Transportation Pipeline

GAO: PHMSA should better track ‘wetline’ incidents

Washington – The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration should better track the incidence rate of spills from cargo tank truck “wetlines” – the series of pipes used to load and unload liquids – to help identify risks, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Crashes may rupture wetlines and cause fires if the truck is transporting flammable liquids, GAO stated. In 2011, PHMSA proposed a rule that would require transporters of flammable liquids to install approved devices to protect the wetlines.

To determine whether PHMSA can accurately analyze the safety benefits and costs of the proposed rule, GAO auditors investigated PHMSA’s wetline incident tracking process. The auditors found that PHMSA may not be aware of all wetline spills – and their injury and fatality outcomes – because it does not specifically ask for this information on truck carrier incident reporting forms, a key source of PHMSA’s data. They also found inaccurate data in the agency’s database of wetline incidents from 1999 to 2011.

GAO recommended PHMSA improve its incident reporting forms and database. PHMSA stated it would consider the recommendations but did not explicitly agree or disagree with them.