No changes planned for anhydrous ammonia permitting

March 2, 2018
THE Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will maintain its permitting stance on the transportation of anhydrous ammonia domestically, according t

THE Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will maintain its permitting stance on the transportation of anhydrous ammonia domestically, according to Paul Bomgardner, chief of FMCSA’s Hazardous Materials Division.

For anhydrous ammonia in domestic transportation and described as UN1005 ammonia, anhydrous 2.2 Inhalation Hazard, a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP) is not required.

For anhydrous ammonia described as UN1005, ammonia, anhydrous 2.3 Poison Inhalation Hazard or Toxic Inhalation Hazard, Zone D, and when transported in a packaging having a capacity greater than 3,500 gallons, an HMSP is required. In these instances, anhydrous ammonia meets the definition of a material that is Poison-By-Inhalation or Toxic-By-Inhalation as defined in 49 CFR 171.8 and meets the criteria for a hazard Zone D as specified in 49 CFR 173.116(a).

Speaking during National Tank Truck Carriers’ 2017 Tank Truck Week in New Orleans, Louisiana, Bomgardner said the policy will remain this way, even though the change has resulted in unintended consequences.

“At this point, I don’t see us backtracking and saying, ‘You know what? We’re probably going to put it back on,’ because there is no legal basis for it,” he said. 

The agency had been challenged on its stance on domestic anhydrous ammonia requiring an HSMP to be transported. Since 2005, when this program went into effect, it had been the agency’s position that an HSMP was required to transport 3,500 gallons or more of anhydrous ammonia domestically or internationally. 

“Even though in the United States we classify it as a 2.2 inhalation hazard, it’s still the same stuff that internationally has a classification of 2.3 Zone D toxic inhalation,” Bomgardner said. “Those materials fit into the regulatory requirement for having to have a hazmat safety permit. However, with the domestic side of 2.2, it was argued, and our council agreed, that 2.2s, nonflammable, nontoxic, compressed gases, cannot be assigned to a hazard zone. Therefore, those materials cannot fit the definition of something that needs a hazmat safety permit.

“So we did a run in our database and found there were about 245 motor carriers that have a hazmat safety permit specifically for the transportation of anhydrous ammonia. We notified all 245 of them and said, ‘Hey, if you do domestic transportation of anhydrous ammonia and you describe it on the shipping paper as a 2.2, you don’t need a hazmat safety permit. If you transport anhydrous ammonia and you describe it on a shipping paper as 2.3
Zone D, you need a hazmat safety permit.’

“We also said in the notification, ‘If you don’t want to maintain your hazmat safety permit, let us know and we will take you out of the program.’ Everybody’s heard of unintended consequences, right? So now we have manufacturers and shippers saying, ‘Where’s your hazmat safety permit?’ The carrier says, ‘We don’t need it.’ The shipper says, ‘If you want to take my stuff, you do.’ So the shippers are now turning away those carriers that don’t have the hazmat safety permit.”

 He said that for those 235 carriers that kept the hazmat safety permit, FMCSA’s assumption is that they’re doing international shipments. 

“If you make it on the enhanced oversight list, we have to do a comprehensive investigation of you,” he said. “If we go after one of those carriers, and we say, ‘But you’re doing domestic transportation of anhydrous; you don’t need a hazmat safety permit,’ we are going to pull that permit and not do the comprehensive investigation and let you go on your own. So you may lose the permit that way. Somebody who’s just getting into the business might say, ‘I need that permit.’ Sorry, the regulation says we issue these to people who require it, not who just want it.”

Other news:

• Unified Registration System (URS). 

“We’ve had the URS since August 2015. We started taking a look at cargo tank facility information and saw that people have been filling in their registrations and putting a bunch of zeroes when we ask about kind of cargo tank they’re going to test and inspect. When we ask about the owner, we find Mickey Mouse is the owner.

