SIDEBAR: The $50 Onboard Spill Kit

It seems that most fleets don’t carry the needed containment materials on board-even though a basic homemade kit could be put together at a typical grocery or hardware store in about 15 minutes and for less than $50. “The key goal is to contain the fluid that’s leaking,” says Jim Young, a senior trainer and administrator with the Humber College Centre for Transportation Training in Toronto. “Although we don’t specify what a driver should have at hand in his or her truck-because that’s a fleet decision, and I’m sorry to say that a lot of fleets don’t carry anything-a useful spill-containment kit can be made up of some very common items that you could acquire almost anywhere.”

Specifically, Young recommends heavy-duty plastic garbage bags and twist-ties; a roll of duct tape; a 20-kilogram bag of generic, non-clumping kitty litter (or a dedicated oil absorbent); a rolled-up (not folded, to avoid creasing) urethane sheet, about three feet square; and a small shovel or, to save space, just a dustpan.

“If it’s feasible to tape one of the garbage bags right around the source of the leak, so the liquid flows into the bag, that’s what I’d do first,” he explains. “Then, assuming the bottom of the bag is touching the ground, pour some of the kitty litter around its base to form a dike and give some support to the bag as it fills.

“If the leak can’t be addressed at the source, I’d immediately look around to see if there are any nearby storm sewer grates that the liquid might be heading for, and unroll that piece of rubber on top of it-or use a garbage bag, or even one of the floor mats out of your cab, if need be-to block it. Then lay another garbage bag flat under the leak and build a dike of mounded-up kitty litter around it to contain the liquid. Then I’d pour the rest of the litter inside that dike to sop up the liquid as much as possible, which will make it easier to shovel into another bag.”

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