HazMat Knowledge Must be Shared >By Charles E Wilson

Dec. 1, 1999
AS THE 20th Century winds down, companies involved in the logistics and distribution of liquid and dry bulk commodities can look back with considerable

AS THE 20th Century winds down, companies involved in the logistics and distribution of liquid and dry bulk commodities can look back with considerable pride at what has been accomplished. Especially in the most industrialized nations, tremendous volumes of some of the most hazardous substances known to man are transported efficiently and virtually without incident.

These achievements are the result of decades of hard work at all levels of the industry. Credit goes to everyone who has helped in the development and evolution of the equipment, rules, systems, and procedures that form the foundation of this industry.

So many people have contributed to this industry from so many countries. It's impossible to name them all. Many of the pioneers are gone, but a new generation has stepped forward to fill their shoes, and that must continue in the future.

Industry initiatives have been especially important in making liquid and dry bulk distribution safe and efficient. It is particularly noteworthy that participants from the various sectors of the industry are willing to work together for the common good. Proof of this cooperation is evident in programs such as Responsible Care, which was started 11 years ago in the United States by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA). Guiding principles include a commitment to work with customers, suppliers, distributors, and contractors to foster the safe use, transport, and disposal of chemicals.

Tank truck carriers and tank container operators participate as Responsible Care partners. In fact, over 80% of the Responsible Care partners in the United States are transportation companies.

Among other programs is TransCAER (Transportation Community Awareness Emergency Response), which is sponsored by the CMA. Activities include an outreach program to help ensure that communities are prepared to handle hazardous materials transportation emergencies. Participants develop an ongoing dialog with the public about chemical transportation.

The National Association of Chemical Distributors has its Responsible Distribution Process, and the National Paint and Coatings Association has Coatings Care. And these are just a few of the programs that are designed to improve hazardous materials safety.

While all of these efforts are worthy of praise, they aren't enough. Everyone in this industry needs to do more. In particular, we need to make a greater effort to promote improvements in transportation and distribution safety in the developing nations. It is morally wrong to have one set of distribution and transportation safety standards for the most industrialized nations and another for the developing world. The same standards need to be put into place worldwide.

For instance, loaded tank containers are not allowed on 20-foot chassis in many of the industrialized countries. This is recognized as an unsafe transportation practice because a high center of gravity makes the unit unstable. Platform trailers are another poor choice because tank containers often are inadequately tied down.

Multinational chemical companies and tank container operators need to work together worldwide to facilitate a shift to dropframe chassis. They should supply the equipment if it is not available locally. We have seen some movement in this direction, and we challenge the industry to complete a shift to safer equipment within the next two years.

Tank truck carriers that operate internationally need to ensure that any interline partners set high safety standards and run the best possible equipment. US tank truck carriers serving Mexico have already found that high-quality partners are available. More needs to be done to support and reward the good carriers around the world.

Associations can be an important part of the effort. They can make training materials available overseas and sponsor training programs. They can promote exchange programs that give transportation and logistics managers an opportunity to see how operations are conducted in other parts of the world.

Transportation and logistics managers from developing countries already attend some conferences and trade shows in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Many have attended hazardous materials handling schools. More are contacting Modern Bulk

Transporter to ask about opportunities to observe operations at US and Canadian tank truck carriers.

The desire to improve exists throughout the developing world. It just has to be nurtured. The chemical industries in Brazil and Mexico already have embraced Responsible Care. Progress has been slower in other parts of Latin America and throughout Asia, but change is coming.

Good safety and operating practices for liquid and dry bulk transportation benefit everyone. We have an obligation to share them with the rest of the world. By doing so, we will do our part in making the world a better place in the 21st Century.