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7/22/2011 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Opinion: Train Drivers to Deal With Spills

By Thomas Moses

President

Spill Center Inc.

This Opinion piece appears in the July 18 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

A transportation accident or emergency release that results in an environmental hazard is, for most businesses, an extraordinary occurrence. Yet every business needs to be prepared for such an event. Spills of hazardous materials, diesel fuel and other regulated substances are subject to a maze of environmental regulations.

Nearly 30,000 federal, state and local jurisdictions across the United States require incident reports from spill generators.

Shippers and transporters who are unprepared to handle spill emergencies quickly and comply with all reporting requirements can end up with major expenses for cleanup and disposal services, liability issues and penalties for failing to file incident reports on time.

When in doubt about whether a spill involves a reportable quantity — report it. Failure to file required reports can bring stiff fines, making it unwise to try to cover up a spill.

Any fleet can become a spill generator. The time to prepare for an environmental release is before it happens. Fuel spills and other accidental releases of hazardous or regulated materials, even in small quantities, can turn into expensive incidents for the spill generator not adequately prepared to deal with them.

Driver training is an important aspect of spill preparedness. Trucks should be equipped with spill kits containing plugs, trenching tools and absorbent materials that can be used to stop fuel leaks and limit damage to the environment. Drivers should be instructed in the use of items in these kits.

Drivers also should know the location of fuel shutoff valves on their trucks and understand the importance of preventing leaking fuel from running into streams or storm drains. Even a minor spill can wreak environmental havoc if the fuel reaches water.

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