The House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has a draft of the Hazardous Material Transportation Act Reauthorization Bill that would eventually ban wetlines on any trailer hauling hazardous materials. The HazMat bill is part of the 774-page Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2009, which is more informally known as the 2009 Highway Bill.

For new build tank trailers, the ban would take effect two years after enactment of the bill. Additionally, no hazardous materials would be allowed in “external piping of any cargo tank motor vehicle [It is believed Congress specifically means new or used tank trailers] after December 31, 2020.” The bill would allow a “minimal” amount of product to remain after the wetlines have been drained. The Sec. of Transportation would by regulation define “minimal.”

The good news in all of this is that retrofit of existing cargo tank trailers could be deferred until the December 31, 2020 final deadline—11 years down the road.

“This is actually very good news from a worker safety and economic standpoint,” says John Conley, president of National Tank Truck Carriers. “I believe that demonstrating to the committee the danger posed to workers by a retrofit of the existing fleet did have some resonance.”

Another bit of good news is that most straight trucks appear to have been excluded. The draft bill does not address many combination vehicles--such as multi-axle trailers or truck-and-trailer combinations.

Still, this legislation will have a significant economic impact on the tank truck industry if it becomes law. After 2020, a cargo tank trailer, regardless of age (be it eight, 10, 20 years old) would have to be retrofitted with some kind of wetlines purging system or would be barred from hauling any type of hazardous material.

For petroleum haulers, it is important to note that diesel and heating oil are classified as hazardous materials, according to Conley.

“No cargo tank trailer with wetlines could be used for any hazardous materials, not just flammables,” he says. “Downgrading a trailer with wetlines from gasoline to diesel or heating oil would not be an option without a retrofit. We will ask the T&I committee to amend this language to apply only to flammable materials.”

Industry estimates put the cost of a wetlines purging system on a new tank trailer at $5,000 to $7,000, depending on number of compartments. Retrofits could cost in the region of $8,000 to $10,000 per trailer, and that includes about $3,000 in labor, according to John O’Connell, Civacon.

“These are complex systems that will have to work in a very challenging environment,” he says. “Designing, developing, and testing systems to comply with the requirements will take at least a year. Development alone probably will cost each manufacturer $200,000 to $300,000. The systems will have to meet Hazardous Location Zone requirements, and certification will take about a year.”

Conley says the legislation simply would be too expensive and would pose too much of a safety risk. He calls for continued opposition to the proposed legislation.

“At the very least, we would like to see the amendment replaced with a revision requiring that the Sec. of Transportation report back to Congress within two years the results of a study to determine how a ban on wetlines on new equipment could be accomplished after a certain date and how such a regulation would be enforced,
says Conley. “Such a study also could address how an eventual and phased ban on wetlines on the entire petroleum trailer fleet could be accomplished with the least safety impact on any workers performing a retrofit, least economic and operational impact on carriers, and least economic impact on trailer manufacturers.”

The revised amendment also needs further clarification to cover “flammable” materials only, not all hazardous materials. Conley says he believes flammable products were the only ones originally being addressed by the House committee. Clarification also will be needed to indicate how the wetlines ban would be enforced, how a roadside inspector would check for compliance, and whether a trailer with non-compliant wetlines would be considered out of service.