“So we went to our contractor and said, ‘Can you filter out and find all the registrants since August 2015? We want to find the ones that have registered and their information has not been verified.’ So our contractors have been calling all of the cargo tank registrants who are unverified. We call them three times. If we can’t get ahold of them, we deactivate the CT number. If we get ahold of them and the person tells us, ‘I didn’t apply for that,’ we deactivate the CT number. If we call them and they say, ‘Well, we’re out of the business’—which is kind of odd, since you just got into the business—we deactivate. We deactivated about 200 CT numbers because we cannot verify the information and the information is so bad that we consider it a falsified application.
“This is not going to stop. We have got to keep doing this until our glitches in the system are fixed. If you’re a cargo tank facility, make sure we haven’t deactivated your CT number. If you use a cargo tank repair facility, verify that it has an active number. Verify that it has a number at all. We’re finding carriers that are taking their cargo tanks to companies that are not registered with us. We’re making them go back and redo all their tank tests and inspections. We have one company that has 28 tanks they took to somebody who didn’t have a CT number, but they were cheap. Well, it’s not so cheap now because they have to redo them and get them done right.”

• Cargo tank facilities. 

FMCSA is analyzing how they need to be regulated now and into the future.

FMCSA wants to be able to identify cargo tanks in a uniform manner at roadside inspections so that the agency can tie them back to the cargo tank facility that is actually doing the maintenance on them

“At roadside inspections today, an inspector may be able to write down violations related to the tank, but there’s no way for us to tie any of those violations back to the cargo tank facility that has just done the inspection or did anything on it,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to see how we can tie all of that back together so that we can get a history of that cargo tank throughout its lifetime.” 

FMCSA is considering establishing a system for tanks that would be similar to CARFAX for automobiles.

“Right now, you might have a tank that’s been in service for many years,” he said. “Maybe maintenance wasn’t done well on it and it’s at the end of the service life for that motor carrier. So the motor carrier puts it up for sale on the used market. Right now, there’s no way you can tell how well that tank was maintained. So we’re looking at the possibility of forming something to keep track from cradle to grave, from the time it’s manufactured, the user, and the cargo tank facility that maintained that cargo tank all those years.”

• Mobile testers.

“We have some pretty good cases against mobile testers. One particular tester was doing tests on MC331s, mostly in propane service. Unfortunately, this gentleman was about 80 years old and weighed about 400 or 500 pounds, and was saying he was doing the internal visual inspections—but he could not fit into the tank. So we went back and took a look at his record, and he had unfortunately provided services to about 160 companies and did almost 300 cargo tanks in the previous two to three years.”

• Prevention of cargo tank rollovers. 

“It’s a human-factors type of research project. In years past, we were approaching it from a negative point of view: ‘Look, you have a driver who’s been driving for 20 years and one day rolls one over. Why? We want to talk to that driver and see what happened.’ Companies say, ‘You’re not talking to my driver because of the liability aspect.’ So we said, ‘Let’s approach it from the opposite direction. Let’s look at something positive. Let’s get a roomful of drivers that have two million or five million miles, safety directors, anybody who wants to talk about what they do on a day-to-day basis that keeps them from rolling it over. What’s their mindset?’ We’re going to share it with our industry partners. We’re going to ask for comment on that. We want to put out some kind of best practices or best suggestions document so maybe other people can utilize it in their safety programs.”

• Cargo tanks and hazmat having to stop at every railroad grade crossing. 

“We’ve had folks approach us and say, ‘We have a real problem out there because with my cargo tank or my truck that’s transporting explosives, we have got to stop at every railroad grade crossing, even on 50 or 60 mph roads. We’re having fatal crashes. People are running into the back of my truck when I’m doing things legally.’ We hear you. But before I can do anything, I have to show that we do in fact have a problem. Which means I need information. It’s very difficult to glean that kind of information from our fatal accident reports and our regular accident reports. It’s almost impossible. Incident reports don’t really help us a lot because a lot of times they don’t tie into accident reports and vice versa. 

“So what we really need from you individually as a company or as an association is the ammunition for me to go to my rulemaking side of the house and say, ‘We need to do something with this.’ We have an opportunity right now to do this. I’ve got about $200,000 in research money to do this. If the industry thinks we have a problem, I want to help them solve that, but I need your help to do it. If you’ve had those types of crashes and you want to share that information with us through the association, we don’t need to know names. We just need to know they happened and how many.”