulted, and the ensuing fire destroyed a highway overpass.
"The accident is still being investigated by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), but we feel certain that wetlines will be a topic of discussion," Harvison said. "Even though this is a rare accident, it is controversial."
OSHA wants to revisit the confined-space issue. The agency seems to be particularly interested in the atmosphere in a cargo tank after cleaning. "In recent years, the overall presumption was that a clean tank has good-quality air inside," Harvison said. "We may see a call for expanded atmosphere testing from OSHA. They are looking for a third-party contractor to do some independent research."
Method 27 vapor-tightness testing required by EPA continues to be an issue. The EPA has jurisdiction over loading areas at storage depots but not trucking. The agency is using a backdoor approach to reach the tank truck industry by requiring rack operators to verify that cargo tanks using the rack have been tested according to Method 27.
RSPA Rejection Method 27 testing drew additional comments from DOT's Phil Olson. He pointed out that RSPA has eliminated Method 27 as a substitute for the leakage test mandated in the federal cargo tank rules.
"We require higher test pressures than does the EPA in Method 27," Olson said. "We catch more vapor leaks with our test. Method 27 lets leaks slip by."
Turning to cargo tank manufacturing, Olson said that HM-213 requires "R" stamps for repairs and modifications to all cargo tanks, not just those built to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) code. DOT has identified 154 tank repair facilities with "U" stamps only.
Manufacturer Scrutiny Tank manufacturing companies have come under closer scrutiny, and HM-213 seems to be just one result. Bill Quade, FHWA, said that the agency has developed a monitoring program directed at cargo tank manufacturers.
"It wasn't enough just to inspect cargo tanks on the highway," he said. "So, from 1990 through 1991, we studied tank manufacturing operations and gained expertise. We're now reviewing manufacturing operations to ensure that tanks with problems get fixed properly."
FHWA is using a number of tools to ensure that cargo tanks are built properly, including consent agreements, Federal Register notices, and cargo tank recalls. Recall authority is one of the changes FHWA has requested in the hazardous materials transportation reauthorization bill.
"We will continue to identify problems to make sure cargo tanks are built to specification," Quade said. "We're looking at design issues. For instance, we have found design problems in overturn devices.
"We're also finding problems on the repair side. Definitions are an area that needed clarification in a number of instances. Repair is an action that brings the tank back into compliance with the original design. Modification is the addition or subtraction of parts that affect structural integrity."
The FHWA is concerned about annual inspection reports that show no problems. "Inspectors must write down anything that required repair or replacement," Quade said. "We're also finding that corroded and abraded areas are not being thickness-tested as required. Minimum thicknesses are not being established. Quality control procedures are not being used for tank repairs."
Inspector Training FHWA inspectors Joe Evans and Joe DeLorenzo provided a sampling of the training program that is being conducted through the agency's Cargo Tank Technical Assistance Group. The program is directed at the FHWA inspectors who are responsible for enforcing cargo tank regulations in the field.
Starting with external visual inspections, they suggested that mechanics should spend two to six hours checking an MC306/DOT406 petroleum transport. "Inspectors in the repair shops aren't all doing the same level of job," Evans said. "We're finding that the least amount of effort goes into external visual inspections, and mechanics are missing a lot of problems. We shouldn't find leaks in a tank inspected just a month ago when we do a roadside check."
The spec plate should be the first thing checked by the mechanic during an external visual inspection. Type of tank should be verified. All markings and identification numbers should be checked. Markings must be updated as needed and must be legible.
The mechanic must go over the tank thoroughly, checking shell, heads, piping, valves, and vents. Weld integrity must be verified. Components must be checked for missing bolts and nuts. Ladders and structural attachments must be examined for damage.
Corroded and abraded areas must be noted when the shell and heads are inspected. Mechanics need to look for dents,cuts, digs, and gouges. They need to pay particular attention to defects or dents at the welds.
Piping, valves, and gaskets are to be checked for corrosion and abraded areas. Manhole covers must have all tightening devices and show no signs of leakage. Mechanics should look for damage on valves that might prevent safe operation. Vents must open at the set pressure and must reseat to a leak-tight condition.
Anchoring Components The external visual inspection is not complete unless the mechanic checks supports and anchoring components, overturns and other accident damage protection devices, external ring stiffeners, rear bumper, and hoses.
If cargoes are hauled that are corrosive to the tank or valves, mechanics must remove the upper-coupler assembly every two years to check for signs of corrosion damage. Annual pressure tests are required for insulated tanks without manholes.
Accurate inspection records must be maintained, and the records must be retained until the next successful inspection. The records should contain notes on any repairs that were needed for the tank to pass the inspection.
Some tanks must be inspected more often than the minimum, DeLorenzo said. Tanks need additional inspections when there is evidence of bad dents or corroded areas. Inspections are called for if leaks are found.
Tanks that have been out of hazardous materials operation for a year or more must be inspected before being returned to that type of service. These tanks also must be pressure-tested before being put back into service.