A government proposal to equip bobtail trucks with remote control systems is expected to be negotiated by Department of Transportation (DOT) officials and representatives from the propane industry, a step called for at the April 25-27 Midwest Propane Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Richard R Roldan, vice-president for government relations of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), who discussed the issue in Indianapolis, said after the convention that DOT officials have agreed to the talks and are seeking comments from within the industry.
Costs to implement the remote control devices industrywide could be as high as $30 million to $40 million. If an additional worker is required on each bobtail truck, the added employees could cost the industry $660 million, according to industry estimates.
The remote control system rule is in conjunction with a rule that requires an observer to be within arm's reach any time an internal self-closing valve is open. Industry representatives maintain that continuous observation of the cargo tank by the driver during delivery will prove burdensome. At many homes, the propane tank is located out of sight of where the delivery truck can park, which makes it impossible for the driver to see both locations at the same time. In addition, few of the remote control devices are available that have been adequately tested, industry officials have said.
Roldan said the industry must have representation when the issue is discussed by DOT. "If marketers have to pay the cost, marketers must be at the table," he added.
The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) will decide who from the industry will participate in the talks. However, NPGA officials will emphasize the importance of having a voice from companies with bobtail trucks. "This has quickly become a bobtail issue," said Roldan. "We will try to work it out with DOT."
Despite the controversy, NPGA supports adopting a rule that meets safety needs and allows a reasonable time limit to comply with the remote-control device requirement, he said.
Roldan also discussed how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Act, specifically a proposal from the agency's Risk Management Program (RMP), impacts the industry. Under the proposed RMP rules, propane facilities with a storage capacity of more than 10,000 pounds (about 2,400 gallons) would be required to implement a risk management plan consisting of a hazard assessment as well as an accident prevention and emergency response program. The assessment and plan would have to be completed by June 20, 1999.
States already have the authority to implement and enforce the EPA Clean Air Act. Moreover, they can create a more stringent program and are authorized to collect fees to cover program costs.
"We don't want to see it become a revenue raiser for any state," said Roldan. "Congress cast a wide net and we got caught in it. We believe the RMP proposal is onerous, unnecessary, and duplicative."
NPGA is asking for propane exemption from the risk management program as required by Section 112(r) of the act, he added.
Dave F Donahue, owner of Donahue Gas, Muncie, Indiana, urged propane distributors to examine their states' proposed policies on the risk management plan requirement and become involved with the implementation. "States can add anything they want, and believe me, they are doing it," he said.
States are organizing local groups from the public sector to be involved in the implementation, the majority of whom have no knowledge of the propane industry, said Donahue. Complying with federal regulations will be simpler than complying with the local organizations.
In addition to seminars, attendees visited the trade show where propane products, vehicles, and services were displayed.
More than 170 companies were represented at the trade show. The Midwest Propane Convention is composed of members of the Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois Propane Gas Associations.
Convention and show sponsors include Amoco Petroleum Products, American Welding & Tank Company, Bergquist Inc, Boyd Service Inc, Chemi-Trol Tank Division, Conoco Inc, RegO Products, H&H Sales Company Inc, Manchester Tank & Equipment Company, McTier Supply Company, Old Republic Insurance Company, Phillips 66 Company, Ranger Insurance, Sales Equipment Company, Shell Midstream Enterprises, Snyder's Bulk Plant Service, Trinity Industries Inc, and Warren Gas Liquids Inc. Convention support came from Jomar International and Northridge Petroleum. The 1999 Midwest Propane Gas Convention and Trade Show is scheduled February 27 through March 1 at Indianapolis.