Government Officials Note Rule Proposals

Wetlines are under consideration once again by federal officials. The elimination of loading wetlines on cargo tanks continues to be a rule consideration by the Research and Special Programs Ad- ministration (RSPA), said Phil Olson, RSPA representative.

Technology is available to provide a solution, he said. Equipment is available that can be mounted on vehicles to pump air into the lines to remove the excess product. The system costs $2,500 per truck and adds 100 pounds. It can displace approximately 18 gallons of gasoline. RSPA has some concern about the product displacement, because more trucks would be required to distribute the same amount of product, he added.

"The argument can no longer be made that there isn't technology available to take care of the wetlines issue," he said.

The renewed focus follows an accident involving an automobile and a tanker rig in which the automobile driver was killed. Although the automobile driver caused the collision, Olson said the driver would have survived the accident if there had been no fire. The blaze resulted from ruptured wetlines. He cited other accidents that had similar circumstances involving wetlines.

RSPA is seeking information from the industry about the impact of a wetline prohibition. In addition to discussion of the wetlines issue, Olson noted that DOT conducted a public hearing via its web site. "It was a historic first for DOT," he said. The Internet address is www.hazmat.dot.gov.

Ron Kirkpatrick, a RSPA official, said the administration may override a combined government/industry committee recommendation involving a propane delivery rule if the eventual decision doesn't deliver the level of safety that RSPA feels is essential.

"We don't want to override the recommendation, but we may," he said. "We've met four times in two-day sessions and we're not real close to changing anything in the requirements as yet."

He referred to a RSPA rule that requires an additional delivery attendant and the use of remote control devices during unloading. The controversial issue erupted in Texas and Missouri courts when the rule was challenged by representatives from the propane industry. A Missouri federal judge enjoined RSPA from enforcing the rule, pending further considerations.

After the court ruling, RSPA sought representatives from cargo tank motor vehicle carriers and manufacturers to serve on a federal advisory committee with federal, state, county, and city officials. RSPA expects to issue a final rule by May 1, 1999.

The rule was prompted after October 1997 when 40,000 gallons of propane were accidentally released at a storage facility during loading - 10,000 gallons from a transport and 30,000 from the storage facility.

Enforcement funding has been increased in recent appropriations, said Joe DeLorenzo, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) official. As a result, part of it will be used to enforce carrier fitness rules and provide courses for inspectors.

Any carrier that is deemed unsatisfactory will be prevented from interstate transportation for 61 days. Penalties will be tougher in order to bring cited carriers into compliance, he said.

Funding also will go to upgrading computer software systems, including sections that list carrier profiles. Part of the funding will be used to maintain a toll-free public service telephone line in which people can call to complain about carriers. The number is 888-368-7238.

DeLorenzo announced that registered inspector courses will be offered in 1999 in Houston, Texas; Tampa, Florida; St Louis, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; Newark, New Jersey; Detroit, Michigan; and Denver, Colorado. Dates will be announced at a later time.

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