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ICI's approach to the arriage of hazardous loads

5th July 1974, Page 64
5th July 1974
Page 64
Page 65
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Page 64, 5th July 1974 — ICI's approach to the arriage of hazardous loads
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

by John Darker

THE Flixborough disaster concentrated the minds of everyone on the risk to human life of a major chemical plant explosion. It focused still more attention on the need for maximizing the safety precautions attendant on the movement of hazardous loads, by all transport modes.

Even before Flixborough, where an experienced tanker driver died in the holocaust, scarcely a week passed without a cautionary speech by a chief fire officer or police superintendent on the risk of a major disaster involving one or more road tankers. There is the current controversy as to the volumes of LPG that may safely be conveyed through road tunnels. Increasingly stringent national legislation can be expected and new road tanker designs must be faced by the parties to the A DR (International) convention.

An escape of about 5 tons of cyclohexane at the Wilton plant of ICI in 1969 led to two deaths. A cloud of the gas approached a diesel high-lift truck whose driver switched off during the general alarm, but the engine did not stop because the cyclohexane was sucked into the air intake of the engine. Until this incident it was widely believed that diesel engines were not a fire risk in flammable atmospheres.

Arising from this incident ICI collaborated in the development of an intake flame stop Valve which can be fitted to a diesel engine in place of the normal air filter unit. It illustrates the continuing need for technical innovation in keeping abreast of newly discovered hazards.

At ICI's Wilton and Billingham works, recently, I was glad to learn something of the company's safety philosophy, with particular reference to road transport hazards. The Petrochemicals division issues a useful drivers' diary containing advice on documentation, payloads, cleanliness and safe handling. Knowing of the significant role played by ICI executives in pressing the Chemical Industries Association — and its European

counterpart CEFIC to develop

industry-wide plans for dealing with transport emergencies, it was enlightening to see how Britain's largest chemical combine translates a general philosophy into practical day-to-day operations.

Pilot scheme

The publication by the Chemical Industries Association of "The Road Transport of Hazardous Chemicals" Owes much to the close co-operation of chemical companies on Teesside and Merseyside not only with each other but with the emergency services. This was very evident at Middlesbrough, during my visit, when the pilot scheme devised in Cleveland for the marking of road tankers with the new Haz.chem safety code markings — in conjunction with United Nations code numbers for chemical products — was launched.

Hopefully, this pilot scheme, operating until the end of October 1974, will lead to a national scheme catering for all hazardous products.

The seven products covered by the pilot test — propylene, butane, butadiene, mixed butenes, aniline, acetone cyanohydrin, and methanol are carried regularly in quantities sufficient to justify movement in "dedicated" tankers. The tanker-marking problems when several hazardous products are carried in multi-compartment tankers are, of course, more formidable since incorrect markings would be worse than useless, and in a major crash even a correctly labelled multiple ,compartment vehicle could present the emergency services with a difficult problem. Even so, the difficulties are not insuperable. Given the public interest generated by Flixborough, and the new safety at work legislation, it should be possible to devise acceptable measures in terms of practicality and cost.

Driver training— with all the back-up management supervision that is called for is at the heart of the safety problem posed by the movement of hazardous loads by road. ICI is a sub stantial road transport operator and fully accepts the responsibility of training its own drivers, to increasingly rigorous safety standards.

It is with hired transport that problems arise. ICI is very ready to train instructor drivers nominated by tanker haulage firms and a number of threeday courses for instructors have been held in recent months. What the company will not do — as being outside its role as a chemical producer — is to take on responsibility for training all the tanker drivers employed on the carriage of ICI products. This, it is argued, is the responsibility of the tanker hauliers themselves, with any necessary help from the Road Transport Industry Training Board.

Training kits

RTITB instructors in the regions could be trained by chemical company specialists. Perhaps, in the longer term, the Chemical Industries Association would he the appropriate body to advise training boards. Whoever does this necessary job would need to be equipped with demonstration training kits aligned to the products most commonly hauled by independent tanker operators.

The divisions of ICI operate as separate management entities. At Teesside, where the river separates the Wilton and Billingham plants, a number of independent road tanker firms serve the many ICI plants. Because of the variety of products made by the huge establishments of the Agricultural and Petrochemicals divisions the tanker sub-contractors must make themselves "all-purpose" specialists -with all the problems this entails in driver training, tank cleansing, etc. (On the tank cleansing aspect, the distribution department of ICI Petrochemicals has produced a most comprehensive road tanker cleaning wall chart, and this will greatly help all operating points.) Cost comparisons between own and hired fleets are inevitable in any large organization. When a substantial cost element represents safety provision any marked disparity between company vehicle operating costs and subcontractors' charges raises most difficult issues for the executives responsible for hiring road transport. Without full backing from the top a safety policy applied with integrity could not easily be Pursued.

ICI has given an industry-lead in producing its own black-printed Transport Emergency Cards, with accompany ing labels using black print for non-hazardous products — a policy reassuring to employees and the public. The standard red-printed Tremcards and accompanying cautionary posters are widely used for the hazardous products distributed. I gather that the 200300 Tremcards so far made available to tanker operating hauliers cover some 90 per cent of hazardous products.

