Conley Urges Fuel Oil Transporters To Stay Informed on Federal Issues
Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM
RULES AND regulations for petroleum transportation may raise the hackles of the industry, but being informed on the issues and taking an active role in the governmental process can certainly settle things down a bit.
"To the Department of Transportation, carriers are trucking companies that haul fuel oil, not fuel oil companies that operate trucks," says John Conley, vice-president of the National Tank Truck Carriers. "As a result, it is imperative that fuel oil distributors stay current with the regulations so that they do not suffer the consequences for not being in compliance."
Conley urges managers to take an active role in industry associations and to read industry publications in order to keep abreast of developing regulations. For those who are not members of NTTC, the American Trucking Associations, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the National Private Truck Council, and/or their respective industry organizations, he recommends they consider joining. From the positions of association membership and by becoming knowledgeable of the issues, industry managers gain qualifications that can be used to try to influence legislation.
"Comment on rulemakings early, not after they are final," he says.
Among the issues for carrier proaction is a proposal that will increase annual user fees in hazardous materials (hazmat) transportation. Today's fee for shipping more than 3,500 gallons of any hazmat product is $300. The projected increase may be as high as $2,000 and would go into effect for 2000-2001. Trucking companies considered to be small businesses (estimated at less than $18.5 million in revenue) would continue to pay $300.
However, the small business designation for retail dealers is estimated at under $9 million in revenue. Similarly, a marketer with under $100 million in revenue, or with 100 employees or less, is rated as a small business.
Conley says he believes many fuel companies would fall into the category that would require the higher fee. "This fee proposal will apply to any company that handles a quantity of hazardous materials that requires placarding."
The fee proposal should prompt companies to see the value of taking an active role in influencing regulations, not only in setting specific fee amounts, but in auxiliary actions, such as the definition of large and small businesses.
NTTC has taken the position to oppose the fee increase, but extend the fee to all shipments of placarded loads in an attempt to lessen the burden on industry while producing more fee revenue for the agency.
Product Spills Marketers may have another opportunity to become involved in the political process on the subject of product spills. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is in the process of revising the 5800.1 form for reporting product releases. Any amount of spill must be reported, no matter how minuscule. Conley notes that NTTC is proposing that a lower limit of five gallons be set on the amount of a petroleum spill that has to be documented.
Another proposal under consideration that needs industry attention is linked to origination and destination of hazmat products - just when does transportation begin and end. What seems like a simple decision is, in fact, very complicated - and the final definitions could greatly change the way the industry operates. "It's a very, very important issue," Conley emphasizes.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials are seeking more authority over hazmat transportation employees. Currently, the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) writes the hazmat regulations while the DOT Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) is the enforcement arm. Other areas involving OSHA's oversight, Conley pointed out, could include tank entry and the use of nitrogen blankets.
"Hazmat is viewed as risk - and it is. Expect more emphasis on this as new regulations are written."
Worker Conditions A separate but important issue concerns worker conditions. OSHA officials are working on an ergonomics standards proposal that would apply to any company where a musculoskeletal disorder is reported or identified. "This does not cover trucking specifically, but it would address related tasks such as freight hauling, or a job that requires extensive reaching and awkward body positions," he says. "It could cover activities such as drivers pulling hose, mechanics working on vehicles, and employees cleaning tanks."
The subject of egronomics is expected to be pushed by many voices. Legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress. Furthermore, a review of the subject is underway by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with a report scheduled for 2002.
The American Trucking Associations and other industry organizations are spearheading efforts to delay implementation of the OSHA rules until the NAS study is completed, just one more way industry seeks to impact government actions.
Employee safety is evident in an auxiliary concern by OSHA about the lack of fall protection devices on vehicles. Although OSHA hasn't authority to enforce rules regarding this subject (DOT holds the authority), DOT's own view of its jurisdiction could give OSHA more control. Here is an example of governmental action that seems far removed from the day-to-day operations of a fuel transporter, but the eventual decision of authority can have significant repercussions for the industry.
Hours of Service Among other governmental topics related to workers are current considerations to change the hours of service regulation involving drivers. "There is a major effort within government and industry to revise the rules," Conley says. "It has become very political."
