Safety, Security Issues with Transportation of Chemicals Discussed at Conference

THE transportation of chemicals is facing a host of issues that are impacting the cost of doing business, said experts at the Polyurethanes 2007 Technical Conference (held Sept. 24-26). Among the pressing issues are an ever-changing regulatory environment and the lack of enough qualified transportation workers to keep up with demand. However, regardless of the challenges, safety and security remain a paramount focus for chemical shipments.

With advancements in training, monitoring and technology integration, rail accidents and non-accidental releases (NARs) are at an all-time low. Key to this success has been a positive, cooperative relationship between the railroad companies, chemical industry and government. "Hazmat incidents have been dramatically reduced through industry-wide efforts and initiatives," said Louis Wagner, general director, Union Pacific Railroad. "By teaming up with chemical companies and shippers 99.96 percent of all shipments are delivered without incident. And, we are working hard to improve this safety record even more."

Jim Brown, V.P. Operations and Business Development, Service Transport Co., spoke on the issues facing the trucking industry. Many of trucking's challenges are related to the current and expected shortage of drivers due to the dramatic increase in shipping volumes, shrinking of the available driver pool, reduction in available hours of service, and increasing regulatory requirements. "Today, there are more than 6 million commercial trucks of all kinds on the road," Brown said. "Through a continued focus on better scheduling, logistics and loading, we can all help improve the efficiency of the system. The trucking industry also has placed a heavy emphasis on improving safety and security through programs like American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Responsible Care® and Highway Watch®, as well as working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to host driver summits to help reduce the number of tanker rollovers."

Bob Blake, manager of distribution safety, Bayer MaterialScience LLC, talked about the shipment of polyurethanes and initiatives his company has implemented to promote safe handling and transport. "First and foremost, the chemical industry must continue to take a partnership approach with our service providers," Blake said. "We must work hand-in-hand with respect to transportation system safety, and then continue to audit, innovate and improve that system. This requires focusing on everything from developing best transportation practices to care and handling of hoses and fittings used to transfer chemicals."

Talking about the customer care side of the business, Rory Solga, Transportation Command Center Manager, BASF Corp., stressed the importance of proactive communication in the transportation of chemicals. According to Solga, this requires a concerted effort, dedicated team and proper resources to make sure it is done right. "It sounds cliché, but it really is all about good communications with your customers and carriers," he said. "This helps balance everyone's expectations with the need to get the chemical shipment handled safely, on time and to everyone's satisfaction."

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