DESPITE the arrival of a new, more business-friendly president in the White House, tank truck carriers aren't likely to see much of a reduction in transport regulations and enforcement. In fact, the Bush Administration has announced a 28% budget increase for the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The FMCSA proposed budget calls for more compliance and inspection reviews, more research on safety technologies, and improved data collection. Other parts of the Department of Transportation are just as busy.
An update on DOT regulatory activity was provided by Jack Rademacher, Brenner Tank Inc, and Cliff Harvison, president of National Tank Truck Carriers, during NTTC's 53rd annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
Wetlines typically found on petroleum trailers remain a target for the regulators at DOT and the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). “RSPA believes wetline solutions are available,” Rademacher said.
He went on to explain that a RSPA proposed rule to eliminate wetlines was sent to the Office of Management and Budget in December 2000. Following the arrival of newly elected President George W Bush, the proposal was withdrawn in February 2001.
The matter did not die, though. The proposal was returned to RSPA for review by a Bush Administration appointee. That individual, newly named RSPA Administrator Ellen G Engleman, soon will be in place.
A wetlines proposal should be announced in the near future, and it most likely will contain both a new cargo tank requirement and a staged retrofit of existing equipment. Compliance could be costly.
“Suppliers of equipment to remove retained product from loading lines estimate that retrofit will cost $4,000 to $6,000 per tank, including downtime,” Harvison said. “NTTC estimates that there are approximately 125,000 cargo tanks designed primarily to transport middle distillate petroleum products.”
Harvison went on to review some of the factors that make a wetlines rule a virtual certainty: In the past 24 months, there have been a number of highly publicized “wetlines” accidents involving multiple fatalities. Various suppliers say they have developed technologies that would eliminate wetlines in over-the-road transportation and would not require alteration of the loading rack hardware. Suppliers claim retrofit can be accomplished without welding or cutting on the cargo tank.
Despite the publicity on wetlines accidents, Harvison contended that DOT's current economic analysis of the wetlines issue is weak and subject to challenge. DOT, and also industry, is hampered by the fact that little crash analysis was performed on past incidents, and available data consists primarily of newspaper clippings and police reports.
“The biggest unanswered question is this: Did any given crash also involve a rupture of the belly of the tank?” he said. “Most wetlines accidents involve fire, which typically destroys most of the tank shell, making critical analysis most difficult.”
While wetline rules are a definite concern for the tank truck industry, other issues also must receive attention. Rademacher reviewed one little-publicized rule that could have a big-dollar impact on the trucking industry in general.
Buried in Section 18 of the TREAD Act is a requirement to mandate tire pressure warning indicators on new vehicles as of November 1, 2003. TREAD stands for Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation and was motivated by the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire fiasco.
Compliance will be expensive because fleets will have to equip every vehicle (tractor and trailer) with a tire pressure monitoring system that will require driver corrective action if problems occur.
Work continues on ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Section XII, which is opposed by many in the tank truck industry. A final draft is to be prepared for review by January 2002, and portable tanks and ton tanks are the initial focus.
ASME Section XII will cover the design, construction, and repair of a wide variety of cargo tanks. DOT is the driving force behind development of Section XII, and the objective is to incorporate the ASME standard into the federal cargo tank regulations. DOT has emphasized that Section XII must be transparent with the current regulation.
The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) continues to raise concerns with the approach taken in Section XII, according to Rademacher. TTMA is especially concerned that Section XII requirements could result in inspection costs following minor repairs that are greater than the cost of the repairs.