An industrywide coalition examining the regulations has agreed that the driver's day should be based on a 24-hour clock, which would include no differentiation between on-duty driving and on-duty time, industry officials have said. Another consideration under review calls for 14 hours on duty and 10 hours off duty.
The trucking industry favors a proposal in which the driver would be relieved after 70 hours on duty and remain off duty for a period of time that would allow two consecutive sleep cycles at night.
Under some of the current hours-of-service regulations, truck drivers may drive up to 10 hours after a mandatory eight-hour minimum off-duty period, according to information from the Office of Motor Carriers.
In addition, drivers cannot drive after having been on-duty 60 hours in any seven consecutive days, if the carrier does not operate vehicles every day of the week, or after 70 hours in any period of eight consecutive days, if the carrier operates vehicles seven days a week. DOT has said it expects to publish an hours of service rulemaking by the end of this year.
The Department of Transportation is examining causes and prevention for rollovers, which is likely to result in stricter driver training rules and additional qualifications for obtaining a commercial driver license (CDL). "DOT sees rollovers as a main problem for the industry," says Conley. "Statistics indicate that one out of 10 drivers dies in these accidents."
Star Agencies Conley emphasizes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joins OSHA as a "star agency" of the Clinton Administration. As a result, carriers can expect the agencies to continue to push for rules and regulations, and enforcement that they deem appropriate.
High on EPA's list is wastewater handling, which may turn out to be a major regulatory issue for wash rack operators and other companies with similar facilities. The final rule is due out in June 2000 and is expected to allow three years for compliance. Its effect on fuel haulers should be minimal because tanks are seldom washed.
"However, if tanks have to be cleaned and purged for repairs, carriers will likely pay a higher cost at the wash racks," he says. "The cost for cleaning facilities to comply with the standards will be passed on to the customer."
Two other issues raising concerns are related to the transportation of hazardous materials in cargo tank external piping (wetlines) and the unloading operations for liquefied compressed gases, both under the auspices of RSPA.
"There is a lot of renewed interest in bottom loading wetlines," says Conley. "In the 1980s, DOT opposed wetlines but allowed the practice to continue following industry lobbying."
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the elimination of wetlines after a petroleum transport was involved in a fiery collision with an automobile, killing the driver in the car. The NTSB determined that the chief cause of the 1997 accident was the failure of the car driver to stop for a red light and reduce speed fast enough to avoid the collision. An underpass was damaged in the accident with the cost estimated at $7 million.
Conley says a device is claimed to be available that can be used to force product out of the lines and back into the tank. Cost of installation is estimated at $2,500. The system would have to be installed in a code shop.
Compressed Gas The compressed gases issue brought new rules for unloading pressure vessels and particularly impacts the propane industry. A current proposal will require more frequent hose inspections than are now in force and calls for new requirements for state-of-the-art emergency discharge control equipment, such as passive systems that will shut down unloading without human intervention. Remote control devices that enable an attendant to stop the unloading process at a distance from the vehicle will be required, as well.
Conley says some portions of the compressed gas rules, such as hose testing, may eventually extend to the transportation of other hazardous materials.
Discussing a rule already in place, Conley says carriers have until June 1, 2001, to bring trailers constructed before December 1993 into compliance with conspicuity regulations. "Eventually, the conspicuity material will have to be red and white in color, but trailers already using other colors have 10 years to comply," he notes.
"NTTC does not oppose requiring conspicuity tape, but has filed a petition for reconsideration to allow five years for compliance," Conley says. "We pointed out the special configuration of cargo tanks, their seasonal use, and in some instances the necessity of applying the material indoors, which also requires tank degassing and cleaning. We also emphasize that some cargo tanks that haul certain products - asphalt, cement, and acid, for example - will require special cleaning. Some vehicles may even need structural work to provide a surface for retro-reflective materials."
Other rules and regulations issues on the horizon include a possible leakage test requirement for nonspecification tanks and third-party inspectors for any specification tank. In the formative stage, these issues are especially in need of input from industry, he says.
Despite the ever-changing regulation climate, Conley adds, industry can make a difference by participating in the regulatory process.
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