PHMSA, FMCSA working on plans affecting tank truck industry

Feb. 1, 2009
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) are working on several plans

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) are working on several plans that will affect the tank truck industry, including a move to consolidate several agencies' regulations for bulk loading and unloading, according to Ben Supko of PHMSA.

Supko and James Simmons of FMCSA presented updates on regulatory topics at the National Tank Truck Carriers 2008 Cargo Tank Maintenance Seminar in Louisville, Kentucky.

Supko said that attempts are underway to combine loading and unloading regulations into one rather than having regulations from various agencies such as PHMSA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Coast Guard.

Other possible regulations in the works would impact vent inspections for DOT412 and DOT407 tank trailers. PHMSA is contemplating a change in the language in the current regulation that would apply to venting to the atmosphere.

The agency also is working on enhancing and clarifying cargo tank motor vehicle requirement rules. To date, about 300 pages have been put together, but Supko said the proposal will probably be reduced to 80 pages when it is eventually published. If the changes are sent out as an advanced proposal, they would take longer to go into effect. An alternative would be to give a longer comment time in the proposal.

Another hot issue in the regulatory environment is vehicle rollover prevention. The agencies are looking at improving driver training, requiring electronic vehicle controls such as lane departure monitors, and improving highway and vehicle designs, Supko said.

Simmons pointed out that rollovers are the “leading number of incidents that we have,” estimating that five to six rollovers occur per day. “The drivers are primarily where the issues lie,” he said. Part of the driver problem comes from repetitious routes that can lead to inattentiveness.

As for rules that have been proposed, PHMSA has designed a regulation that addresses domelid assembly markings under HM218E to have one marking for the domelid cover. Another proposal that has been published addresses a revision of emergency response telephone numbers that will be required on shipping papers to include the shipper's name.

Simmons noted that agency goals are to minimize risk in transporting hazardous materials in bulk. FMCSA has added engineers to its staff to enhance its technical knowledge and coordinate communication with PHMSA and the industry, particularly manufacturers.

In addition, FMCSA is conducting a study of cargo tank repairs in which agents visited cargo tank repair facilities. Preliminary results indicate that tank distortion is a leading issue, coupled with tank stress. The survey has determined that alternative fuel impacts on steel are not apparent, but seal life is an issue. Reports from roadside inspections indicate some leaking is occurring from flanges and seals on tank trailers hauling alternative fuels. The agency's state partners have been informed of the problem and will be increasing inspections of emergency discharge equipment, Simmons said.