Cynthia Douglas, chief safety officer of the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA), said recently that the agency will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on cargo tank wetlines in December. She made the announcement during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) annual conference September 20-23 in Anaheim CA.
In addition to announcing the expected date for the wetlines rule, Douglas also said her PHMSA will publish a rulemaking dealing with loading and unloading of hazardous materials in January 2011. Since these are open rulemakings, Douglas could provide no details on either rule. A rule prohibiting wetlines on tank trailers would have a very costly and profound impact on the tank truck industry, particularly petroleum haulers.
“National Tank Truck Carriers has been following the wetlines saga, and we knew that DOT would issue another rulemaking this year,” says John Conley, NTTC president. “While there is absolutely no safety reason for PHMSA to revisit this issue which they last considered in 2006 when they withdrew a rulemaking, the agency has been under intense political pressure from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and from the National Transportation Safety Board. At this point, it is easier for PHMSA to just publish a rule than to continue to take heat from the Hill and the influential NTSB.
“It is a real shame that PHMSA will have to use its limited resources on crafting and defending this unnecessary regulatory response to political pressure and that NTTC and our members will have to again fight whatever proposal is put forward. We do not know if there will be a ban on all wetlines or just on new equipment.”
The wetlines ban legislation developed in the House of Representatives earlier this has not moved beyond the T&I Committee. The bill was never sent to the House floor, and it is too late this year for any action. The legislation is not dead, though. “If the Democrats are successful in holding the House in November, we can expect to see T&I Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) again push for a wetlines ban and keep pressure on PHMSA,” Conley says.
Moving on to the rulemaking that will address hazmat loading and unloading, Conley says NTTC will follow this PHMSA initiative closely because it does address a real issue. This could be a very complicated issue as it will somewhat depend on how the agency defines where transportation begins and ends. Some serious loading and unloading incidents have occurred over the past few years, especially a few involving anhydrous ammonia and propane.