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On Friday, March 11, 2016, about 6:20 a.m., a 2011 Peterbilt truck-tractor in combination with a 1962 North Texas Tank Company, specification MC330, 10,500-gallon cargo tank semitrailer loaded with noncorrosive liquefied petroleum gas, operated by River City Propane, was traveling northbound on US Highway 431, a two-lane undivided highway, near Stroud, Alabama. As it entered a right curve near the intersection of County Route 256, it began to encroach on the southbound lane, which was occupied by a 2004 Pontiac sport utility vehicle. The driver of the Pontiac reported that he observed the driver of the Peterbilt make a hard right turn. The cargo tank semitrailer then separated from its truck-tractor, traveled westward into a ditch, and struck a rock. The impact with the rock breached the front head of the cargo tank; as the cargo began to vent, the cargo tank’s entire head became separated, releasing the tank’s contents, which caught fire, and a deflagration occurred. The cargo tank semitrailer continued to travel westward through about 300 yards of forested area before coming to rest. The truck-tractor came to rest on the eastern ditch/embankment area and was destroyed. The Peterbilt driver was severely injured as a result of the crash and fire. Although the investigation determined that the condition of the tank was acceptable and its performance was consistent with its design, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation discovered the following safety issues: loading practices at Enterprise Propane Terminals and Storage, inspection and testing of MC330/MC331 cargo tanks, and certification and training of cargo tank inspectors. The NTSB makes two safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, three safety recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and one safety recommendation to Enterprise Propane Terminals and Storage LLC.
TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Revise the definition of “registered inspector” under Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 171.8 to eliminate the “grandfather provision,” and develop and implement a process to ensure that all persons certified to inspect cargo tanks have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to adequately perform inspections of cargo tanks to verify their safety.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open - Unacceptable Response
Stroud, AL, United States
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
PHMSA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Safety Recommendation History
We note that you are working to incorporate the registered inspector training requirements by reference, as recommended in Safety Recommendation H-18-4 (below), which may support the knowledge, skills, and abilities of registered cargo tank inspectors; however, this effort alone is insufficient to address the intent of this recommendation. We are disappointed that you do not plan to eliminate the grandfather provision from the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), and we urge you to reconsider your position to ensure that all persons certified to perform cargo tank inspections are qualified. We point out that the certification process for rail tank-car inspectors, located at 49 CFR Part 180, subpart F, is far more rigorous than that for highway inspectors. This lack of parity between modes is surprising, considering that the equipment is similar and both programs fall under the HMR and the purview of your agency. Until the definition of “registered inspector” is revised as recommended, Safety Recommendation H-18-3 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Howard R. Elliott, Administrator: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) does not concur. While we are concerned by the misapplication of the grandfather provision associated with this accident, we believe that removing the grandfather provision entirely is an overly broad action and would ultimately penalize those registered inspectors who are performing registered inspector duties in compliance with the regulations. However, we believe that our planned actions outlined below to address Safety Recommendation H-18-4 would also satisfy the intent of this recommendation. We believe eliminating the grandfather provision would place an undue burden on registered inspectors making use of the provision to maintain compliance. The next tier up of requisite knowledge and ability requirements from the "grandfather provision"- i.e., three years' experience performing duties of a register inspector (prior to September 1, 1995)-is a high school diploma (or general equivalency) and three years of work experience relating to testing and inspection of cargo tanks. Eliminating the grandfather provision would require some registered inspectors to incur the costs of obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent degree to meet the definition of a registered inspector. PHMSA believes that this would be an unfair requirement for those registered inspectors that have decades of experience requalifying cargo tanks in the proper way. Moreover, PHMSA believes that, due to the linkage to the September 1, 1991 date, the grandfather provision is "self-terminating," in that the individuals who have been performing these duties-many for as long as 40 years-will naturally leave the workforce as they reach retirement age. Therefore, we plan no action to eliminate the grandfather provision from the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) definition of "registered inspector" in§ 171.8; however, PHMSA plans to address the need for maintenance of necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities in performance of requalification duties in response to Safety Recommendation H-18-4.
-From Howard R. Elliott, Administrator: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) appreciates the NTSB' s concerns expressed in the accident summary report1 regarding the training and qualification of cargo tank inspectors (i.e., "registered inspectors"). PHMSA also thanks the NTSB for the opportunity to discuss the above safety recommendations on February 22, 2018 and for providing clarity and guidance on the intent of each recommendation. As you are aware, we discussed PHMSA's "grandfather provision" in the definition of registered inspector as it relates to H-18-3; the possibility of alternative action to satisfy the intent of H-18-4; and the NTSB's expectation for implementing H-18-5. In partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), PHMSA is developing an action plan to address NTSB' s recommendations, and we look forward to providing you with more details in the near future.
On January 23, 2018, the NTSB adopted its highway accident summary report Commercial Vehicle Overturn Resulting in Cargo Tank Rupture, Propane Release, and Fire, Stroud, Alabama, March 11, 2016, NTSB/HAR-18/01/SUM. The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at http://www.ntsb.gov. Among the Safety Recommendations are three new recommendations issued to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which can be found on page 28 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response to email@example.com. If it exceeds 20 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.
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