Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar RSPA's Al Roberts Bids Farewell

Al Roberts, associate administrator of the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), bid farewell to the tank truck industry at the 1999 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar October 25-27 in Chicago, Illinois.

Roberts retired at the end of 1999. He had been a part of DOT since it was established in 1967. Prior to that, he worked as a criminal inspector at the Interstate Commerce Commission and held a position with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Cliff Harvison, president of National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), praised Roberts for his contributions to the hazardous materials transportation industry. Roberts always treated the industry fairly in developing programs that advanced the safety of hazardous materials transportation in the United States and internationally.

At this time, no successor has been named, but a number of candidates are under consideration for the nonpolitical executive position. The hiring process is expected to take several months.

A new RSPA administrator wasn't the only issue considered during the seminar, which is sponsored each year by NTTC and the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association. Tank builders, repair operations, and fleets face a number of challenges.

Several panelists addressed rules that reportedly are being developed by RSPA to prohibit retained product in piping on petroleum transports. The rule will have a significant impact on the industry and is certain to face lengthy debate once it is published.

At the request of RSPA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers is writing a new cargo tank manufacturing code. The intent is to make it an international standard. Not surprisingly, the project is drawing fire from several sides.

Shippers are among those beginning to ask how long a tank trailer should be allowed to remain in service. The challenge is to determine a cost-effective lifecycle without creating an unreasonable risk of structural failure that can result in a catastrophe.

Panelists also addressed growing demand for uniformity in vapor-recovery systems on chemical trailers. Members of TTMA reviewed a recommended practice that is under development.

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