FMCSA focusing on tank rollovers

THE headlines keep Paul Bomgardner up at night:




Bomgardner, chief of the Hazardous Materials Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), said his goal is to remove unsafe drivers and carriers from the roads.

“Every day, I get maybe up to a dozen notices about something bad happening,” he said during the National Tank Truck Carriers 2012 Tank Truck Show & Maintenance Seminar October 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky. “I'm trying to think, ‘What can we do to stop that and keep everybody safe?’”

He said FMCSA has adopted several Strategic Plan Initiatives:

  • NTTC Bomgardner

    Raise the bar for motor carriers to enter the industry.

    “It's really important for us at FMCSA to make sure that only carriers doing the right thing are getting into the industry,” he said. “We have a new entry process carriers have to go through. As the years go by, we're looking at better ways to vet those carriers to make sure they have everything in place.”

  • Maintain a high standard of safety and compliance to remain in the industry.

    “We do it through regulations, through compliance, and enforcement. We have the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program and all kinds of tools. We have 5,000 to 10,000 inspectors on the road that do about three million roadside inspections a year.”

He said FMCSA continually monitors carrier activity and has found that many of the fleets being signed up for a hazmat safety permit don't actually need one.

“That drains our resources,” he said. “We have to visit within six months everyone who gets a temporary permit. We're going to these companies, and they're hauling fuel oil. They don't need the hazmat safety permit. To change it, you have to notify our division in writing.”

Last June, FMCSA made revisions to the national motor carrier crash rate: The fixed rate for crashes is now 0.136. Other rates are: driver out of service, 9.68; vehicle, 33.33; and hazmat 6.82.

Bomgardner said the industry also wants FMCSA to provide the ability for carriers to submit a corrected action plan to try to offset these rates.

“If they are put out of service or out of service rates are too high, they're asking if they can submit a corrective action plan,” he said. “For us to do that, we have to change the regulations. Because of MAP-21, we have to do a study of the hazmat safety permit program within a year and then take a look to see whether any changes are recommended. So we are not going to put the cart before the horse. We will do a study first before we do any changes.”

Some other changes made last year:

  • Strengthening the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.

  • Changing the Cargo-Related BASIC to the Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance BASIC.

  • Better aligning the SMS (safety Measurement System) with Intermodal Equipment Provider (IEP) regulations.

  • Aligning violations that are included in the SMS with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection levels. “We noticed there were a lot of hazmat and vehicle violations being generated from a Level 3 inspection. That is a driver-only inspection. How can you have a vehicle violation if they are only doing a Level 3? So right now, the system automatically rejects anything other than a driver violation if it's indicated as a Level 3 inspection.”

  • More accurately identifying carriers involved in transporting hazmat.

  • More accurately identifying carriers involved in transporting passengers.

  • Modify the SMS display.

He gave this SMS hazmat threshold definition:

  • Received two roadside inspections within the last 24 months, with one in the last 12 months, where “placarding required” is indicated. “We have 80,000 carriers in our hazmat database. In the BASIC, we have 400 motor carriers that fall into that threshold. But when you take a look at them compared to the larger population, we were still getting to about 95% of the ones who indicate a problem, so we're getting to the right ones by narrowing the scope of who falls into those categories.”

  • Placarded inspections must represent at least 5% of total inspections for the carrier; or

  • Holds a valid Hazardous Materials Safety Permit per 49 CFR Part 385.

The SMS hazmat BASIC carrier definition:

  • Received five inspections in the last 24 months where placards were indicated.

  • CVSA inspection levels: I, full inspection; II, driver/vehicle walk-around; V, vehicle only; and VI, radioactive materials.

“Nothing here says Level 3, so none of those go into the hazmat basic information,” he said.

He said that as of September 2011, there were a total of 21,559 hazmat carriers in SMS, including 514 high risk, 971 mandatory, 44 direct notice of claim, 161 warning letter, 1796 focused review, 296 full review required, and 267 full review recommended.

Under MAP-21, there are 91 sections that require FMCSA to initiate rulemaking, initiate policy, amend existing policy, change an existing program, change or add an it requirement, and change or add penalty assessments.

Hazmat-specific sections:

  • Section 33008: Hazmat Enforcement Training. “Right now, we have hazmat enforcement in place through the national training center. However, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) does not have that in place. But when you read it, it says they have standardized training for federal and state enforcement. So that means FMCSA has to work with PHMSA. So we're going to do that.”

  • Section 33009: Perishable Loads. “This will impact Part 109 by saying before you take any action at the roadside, if it's a perishable load you have to do other things so the load isn't destroyed.”

  • Section 33013: Highway Routing of HM. “We're working on making it better, or at least up to date. My biggest challenge with routing is trying to find routing agencies within each state. You call up these states and they go, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ It's amazing. So there will be the addition of state requirements for reporting new routes, and states will be required to supply POC information for routing.”

He said the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended to FMCSA and PHMSA that they implement a comprehensive rollover prevention program, with the goal of reducing the number of serious highway incidents and fatalities that involve cargo tank rollovers.

“It's a company culture,” Bomgardner said. “It's all about doing the right thing behind the scenes before the driver gets out there.

“My administrator came to me and asked, ‘What are you going to do about those rollovers?’ I can't have somebody in every truck, so we're going to work with the industry and anybody we can work with to see what we can do about putting out information to get these things under control.

“There are two sides to this. One of them is that if you look at loads, there are 100,000 shipments of just gasoline a day, and you have six rollovers a day. That's a very small percentage, but it's very high-profile. Usually when a tank rolls over, something bad happens: there's a fire or a community has to be evacuated. So we have to take a look at that as an agency and industry. We want to raise the bar to entry, raise the bar for continuing operations, and remove bad drivers from the road.” 

Find the Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar archive with articles from 2010 to 2013

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