Congress calling for wetlines ban on all hazmat tank trailers
Jul 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
The News on the wetlines (retained product piping) issue gets worse by the day. As this issue of Bulk Transporter went to press, the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee staffers announced that the proposed ban on wetlines would apply to all cargo tank trailers used to transport hazardous materials.
Clearly, this is bad news for the tank truck industry. More than new tank trailers would be affected. The proposed legislation would mandate a retrofit installation of a wetlines purging system on every hazmat tank trailer on the road today. Tens of thousands of existing tank trailers would have to be retrofitted at an enormous cost and significant safety risk to the tank mechanics that would have to perform the installations.
By way of background, the proposed ban on wetlines is contained in the draft bill for reauthorization of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, which, in turn, is part of the 774-page 2009 Highway Bill. Initial estimates suggest that wetlines purging systems will cost $5,000 to $7,000 on a new tank trailer and up to $10,000 as a retrofit on a used tank trailer.
The new trailer requirement would take effect two years after passage of the law, and the retrofit requirement would start in 2020. There is no grandfather provision for any existing tank trailers. The proposal is covered in detail on page 19 of this issue of Bulk Transporter.
While there are numerous reasons for the tank truck industry to oppose this legislation, National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) suggests focusing on three key areas. First, there is no valid safety reason to justify a wetlines ban. Second, the proposed requirement is far too broad. Third, the proposed legislation ignored critical issues, such as safety risks for tank mechanics and potential vapor emissions.
NTTC officials state that historical evidence shows wetlines pose little risk. At most, only one death has been verified and no injuries were recorded “due to cargo tank transportation of gasoline in wetlines accidents as defined by the US Department of Transportation and industry during the past 10 years.” This was during a period when there were more than 57,000 deliveries of gasoline every day.
NTTC officials have questioned why the legislation is going beyond the flammable liquids that were addressed by the National Transportation Safety Board and DOT is past discussions of a wetlines ban. This new and expanded application would impact transporters of heating oil, diesel fuel, road oil, and a variety of products that have not been found to pose any threat to the motoring public.
The most worrisome aspect of the legislation is the retrofit requirement for used tank trailers. NTTC officials say the industry firmly believes that the retrofit requirement will result in far more deaths and injuries to tank mechanics performing the work than will be prevented for motorists. Since 1998, 19 workers have died performing welding and other work on cargo tanks used to haul flammable materials.
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