LEPC Organizing Calls for Input From Trucking Industry Officials

June 1, 1998
When Tom Spivey Sr, senior vice-president for J & M Tank Lines Inc, attended the first meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting

When Tom Spivey Sr, senior vice-president for J & M Tank Lines Inc, attended the first meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting in Americus, Georgia, he realized that the group wanted to keep trucks carrying hazardous materials out of the city between the hours of 6 am and 8 pm. "People were concerned because they had been roused to hate these trucks," he said.

Spivey discussed that experience at the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) annual safety council seminar April 8-9 in Nashville, Tennessee.

As a result of the initial LEPC meeting in Americus, Spivey became concerned about the public's misconceptions regarding the shipment of hazardous materials. He urged the NTTC members at the safety conference to review their own local situations and to participate with the various agencies that are organizing similar groups so that their businesses will not be unduly regulated by local municipalities, no matter their size.

In Americus, where J & M Tank Lines is located, no tank trucks have been involved in serious accidents over the last 10 years. This statistic was not given credence by the people at the Americus meeting. However, Spivey persuaded the committee to delay decisions for one month until he could coax industry representatives to meet with the LEPC and work toward reasonable goals.

At the first meeting in Americus, officials used a survey as evidence of the need to prohibit trucks from city streets, even though there was no by-pass. When asked how the survey was conducted, Spivey was told that trucks with hazardous materials marking were counted between certain hours on two major highways. "They probably counted the same trucks several times," he said. "They didn't understand transportation."

When Spivey asked about railcar counts, he was told, to his amazement, that the likelihood of a train derailment didn't warrant a survey. These naive comments and others alarmed him enough to take part in the organization.

"If you are not active, you are letting others pass legislation that may drastically affect the way your company is allowed to do business," he said. "The LEPC rules were not written to benefit industry and transportation. They were written to control industry and transportation. But, industry participation can change the pattern."

The LEPC was formed as part of the Super Fund authorized by Congress in 1986 to help local officials and the public provide for emergencies. In the beginning, the legislation directed states to provide leadership, but only one committee for an entire state failed to meet the needs that occurred in catastrophic situations, he said. After a major flood killed seven people, threatened the area population of 17,000, and caused $5 million in damage, authorization was then passed on to individual communities.

LEPC is organized with elected, law enforcement, and civil defense officials, together with representatives from the media, transportation, and other community sectors.

In Americus, the group has begun to "discuss risk in an open and honest way," said Spivey. Educational programs have been presented to school children, service clubs, and at other various public meetings.

One organization that works with LEPCs is TransCAER. Dave O'Loughlin, manager of chemical merchandising and Responsible Care for Ingram Barge Company, served last year as chairman of the national TransCAER Task Group.

TransCAER is attempting to organize emergency response and coordinate reactions from many different groups across the US. TransCAER stands for Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response. It is a nationwide outreach program that addresses community concerns about the transportation of hazardous materials. The organization assists communities along transportation routes in developing and evaluating their emergency response plans for hazardous materials incidents and is sponsored by 10 associations engaged in the manufacture, distribution, and transportation of these materials.

Sponsors include the Chemical Manufacturers Association, which provides administrative support. Other members include the NTTC, American Trucking Associations, American Waterways Association, Chlorine Institute Inc, National Association of Chemical Distributors-Chemical Education Foundation, National Propane Gas Association, American Association of Railroads, American Petroleum Institute, and Hazardous Materials Advisory Council.

"We think we have all modes except pipelines," said O'Loughlin.

Goals of the organization include being able to track hazardous materials shipments so that when an accident does occur, time can be saved in response. However, difficulties in organization have arisen because of company mergers and acquisitions, as well as lack of data and a small TransCAER staff, he said. About 17 states are participating with the group. "We are five years away from having TransCAER in place in all states," he said.

The organization is working on methods to check its progress, define needs and priorities, and enroll more resources.