Nurse Tank Inspection Program Developed to Meet Needs of Industry
In March of 2004, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), acting at the special request and as an agent on behalf of eight of it’s members which included Agriliance, LLC., Crop Production Services, Growmark, Royster-Clark, Inc., Simplot Growers Solutions, The Andersons, Western Farm Service and the Wilbur-Ellis Company applied for a Special Permit from certain requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Hazardous Materials Regulations.”
TFI’s members transport anhydrous ammonia (a DOT “hazardous material”) in “nurse tanks.” Under DOT’s regulations, these nurse tanks (also referred to as “an implement of husbandry”) are not required to meet the specification packaging requirements for cargo tanks set forth in 49 CFR Part 178 if certain conditions are satisfied. These conditions include that the nurse tank: (1) be constructed per the American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s (ASME) Code in effect at the time of construction; (2) have a minimum design pressure of 250 psig; and (3) be marked with the relevant ASME Code information and minimum design pressure. (49 CFR Part 173.315 (m)(1).
It was brought to TFI’s attention that some nurse tanks transporting anhydrous ammonia do not possess the requisite markings for the ASME Code and design pressure during use. To industry’s knowledge, identification plates (data plates) were put on all tanks initially but were not attached securely enough to withstand the test of time and weather. TFI’s members have reason to believe the nurse tanks at issue were constructed per the relevant ASME Code and fabricated to meet a minimum design pressure of 250 psig based on their historical use. Due to the age of some of the tanks without markings, TFI’s members were unable to verify compliance with Section 173.315 (m)(1) and desired a Special Permit.
DOT granted The Fertilizer Institute’s request for an exemption from certain requirements in DOT’s “Hazardous Materials Regulations” on January 10, 2005. Specifically, DOT approved TFI’s request for an exemption from a requirement that ammonia nurse tanks carry an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) identification plate, which are typically affixed to the tanks at the time of their manufacture.
In its application for an exemption, TFI indicated that its members had ample reason to believe that the nurse tanks, which may have lost their nameplates due to the ravages of time and weather, still met DOT safety standards. As such, TFI requested an exemption from the nameplate requirement and expressed the industry’s willingness to work with DOT to demonstrate the safety of the tanks.
TFI worked with its affiliated state and regional associations as well as the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) regarding the potential for extending the exemption to other interested industry members.
In granting the exemption, DOT required nurse tanks without the identification plate to be inspected and tested by doing an external visual inspection, thickness test and pressure test. DOT also required nurse tanks to be retested and reinspected every five years. In addition, each owner of a nurse tank operating under the exemption must maintain a copy of the test report; a current copy of the exemption must be maintained at the facility where the nurse tank is tested and offered for transportation; and each nurse tank must be plainly and durably marked with the exemption number and with a unique owner’s identification number.
Special Permit Incorporated Into Regulation
On February 1, 2011, the Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), issued its long awaited final rule incorporating several long-standing special permits into the federal hazardous materials regulations. Special Permits 10950 and 13554, held by The Fertilizer Institute on behalf of its members, were included in this rulemaking. The effective date of the final rule was March 3, but voluntary compliance was authorized immediately.
As a result of this final rule, nurse tanks mounted on field trucks (SP-10950) and nurse tanks with missing or illegible dataplates (SP-13554) no longer needed to be marked with the special permit number, but the requirements contained in the special permits for continued operation, will still need to be met. TFI advised members to carefully review the requirements contained in Section 173.315 (m) (1) and (2) for operating nurse tanks with missing or illegible dataplates; and, Section 173.315 (m) (1) and (3) for nurse tanks mounted on field trucks of the attached notice.
PHMSA stated they were not addressing any alternations to these special permits as several associations suggested. For example, the FarWest Agribusiness Association suggested that PHMSA extend the 50 mile limitation in SP-10950 to 100 miles and TFI suggested that PHMSA require the same testing of all nurse tanks, not just those with the missing or illegible dataplates. PHMSA stated that any modifications will need to be submitted as a petition for rulemaking. In this regard, TFI previously submitted a petition for rulemaking for testing of all nurse tanks and PHMSA will be addressing our petition in a separate rulemaking proceeding.