PA Panel Issues Recommendations for Waste Vehicles

Following inspections resulting in more than 11,000 safety and environmental trucks violations during its Operation Clean Sweep last May, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Harrisburg, has formed a panel of waste trucking industry professionals, government officials, public and private waste industry managers, and state agencies to recommend ways to improve waste transportation safety and environmental compliance in the state.

Last year's week-long Operation Clean Sweep, which included 40,000 surprise truck inspections conducted by the DEP, Pennsylvania State Police and the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Harrisburg, at landfills and transfer stations throughout the state, resulted in the removal of 849 vehicles from the road because they were considered unsafe.

At the time, the DEP checked for properly completed documents, safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, and containment of waste. The PennDOT and State Police checked for proper placards, truck weight, brakes and tire conditions.

However, “the results of Operation Clean Sweep were unsatisfactory to both the [waste] industry and the Department [DEP],” says Jim Warner, panel member from the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. “We all recognized a need for improvement.”

To that end, the panel, which held its first meeting in the summer, looked at Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MSCAP) statistics provided by PennDOT and compared them with the results of Operation Clean Sweep to determine where improvements could be made, says David Brooman, special environmental counsel to the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Waste Industry Association (PWIA) and panel member.

The panel issued voluntary recommendations on Sept. 5, 2001, in the areas of legislation, transportation compliance plans, training and education. All recommendations were approved for implementation by the representative groups and DEP secretary.

The first recommendation pushed for legislation that would enforce transporter registration requirements, and would include annual registration of all public and private motor carriers transporting municipal solid waste (MSW) and residual waste. Also, no processing or disposal facility would accept MSW from a motor carrier that does not have a valid registration sticker, and registrations would be revoked if repeat violations occurred.

The second recommendation requested that all waste processing and disposal facilities implement a transportation compliance plan, which would be reviewed periodically for improvements. The plan would include a schedule of compliance checks, including those for overweights, tarps, leaky loads, signage, load securement and fire extinguishers; a provision for coordinating with local and regional police and enforcement agencies at least twice a year to detect and correct safety violations; actions to take when a facility employee observes a violation; provisions for additional safety training; and assistance with transporter requirement compliance.

The third recommendation would create and conduct a series of training programs. An ad hoc team of representatives from the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), PWIA, DEP and PennDOT would develop a curriculum to address waste transportation safety and environmental requirements. The team also would train instruction teams to provide ongoing training in each of the DEP's six regions.

The fourth recommendation suggested that two educational safety brochures dealing with transporters and facilities be distributed. Brochures would be prepared by the work group and based on input provided and approved by the DEP, PennDOT, State Police, and representatives of the public and private waste industry.

So far, according to Brooman, there has been a unanimously positive response to the recommendations. “It also has shown in the department's spot inspections that have been conducted since the recommendations came out,” he says. Inspections still are being conducted throughout the state to ensure that safety has improved. According to DEP statistics, inspections on nearly 1,300 vehicles in January resulted in about 100 violations.

Warner says that implementation has varied from facility to facility, but nearly all landfills and transfer stations have made or are in the process of making changes. Although the program is voluntary, if the legislation recommendation is implemented, the state would legally have to comply to improve safety and environmental regulations in the state.