Varying Local HazMat Responder Rules Inflate Costs for Tank Truck Carriers

CARRIERS often are denied entrance to a site where they have a vehicle involved in an accident that requires hazardous materials response. It's also not unusual for them to later receive a bill with inflated fees charged by the local responders.

The problems stem from the many varying regulations that govern local, county, and state regulators, said Thomas Moses, president of Spill Center, Acton, Massachusetts. In some incidents, responders may rely on the carrier for invaluable information. In others, the situation may be entirely different.

Moses discussed hazardous materials response during the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) annual conference May 6-8 in Boston, Massachusetts.

He pointed out that all states have environmental laws relating to hazardous materials spills. About 90% of the counties have regulations on the books, while only about 10% of the cities have taken action. However, the latter percentage is growing, he added.

Even if a carrier is not responsible for the accident that causes a spill, the company remains responsible as a spill generator, Moses said.

However, some states, such as Massachusetts, have organized response groups to be efficient, well-trained, and cooperative, according to David Ladd of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services and John Parrow, Massachusetts District 6 hazmat team coordinator.

Ladd encouraged members of NTTC to become involved with the response units in the areas where their companies are located and to develop a means of educating other units.

He also pointed out that carriers can submit an appeal when they believe response unit fees are inflated.

Massachusetts organizes its response teams into six regional areas that include 283 hazardous materials technicians from 110 fire departments. Response is based on a four-tier method that activates each level based on the spill situation. The first tier response calls for a hazard and risk assessment at the scene to determine further action. The second tier provides response that is stipulated for short-term operations. Longer-term operations will require the third tier of responders, and the fourth tier will respond to a major disaster. Each tier increases the number of people and equipment that would be needed at the scene, based on how critical the accident.

The procedure was developed because local fire departments couldn't meet the environmental regulations for hazardous materials spills, including the costs associated with the requirements.

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