More Technology On the Horizon

Oct. 1, 2000
ONE of the biggest challenges faced by today's tank fleet manager is keeping up with new technology - whether driven by regulations or the demands of

ONE of the biggest challenges faced by today's tank fleet manager is keeping up with new technology - whether driven by regulations or the demands of the marketplace. This is as true for the tank trailer fleets as it is for other aspects of the business.

In this Special Report, Modern Bulk Transporter examines some of the latest developments in tank trailer design and the driving factors behind those changes. The lead article in this Special Report suggests that the industry is entering a new era of rapid technological and regulatory change.

Driving forces include regulatory initiatives, such as HM-213, which will amend Part 180 regulations governing the test, inspection, and repair of specification cargo tanks. In another rulemaking effort, third-party inspections of cargo tank repairs could become a requirement if the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) continues with plans to hand off responsibility for cargo tank design and construction standards to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Greater ASME involvement also is certain to result in more heavily engineered specification cargo tanks. Other rulemaking could bring a mandate for sophisticated finite element analysis in cargo tank design.

New rules are in place mandating that MC331 cargo tanks must have improved emergency shutoff capabilities. For propane bobtails, this includes electronic remote control devices. New passive systems are required on MC331 trailers. Hose testing programs must be in place in propane delivery fleets, and this requirement may be imposed on the entire tank truck industry in the near future.

More complex (read that as heavier) overturn protection may be required in the future on cargo tanks of all types. Trailer weight could be increased by 100 to 300 pounds, and the cost could go up by as much as $1,500.

Despite being a relatively rare event, collisions with exposed unloading lines with retained product on petroleum transports has drawn considerable attention from various federal agencies. Any fix is almost certain to add weight, cost, and complexity.

Other areas of concern include vapor recovery of chemicals, bottom loading of chemicals, fall protection, and nitrogen blankets. These issues could bring a variety of technological changes to cargo tanks.

Demand for bottom loading and vapor recovery is growing as state and federal agencies set stiffer environmental limits on emissions. Standardized vapor recovery and bottom loading systems are needed for efficiency and ease of operation. A standardized system is being developed by the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association.

Pressure is growing for some means of accurately warning when a nitrogen atmosphere is present in a cargo tank. Every year, several people die after entering a tank that contains nitrogen, which is used by the chemical and food industries to provide inert atmospheres to protect certain cargoes.

Likewise, pressure is growing for mandatory fall protection on cargo tanks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is almost certain to take the lead in any rulemaking effort.

Moving on to the next story in our Special Report, the latest developments are detailed about PLC4TRUCKS, a computer-controlled system that allows one wire to provide power for multiple functions. The high-tech system contains what is described as the most expensive lightbulb in history. The system is scheduled for introduction March 1, 2001.

Thanks to significant work by a variety of suppliers, trailer manufacturers should be able to comply when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires the in-cab warning lamp while at the same time offering additional electronically controlled devices. How many of the potential benefits of multiplexing will be available to trailer customers after March 1 is still uncertain.

Initial production will be strictly antilock braking equipment capable of lighting the ABS indicator lamp. Subsequent versions will include greater capabilities such as the ability to turn on work lights and other trailer-mounted electrical features.

The final article in this Special Report addresses tank trailer rollover. A task force at The Maintenance Council has been studying ways to reduce rollover potential by redesigning the trailer suspension.

Challenges faced by the S-7 Task Force include a realization that tanker suspensions must perform when the trailer is empty, has a minimum tare weight, and when fully loaded to its maximum capacity.

More attention is being devoted to tanker rollover prevention, and not just by the TMC task force. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), rollover crashes account for about one-half of the annual heavy-duty truck driver fatalities. Rollover crashes also result in extensive property damage and may shut down major roadways during rescue and cleanup operations.

Earlier this year, Modern Bulk Transporter reported that Freightliner Corp teamed up with Meritor WABCO and Praxair Inc to develop a warning system called Roll Advisor and Control. The system alerts drivers to potentially dangerous driving behaviors and can automatically slow a tractor-trailer rig before a rollover happens.

The system was developed as part of DOT's Intelligent Vehicle Initiative. Roll Advisor and Control utilizes sensors in the tractor's antilock brake system. By tracking the vehicle's lateral acceleration and wheel speed, the system detects the potential for rollover and the driver is warned.

Prevention of accidents and deaths is the driving force behind the Roll Advisor and Control program. Improved safety or environmental protection are the objectives of most of the new technology programs discussed in this report.

However, the objectives will not be achieved without cost. Government and industry must work together to ensure that the impact of mandated technology is not unduly burdensome.