National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Transportation should require cargo truck companies to develop written procedures on loading and unloading hazardous materials, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended.
In its final report on a fiery accident that killed five people in Biloxi, Mississippi last year, the Board said that written procedures would help drivers follow safe loading and unloading practices. Currently, there are no federal requirements that such procedures be provided to drivers in writing.
On August 9, 1998, a truck driver was transferring gasoline from his truck to underground storage tanks of a gas station/convenience store in Biloxi when one of the storage tanks overflowed. Approximately 550 gallons flowed into the street. The gasoline ignited and fire engulfed two cars and a pickup truck at an adjacent intersection, killing five of the six people in the three vehicles.
Premium Tank Lines, the truck company, did not have written procedures for loading and unloading product from its trucks specific enough to govern this situation. On the night of the accident, the company's dispatcher telephonically gave the truck driver the numbers of three gas stations to be serviced - 742, 743 and 736. The driver said he heard and wrote down 742, 743 and 741. He did not read back the numbers to the dispatcher, nor was this required. Later that night, instead of going to station 736, the driver took his truck to station 741, where the overflow occurred.
Once at the station, the driver made a number of operating errors, the Board said. He did not determine the quantity of gasoline remaining in the underground storage tanks and he did not calculate the amount of gasoline that could safely be transferred from the cargo tank to the station storage tanks. He also failed to close the lids of the direct fill ports before beginning the gasoline transfer through the remote fill ports. Finally, he did not properly monitor the gasoline transfer.
The Board also found that the gas station facility did not have procedures to ensure that the product delivered would fit into its underground storage facilities, as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Board determined the probable cause of the Biloxi accident to be the failure of Premium Tank Line officials to follow established company procedures in the hiring and training of new drivers and the company's lack of adequate procedures for dispatching drivers and delivering cargo to customer facilities, and the failure of R.R. Morrison and Son (the company that owned the gas station) to have adequate safety procedures for accepting product offered for delivery at its stations. Contributing to the accident was the truck driver's various and numerous operating errors during the gasoline transfer process that led to the underground storage tank overfill.
Besides its recommendations on requiring written procedures to truck drivers, the Board also issued recommendations dealing with implementation of additional procedures by trucking companies and gas station companies to ensure the safe delivery and transfer of petroleum products.
The Board's final report may be accessed on the NTSB's web site, www.ntsb.gov. Printed copies may be purchased later this fall from the National Technical Information Service, (800) 553-NTIS. Please specify report number PB99-917007.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.