DOT Issues Final Regulations On “Tank Vehicle” Definition

On May 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued new final regulations that included a new definition for “tank vehicle.”  ARA members are affected by the definition of a “tank vehicle” because pesticides are transported from the manufacturers to the retailers in full IBC containers, which are later returned to the retailer empty.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) submitted a petition to FMCSA requesting the agency amends its definition of a tank vehicle laid out in 49 CRF 383.5.  ARA submitted a letter in support of ATA’s petition on March 29, 2012.  Recently, ARA received the attached response from FMCSA stating they “appreciate the definition promulgated in the May 9, 2011 final rule…expanded the definition of a tank vehicle and, as a result has impacted a number of carriers.”  On March 30, 2012, FMCSA granted the ATA petition for rulemaking and will seek a notice and comment rulemaking on this definition. However, in the interim the current definition still stands so drivers are encouraged to secure the needed endorsement to avoid violations for noncompliance.

ARA intends to work with ATA and other allied industry groups to submit public comments when FMCSA issues a new proposed definition.  ARA recommends that members contact their state DOT on any potential enforcement action until FMCSA revises the definition.

Additional Background Information

In a May 9, 2011 final rule updating processes for applying for and issuing commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits, FMCSA also amended 49 CFR 383.5 and promulgated a new definition for a tank vehicle:

Tank vehicle means any commercial motor vehicle that is designed to transport any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis. A commercial motor vehicle transporting an empty storage container tank, not designed for transportation, with a rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is temporarily attached to a flatbed trailer is not considered a tank vehicle.

According to this Federal Register notice, FMCSA made this change in response to a February 12, 2008 petition from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).  The adopted FMCSA definition has actually expanded the definition of a tank vehicle far beyond CVSA’s request and also covers vehicles that are manifestly not tank vehicles.  Specifically, among those vehicles included under the definition are dry van trailers hauling empty or filled cylinders and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) designed for the carriage of liquids and gases.

ATA and ARA have recommended FMCSA adopt the following definition for a tank vehicle:

Tank vehicle means any commercial motor vehicle that is designed to transport any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank having an individual rated capacity of more than 1,000 gallons that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis; or tanks having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that are permanently attached to the vehicle or the chassis. A commercial motor vehicle transporting portable tanks that are manifested as either empty or as residue on a bill of lading or transporting an empty storage container tank, not designed for transportation, with a rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is temporarily attached to a flatbed trailer are not considered to be tank vehicles.

ARA appreciates members’ input and involvement on this important industry issue and will provide updates as they become available from FMCSA. Questions regarding this issue may be directed to Richard Gupton at 202-457-0825 or Richard@aradc.org.

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