The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Thursday issued a proposed rulemaking to change the definition of a tank vehicle.  The proposed rulemaking was issued in response to an American Trucking Association’s (ATA) February 2012 petition that asked FMCSA to better align its definition of a tank vehicle with those vehicles that present the safety issues the tank vehicle endorsement is designated to mitigate.  Commercial driver’s license holders who operate such vehicles are required to obtain a tank vehicle endorsement.

FMCSA only proposed to eliminate portable tanks with an individual capacity of less than 1,000 gallons that are also manifested as being empty or containing only residue from the tank vehicle designation.  FMCSA guidance already excludes vehicles moving those containers, and this proposal would only add that exclusion to the official definition of a tank vehicle.

FMCSA did not accept ATA’s suggestion to also exclude all portable tanks with an individual capacity less than 1,000 gallons from the definition.  ATA said it will file comments reiterating its position, pointing out that the tank vehicle endorsement requires training to mitigate the specific safety concerns inherent in operating tank trucks.  The tank vehicle definition is designed to target those vehicles that present safety risks that can be mitigated by requiring drivers to undergo special training.

The safety risk are a higher than normal vehicle center of gravity and liquid surge or slosh.  Portable tanks present no center of gravity issues.  Further, portable tanks have the least surge or slosh risk when they are either empty or full.   Because portable tanks are transported almost exclusively either empty or completely full, ATA said that FMCSA should recognize that portable tanks with capacities under 1,000 gallons do not present any safety risks beyond those recognized for in basic commercial driver’s license training.

Comments on the proposed rulemaking must be received by November 25, 2013. The Federal Register notice is available here.