RSPA reworks wetlines proposal to address major OMB concerns

Feb. 1, 2002
A DRAFT proposal that would prohibit wetlines on cargo tanks used to transport hazardous materials was sent back to the Department of Transportation's

A DRAFT proposal that would prohibit wetlines on cargo tanks used to transport hazardous materials was sent back to the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) for reconsideration. The action was taken in August 2001 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which had been reviewing the draft proposed rule since November 2000.

The request for reconsideration was unusual for a rulemaking of this sort, and this is the first time OMB had taken such action on an RSPA issue, according to Mike Stevens, RSPA. He discussed the wetlines action during the 2001 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar October 29 — 31 in Chicago, Illinois.

“We plan to address the OMB concerns and resubmit the proposal,” Stevens said. “Due to the terrorist attacks on September 11, non-security regulatory activity has slowed significantly at DOT, but we are moving ahead with this rulemaking effort.

“We knew where the weaknesses were when we sent this rulemaking to OMB, and they found every one. We are giving serious consideration to all of the OMB criticisms.”

The draft rulemaking should be ready for resubmission to Secretary of Transportation and OMB during the first quarter of 2002, according to Stevens. It will contain a reworked cost-benefit analysis with updated figures. A proposed rule could be ready for publication in the Federal Register by summer.

Four Concerns

OMB's request for reconsideration was outlined in a letter, copies of which were distributed at the Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar. Four specific concerns were outlined:

First, OMB said it was worried that retrofit requirements in the proposed regulation could increase the risks of injury and fatality to workers performing the modifications. The letter cited DOT's own estimate that up to 10 fatalities a year can be tied to cargo tank repair work.

“We think these estimates of fatalities resulting from repair work on cargo tanks raise important issues of risk-risk tradeoffs for this rule,” the OMB letter stated. “DOT has stated that the risk to workers associated with repair work on cargo tanks is (a) a result of non-compliance with existing laws and regulations, and (b) small in the case of retrofits required in this rule, since this work will be done when tanks are brought in for hydrostatic testing, at which time the cargo tank is emptied of hazardous liquid and filled with water (which reduces the likelihood of accidents). However, agencies need to take into account the extent of compliance with existing laws and regulations when estimating the costs and benefits of rules (and we would note that it is very likely that cargo tank accidents would not occur at all if all drivers followed existing traffic laws and regulations).

“We recognize that the risks associated with this repair work are short-term in nature, as the retrofits will be performed only once over a five-year period, and that the magnitude of these risks may not be significant. However, the lifetime risk associated with wetlines accidents is also small, and as such we need to take seriously — and try to avoid — the possibility that we would merely transfer the risks of one activity to another through this regulation.”

OMB quoted DOT estimates that a wetlines prohibition could save 1.5 lives and reduce 0.25 injuries per year over the next 30 years. OMB chided DOT for not adequately factoring in the possible increase in fatalities and injuries due to the hazardous nature of performing the retrofits.

The second point made by OMB was concern over RSPA's cost/benefit analysis. OMB suggested that RSPA would do better to propose a wetlines prohibition that applies only to new cargo tanks. “DOT's own analysis shows that the range of net benefits is higher under an alternative that would apply this regulatory standard only to new cargo tanks and cargo tanks less than 15 years old,” the letter stated.

Third, RSPA and DOT should more fully examine and consider, based on the best reasonably obtainable information, whether the fatalities and injuries associated with past cargo tank accidents resulted from the accidents themselves or from explosions following the release of a flammable liquid. Of the six fatalities that occurred from 1996 to 2000 as a result of wetlines-related accidents, DOT acknowledged that two of the fatalities might have been caused by the accident itself.

Finally, OMB said it believed other aspects of the DOT and RSPA analysis need to be examined in greater detail. “If DOT considered fatalities that occurred from wetlines-related accidents starting in the year 1990 (the starting year that DOT used in its preliminary assessment of this rule which concluded that the costs of this rule likely exceeded the benefits), the fatality rate that occurred in the past would be reduced to 0.72 per year,” the OMB letter stated.

Six Options

Despite the OMB criticism, a wetlines prohibition still seems likely. Government officials continue to argue that wetlines (external piping that contains flammable products) pose an unacceptable risk. Products likely to be targeted by the rule are gasoline, fuel oil, crude oil, jet fuel, alcohol, and solvents.

The piping on a typical gasoline trailer holds up to 60 gallons of liquid. Research shows that a majority of wetlines-related spills are less than 20 gallons; and the maximum injury radius has been calculated at 36 feet.

Six options have been studied for wetlines elimination, according to Bill Boyd, Heil Trailer International. The industry could return to top loading for all of the affected products. Wet lines can be drained back to the source at loading terminals, or the lines can be drained into slop tanks. Guards or shields can be installed to protect the lines. Product piping could be shortened significantly. And lastly, product can be pushed out of the lines, back into the cargo tank.

“The two options that seem to be getting most of the attention are shortened lines and purging systems that push product back into the cargo tank,” Boyd said. “Right now the burden of addressing this issue is on the cargo tank operator or owner. I think more consideration should be given to the loading rack alternatives, such as the slop tank.

“Putting systems on the cargo tanks means new equipment will cost more, and maintenance expenses will be higher. Cargo tanks could experience more downtime. Operators certainly will need more training. It's highly doubtful that cargo tank owners will be able to recover the cost of the new equipment from customers or through lower insurance rates.”

Cost Factors

The less costly of the two leading alternatives would be short lines. Boyd estimated that this type of modification would cost approximately $350 per compartment and add eight to 10 pounds per compartment.

“Installation at new tank build time is very straight forward,” he said. “Retrofit would be more difficult and would take greater technical knowledge. Short lines could be a problem at loading terminals if the loading arms can't reach the API adapters.”

The mechanical purging systems that have been developed are more complex than the short lines but would avoid the need for loading rack modifications. Boyd said these systems would cost approximately $5,000 to install on a new four- to five-compartment petroleum trailer. Estimated installation time would be 16 man-hours, and the system would add around 100 pounds to the trailer tare weight. Retrofit on existing trailers would cost approximately $5,400 and would take about 24 man-hours.

Mechanical purging systems are available from three companies — Civacon, EBW Inc, and Syltone Industries. Representatives from the three companies discussed the features of their products at the Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar.

Civacon's system has a high output displacement pump that moves liquid from the product line back into the tank, according to Rick Potter, Civacon. The closed-loop system maintains a vapor-rich mix in the lines for a higher level of safety. A programmable microprocessor and colored LED mode indicators allow the operator to monitor the purging process. Civacon's Wet Lines Mounting Ring simplifies the installation process.

EBW is the newest company to offer a mechanical purging system, and the manufacturer showed its product for the first time at the Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar. The system uses air to push product back into the cargo tank, according to Andy Bay, EBW.

A single pump purges each of the product lines, one at a time. A sensor on the bottom of the API adapter will detect any remaining product. The EBW system is adaptable to any equipment now on the road, Bay said.

Syltone also has pursued the pneumatic approach for purging wetlines. One of the first wetlines-elimination products on the market, Syltone's system purges all lines simultaneously, according to Bill Ruhl, Syltone Industries. It is tied into the overfill system, and is designed to activate anytime product is detected in the piping. Main components are an optic sensor on the API adapter, control box, check valves in the tank or emergency valves, and a braided stainless steel external product return hose.