Anti-rollover gear on tankers should be mandatory, says NTSB

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Everybody in trucking knows that in emergency situations, tanker trailers are harder to handle.

In recognition of same, the American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is lobbying for more rules that pertain to the manufacture and operation of tankers. 

This week, the Board issued a list of 20 tanker-trailer suggestions to various regulatory agencies, including the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The list was the result of an investigation into a 2009 rollover that occurred about 10 miles northeast of Indianapolis. A propane truck driver apparently lost control after swerving to avoid a stalled car.

The hard left and right steering caused the cargo tank to roll over, penetrating a steel guardrail.

The truck driver ended up with serious injuries but survived the crash. However, the liquefied petroleum gas the tanker was carrying escaped, formed a vapor cloud, and ignited.

The accident led to this week’s NTSB announcement, which — distilled down — suggests that more needs to be done to make tanker trailers less prone to rollovers.

At the top of the list: Mandatory stability control systems on newly manufactured tanker trailers.

Other highlights of the report:

Retrofitting of all trailers with a higher-than 10K GVW with a rollover stability control system; and establishing stability control system standards for all commercial motor vehicles.

AS well, it recommended that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration work to identify cargo tank designs that are susceptible to failure so it can develop new accident performance standards.

Keith Holloway, an information officer with the NTSB told that his agency board has no regulatory authority and the agencies to which the NTSB makes recommendations have about 90 days to respond to the board, so there’s no way to predict if these suggestions will become law.

U.S. federal authorities have heavily scrutinized tankers over the last few years.

Despite overwhelming costs to the trucking industry and the arguable lack of evidence that tanker fuel lines are a safety hazard, the same PHMSA recently decided to go ahead with a proposal to ban wetlines on tank trailers.

The rule would require flammable liquid haulers to either install a system that purges all but one liter of product from the wetlines on the underside of an existing tanker or outfit some sort of metal cage or bumper system around the piping.

Critics say the that retrofitting puts shop workers at risk while caging placing enormous costs on tank fleets. Plus, the rule would be difficult to enforce at roadside.

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