Here’s the scenerio: A carrier sends a tanker rig to a chemicals manufacturer for a load of ferric acid. The tank is made of stainless steel, and should be able to carry the acid safely. Unbeknownst to the carrier, the customer has added a chloride to the brew, making it more aggressive and damaging. Sooner or later, the tank’s interior is found to be pitted, making for costly repairs, or worse, leaks have developed. The $100,000 trailer is shot.
John Cannon, vice president for engineering at The Walker Group, a unit of Wabash National Corp., has heard of such events from customers, who began talking about them at the group’s annual exposition in Fond du Lac, Wisc. Tank products from the Walker, Brenner, Garsite and Bulk divisions were usually the features at the meeting for motor carrier representatives, but the damage issue became a stronger topic.
“It came to a head at the 2012 expo, when we talked about it and decided to do something about it,” he recalls. The result was the Corrosion Initiative, which quickly became the Liquid Products Database. This is a compilation of chemical products and all their variations, with information on how they affect materials used in tank construction and how they can be dealt with. Early on, the informal group of stakeholders turned over the project to the National Tank Truck Carriers, a conference of the American Trucking Associations.
NTTC is paying Battelle Memorial Institute, a scientific research organization based in Columbus, Ohio, to compile the database, according to Dan Furth, the conference’s president. Work began about six months ago.
“We own it and pay for all of it,” he says of the database. “We agreed to go to $100,000 in the first phase of development. I think we’ll continue to fund it. We’re asking folks to send in information on more and more products. Some of our big member-carriers have tools that they use already. Then we’ll engage our partners, like the chemical manufacturers. It’s a rather technical thing when you get a bunch of metallurgists around a table, and chemists. We’re trying to gauge the corrosivity of the chemicals we haul. A lot of them are in the public domain. Where we don’t know we can have our partners at Battelle test them.”
“It’s to put information at the fingertips of the carriers so they can decide whether to take the load,” says Doug Pape, the project manager and a senior research engineer at Battelle. “They want to know what the load will do to the tank,” he explains.
“There are things that one load will destroy the tank, and there goes $100,000. There are other things that leaving the tank unwashed for a day or so, it can start doing damage to the tank.”
The database now includes 400 chemicals with variations , and the total number of listings is now over 5,000, says Barry Hindin, a corrosion engineer at Battelle who is doing the compilation and necessary testing. Examples are concentrations of hydrochloric acid, which become more aggressive as they are diluted or mixed, and many kinds of resins. Some are pure chemicals and some are proprietary products, whose makeup may not be known but whose behavior toward materials can be gotten from manufacturers or tested.
Type of trailer by material — stainless steel, rubber-lined steel, aluminum or fiberglass-reinforced plastic — and a proper washing method for each item is among the information listed. Battelle maintains the database in an outside server, and it’s accessible through a user’s computer, iPad, tablet or smart phone by going to www.tanktruck.org and clicking into it.
“The user will probably be a carrier’s salesman, who decides whether to take the load, or in larger companies, somebody who has something to do with equipment, and he’ll make the final call,” says Pape. Some listings include hazmat placard codes, and code numbers assigned by Chemical Abstracts Services (another Columbus concern), and the United Nations. An NTCC steering committee is testing it and “so far we’ve heard no complaints,” he reports.
Hindin is finishing some features for the database, such as allowing carriers to quiz each other. “Carriers can make comments like, ‘I think it damaged my tank,’” Pape says. “Other carriers can respond, ‘Yes, it damaged mine.’ Barry can review it. In some cases we can test it in the lab.” If NTCC continues to fund the project, Battelle will add more and more materials.
“A precedent is a handbook for people who put screws and rivets into metal, and need to know how the materials interact,” he says. “It was started after World War II when the aircraft and aerospace industry started growing. Battelle has done this for 60 years. That’s the vision for this. Long after Barry and I have retired, this will still be going on.”
NTCC plans to roll out the Liquid Products Database during Tank Truck Week in Houston, with a presentation in mid November.
“It’s a pretty cool service to offer our members, and for non-members too,” who can pay a licensing fee to use it, says Furth. “Each of our 240 fleets sometimes encounter a chemical it may not know about. When you lose a $110,000 asset, it’s, ‘Who screwed up my trailer?’ Or, it’s a haul you should probably wash this way to avoid damage.”
Furth, who earlier worked for Quality Carriers in Wisconsin, succinctly explained the damage in our opening scenario: “When there’s an ‘ide’ in it, it’s something that will corrode.”