A new on-board spill reporting system for trucks is helping a Bangor, Maine, trucking company avoid a hefty fine for making a late fuel spill incident report, according to Sheldon Cote, the carrier's safety manager.

Pottle's Transportation, a 35-year-old truckload carrier, has deployed the new reporting system, which is integrated into the fleet's Qualcomm communications system, as part of a Special Enforcement Project (SEP) settlement reached with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, said Cote. An $11,500 penalty for late notification has been significantly reduced because the carrier implemented the on-board system, he added.
The system enables a driver to quickly fill out a pre-formatted electronic spill message and transmit it from the truck to provide authorities with rapid notification and details of a spill incident through Spill Center, a company specializing in environmental claims and spill emergency management, Cote related.
The Pottle's spill involved an estimated 20 to 30 gallons of diesel fuel, which leaked out of a saddle tank after it was pierced by debris in the road last October in Charlton, Mass. A local police officer who noticed the trail of leaking fuel on the pavement followed it to the Pottle's truck and pulled over the unsuspecting driver, Cote recounted.
In Massachusetts, the reportable quantity of any spilled petroleum product is 10 gallons, and the DEP must be notified within two hours of the incident to avoid a citation, reported Nick Child, Chief of Emergency Response in the DEP's Central Regional Office. Child called the reporting system an innovative way to sound the alarm after a spill.
"With any release to the environment, time is a huge factor. If this allows rapid notification of public safety and environmental officials, it can only help," said Child. "Faster response is definitely better for the environment."
Spill Center worked closely with Pottle's and wireless communications specialist Qualcomm, to develop the on-board spill reporting system, according to Tom Moses, an environmental attorney and president of Spill Center. He noted that the system is an adaptation of homeland security technology developed by Spill Center in response to the U.S. government's efforts to prevent commercial vehicles carrying hazardous materials from being used in terrorist attacks.
In adapting the system for Pottle's Transportation, Spill Center created a "spill macro" to be loaded into the Qualcomm's OmniTRACS mobile communications system, a satellite-based wireless communications solution and terminal on all the company trucks. An assigned key on the driver's terminal brings up the blank spill form, which the driver fills in with pertinent information about the spill, explained Shawn Thornton, Qualcomm customer service specialist.
Once the driver sends the message, it travels from the truck to Qualcomm's Network Management Center in San Diego, Calif., where it is processed through the Multiple Access Software System. That enables automatic data sharing with authorized third parties, such as Spill Center, Thornton said. The message is forwarded both to Pottle's headquarters and to Spill Center's 24/7 call center, which immediately notifies authorities and completes the required reports.
According to Cote, the DEP was very receptive to the SEP proposal. "Nobody had proposed this sort of thing before, and so we're kind of on the ground floor with this," he said. "What we proposed is a solution to a common problem. It's something that I think is going to benefit other trucking companies down the road as well as environmental regulatory agencies and emergency response agencies," added Cote.
For more information, contact Tom Moses at Spill Center by calling (978) 568-1922 ext. 222, or visiting www.spillcenter.com.