Assault on America: Tank Truck Industry Feels the Impact

Oct. 1, 2001
Terrorist Attacks Bring New Challenges In coming days, weeks, and months, tank truck carriers will be confronted by a number of issues arising from the

Terrorist Attacks Bring New Challenges

In coming days, weeks, and months, tank truck carriers will be confronted by a number of issues arising from the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and severely damaged the Pentagon in Washington DC. Cliff Harvison, president of National Tank Truck Carriers, reviewed with Modern Bulk Transporter some of the problems and challenges that lie ahead.

Three key problems confronted tank truck carriers in the first 48 hours after the tragedy. First, the destruction in New York City and its impact on the surrounding area created huge congestion points in the Northeast Corridor. Second, traffic was slowed to a crawl over United States borders, especially the one with Canada, and this is a problem that could remain for quite some time. Third, panic buying of gasoline and diesel caused dramatic drops in inventory and the need to resupply those inventories on an expedited basis.

“Of these three elements, I expect the situation at the borders to have the most lasting effect,” Harvison said. “Carriers can and will develop new routings to serve New York and New England. Nationwide petroleum supplies are adequate, and the panic buying will subside. However, the delays at the border will be with us quite some time.”

Harvison believes the insurance crisis will worsen because underwriters at both the primary and excess levels are taking a tremendous hit as a result of the World Trade Center disaster. Claims will be measured in the scores of billions of dollars.

Productivity is almost certain to be reduced for some time to come due to reroutings and delays. Vehicle and driver productivity will fall, which will negatively impact carrier bottom lines. Increased security is one reason for the productivity drop. Harvison says he anticipates that shippers will impose new security-based restrictions at both loading and unloading sites. Additionally, placarded vehicles are very likely to be stopped and inspected more frequently by state and local law enforcement officials.

Harvison doesn't believe that the tank truck industry faces a direct terrorist threat, but he does offer a reminder that tank trucks carry many products — flammables, gases, and poisons — that could cause havoc if deliberately released in a populated area. Fleets need to keep that in mind when conducting risk assessments of their operations.

Detroit Chamber Has Border Crossing Hotline

The Detroit (MI) Regional Chamber has established a Border Crossing Hotline to give members and the general public daily updates on border delays, provide general information, and collect data regarding the economic impact to regional businesses.

The hotline number is 313-596-0324. After the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, the Chamber has worked with local, state, and federal officials to ease backups at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, Ambassador Bridge, and Blue Water Bridge.

For more information, phone Amy Hennes at 313-596-0367 or e-mail [email protected].

FBI Arrests Holder of CDL with HazMat Endorsement in Terrorist Investigation

In a chilling development Sept 20, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a man who may be linked to a close associate of Osama bin Laden. The arrested suspect not only holds a commercial driver license but also was trained in hauling hazardous materials. The arrest of Nabil al Marabh in Justice IL was reported on the Detroit Free Press web site.

Al Marabh, 34, obtained his Michigan commercial driver license in 2000 and was qualified to drive heavy-duty rigs hauling hazardous materials such as chemicals and explosives. Ironically, he got that license Sept 11, 2000 — exactly one year before hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. When he applied for the CDL, he showed proof that he had passed a road test given by a driving examiner for the Detroit (MI) Public Schools.

Officials with the FBI, the US Marshals Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service all declined to comment on al Marabh or the significance of his CDL with hazmat endorsement.

Federal officials have not said whether al Marabh actually went to work for a tank truck carrier or other trucking company. However, there is evidence that he applied for duplicate CDLs three times over the past two years, with the most recent request filed September 7 just hours before federal agents went to his home in southwest Detroit.

HazMat Transport Security Guidelines Issued

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been instructed by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to notify hazardous materials shippers and carriers of new security guidelines for those shipments. These guidelines are directed at carriers in particular, according to Mineta:

  • Follow hazmat routing guidelines and rules set by state and local authorities.

  • If at all possible, route hazmat shipments away from cities and populated areas.

  • Explore ways to improve hazmat cargo security measures.

  • Instruct personnel to report any suspicious behavior around shipments and vehicles to local and state authorities by phoning 911 or 311.

The Department of Transportation is instructing state and local law enforcement officials to investigate any vehicles that appear to be off-route or otherwise out of place.

Attack Sites Monitored for HazMat Levels

At the request of the New York City Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent personnel to the World Trade Center to monitor exposure to potentially contaminated dust and debris. They are performing the same function at the Pentagon.

Monitoring and sampling September 11-12 showed either no levels of lead, asbestos, and volatile organic compounds, or very low levels. OSHA also is working with Consolidated Edison regarding safety standards for workers who are digging trenches due to the risk of leaking gas lines underground. EPA will work with other involved agencies as needed to:

  • Procure and distribute respiratory and eye protection.

  • Provide health and safety training on request.

  • Design and implement a site-monitoring plan.

  • Provide technical assistance for site control and decontamination.

  • Provide some 3,000 asbestos respirators, 60 self-contained breathing apparatuses, and 10,000 protective clothing suits at the two disaster sites.

Superfund May Be Used for NYC Cleanup

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering using existing Superfund money to help clean up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

According to EPA spokesman Chris Paulitz, treating the two locations as Superfund sites without formally declaring them so is allowed by laws dealing with hazardous waste.

EPA tests show that the air 1½ miles downwind from the World Trade Center shows no significant levels of lead, asbestos, and other chemicals in the air, either because they are undetectable or because the levels are not high enough to cause concern.

DOE Boosts Security for Energy Infrastructure

The security of key energy infrastructure in the United States is being monitored by the Department of Energy. Security has been increased at nuclear plants, refineries, pipelines, distribution points, and along the electricity transmission grid.

“Today, naturally, we are maintaining an extraordinarily high security status,” said Spencer Abraham, energy secretary. “We have monitored and assessed the nation's oil and gas supply, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I'm pleased to say that our energy infrastructure remains sound and reliable.”

Labelmaster Makes Patriotism Order of Day

In an effort to demonstrate patriotism after the Sept 11, 2001, tragedy, Chicago IL-based Labelmaster is donating American flag labels to all of its United States customers. For an extended period of time, customers will receive free flag labels with every order placed. Labelmaster is encouraging customers to disburse the flag labels throughout their organizations for placement on apparel, folders, and mirrors at home or office.

FMCSR Emergency Exemption Implemented

As a result of President Bush's declaration of a national emergency after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the regional emergencies exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) has been triggered. This means that FMCSRs, including driver hours-of-service rules, do not apply to “any motor carrier or driver operating a commercial motor vehicle to provide emergency relief during an emergency.”

The exemption may not exceed the duration of the carrier's or driver's direct assistance in providing emergency relief, or 30 days from the date of the initial declaration of emergency, whichever is less.

API Says Fuel Supplies Remain Adequate

Fuel supplies — diesel and gasoline — are adequate for current demand, the American Petroleum Institute announced in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. Tank truck carriers reported some delays at loading racks due to heightened security. Numerous reports of price gouging at service stations have appeared in the media. Incidents of price gouging can be reported through the Department of Energy Hotline at 800-244-3301.

Hoover Dam Closed to Commercial Vehicles

Hoover Dam and surrounding highways have been closed indefinitely to commercial vehicle traffic, according to a report issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency said in an e-mail that FBI sources indicated the action was precautionary, and not in response to any direct threat.

According to a report on the Las Vegas Review Journal web site, Hoover Dam is open to passenger cars only. The visitors center and parking areas remain closed, the web site said.

US Route 93 runs over Hoover Dam, which is on the Nevada-Arizona border. It is 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas NV.