Walking Atop Tank Trailers Needs to Be Safer
Nov 1, 2001 12:00 PM
I would like to bring to the attention of your readers, and others in the tank truck industry who are responsible for effecting change, a very dangerous and sometimes fatal practice that currently is the norm in this industry.
Drivers operating tank trucks are required to walk on the tops of tank trailers for the purpose of checking the tightness of 3-inch threaded vent caps (also known as clean-out caps) that are located to the front and rear top of the trailer — far away from the center ladder and any safety handholds. Walkways on top of trailers are narrow and many times damaged to the point that they are not safe to stand on. Ice and snow that pack the gratings compound the problem in winter. Slippery product residue is also a danger.
When tank trailers are loaded, chemical shippers have safety cages that lower around the top of the trailer. Their loading personnel are fully protected from falling off the trailer. When the trailers are taken to a commercial interior tank cleaner after unloading, their personnel often have the same protection, and they also must wear an OSHA-mandated safety harness for their protection. Shippers and tank cleaning companies do not permit drivers on their loading racks to take advantage of these safety features.
Chemical shippers are fully aware of the dangers from walking on top of tank trailers as high as 12 feet without proper fall protection. The majority of them have regulations prohibiting tank truck drivers from going on top of a tank trailer while on their property. They don't want the liability. The driver must leave the plant and then check the security of the vent caps and dome lid — many times in darkness. Tank truck carriers hold the driver responsible for any loss of product resulting from improper tightening of the vent caps and manhole cover, although the responsibility should rest with the people who load and clean the tanks. Vent caps are removed and reinstalled during the cleaning process. Drivers rarely load tank trailers in the chemical industry anymore.
When unloading a tank trailer, drivers use the trailer center ladder to open and close the manhole cover and to make connections for air unloading. This is normal, and except for multi-compartment trailers, can be safely done while standing with both feet on the ladder and using the handrails. Walking on top of trailers without fall protection is unsafe in the extreme.
Jim Dougherty, owner-operator
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.