The remedy, as regards the balance of chemicals for which Tremcards are not available, is for the manufacturers concerned to produce their own Tremcards and product labels. Tanker haulage firms should refuse to transport any hazardous products not properly identified. (The force of British law is not yet behind Tremcards. though the ADR (international) regulations require that drivers shall have written instructions catering for emergencies.) ' ICI is not immune from tanker accidents and as befits the largest British chemical combine it goes to great lengths to minimize environmental damage. When a road tanker's cargo of nitrobenzene leaked into a river after overturning it was necessary to send a sludge tanker to the site at intervals of two or three weeks to pump out the residues — well mixed with silt on the river bed.

ICI executives stressed. that the desirable wide extension of the Hazchem scale tanker mark ings depends upon the achievement of a consensus between the chemical industry and the emergency services as to the precise hazard category of particular products. The Cleveland pilot test involves perhaps 60 vehicles and there are upwards of 2,500 chemical tanker vehicles in the UK. Urgent action is called for by the Home Office and the DoE to reconcile diverse viewpoints.

Frequently, tankers may carry two or as many as five different products and if the products change labelling becomes a responsible task calling for at least a double check. ICI safety specialists see as a long-term solution that multiple loads — perhaps using the same Hazchem code — will be segregated by characteristics relating to the method of combating a fire — water, dry agent, foam, etc.

Safety training of tanker drivers and ancillary workers is well developed at the Teesside plants of ICI and during my visit a further new safety training package from the Mond division was circulated to transport, distribution and safety specialists at Wilton and Billingham.

At Wilton, I heard about the training programme undergone by several groups of senior drivers drawn from independent road tanker companies in the area. Each course consists of some 15 driver instructors and the lecture demonstrations are difficult enough to sort the men from the boys! At the outset, the men are told "You've hauled this or that product, now tell us what its properties are." As a follow-up, the driver/ instructors are shown copies of the emergency procedure manual, so that they can fill in any gaps in their• -knowledge.

Product recognition

Driver/ instructors are first introduced to the terminology of the technical terms used — and their meaning — in Tremcards and instructional manuals, and they continue with lectures on ICI's storage and conveyance regulations and customet relations. There are lectures on produci recognition and familiarization, the principles of tank cleaning, charging and discharging tanks, venting and safety valves, etc, personal safety and safety equipment.

The course includes practical firefighting demonstrations and instructional films such as one I saw describing how the company would co-operate with the emergency services in the eveni of a chemical tanker incident.

On the final day a discussion period i1 spent on the analysis of known compan) and non-company incidents. Lecture1 are given by the Cleveland police on the legal requirements of tanker operations labelling, etc, and the driver/ instructor! are reminded of the local hazardow freight routes.

ICI at Billingham has charted th( safest possible routes, nationwide, foi all its main traffic flows involving hazardous products. Wool, stranded ir two or more colours, identifies routes along which different products an hauled. The selected routes are corn. patible with the company's emergenc arrangements. It is, of course, necessar,1 to up-date road information and some times vary routes in the light of frest circumstances.

A final session poses a real challengi collection and delivery service Using the company's own vehicles. The network of Pullars' 150 shops stretched frlm the Solway Firth in the south to the Cromarty Firth in the north.

The most alarming aspect of the 1950 distribution system was that from the time the customers handed in garments for cleaning to the time they were returned, there was a six-week delay. The cleaning took less than 72 hours.

At about this time, the "High Street" cleaner appeared on the scene, offering a three-day cleaning service. Companies like Pullars had to match or improve on this service.

The consequent study demonstrated that the cleaning process could be reduced to a matter of a few hours and with handling and cleaning, most garments could be processed in an eighthour day. The problem was to get the garments from the collection point to the plant and back — in a 72-hour cycle. This was the problem which was handed to Mr Jack Isdale, the company's transport manager.

The farthest out c and d point from Perth was about 220 miles away through towns, narrow roads, and country lanes. In the summer time, there was the tourist traffic to contend with, in the winter time, rain, snow, ice, and hail. Fast schedules were impossible, daytime running was impracticable. After a detailed study, Jack Isdale came down in favour of night-time collection, with redelivery the following evening. Thus garments handed into Pullars' shops late on Monday afternoon would be available for collection by customers first thing Wednesday morning.

I think here I should declare my interest. I am a champion of night delivery to shops. I have heard all the arguments against this and these I put to Jack Isdale, Each one he answered with the logic and practical approach of the engineer. Jack incidentally, is an automotive engineer by adoption, by training he is a civil engineer.


The first argument I put to him was costs. His answers were startling. Total operating cost per mile for a D400 in 1973 was 8.99p, the national average was nearer 12p per mile. He breaks his costs down as follows: Wages 4.60p per mile; depreciation 0.49p per mile; all other operating costs 3.90p per mile. Pullars, transport costs equal 6.62 per cent of its total turnover. Some ownaccount people quote as high as 40 per cent.

Very few, if any, operating costs for day-time deliveries can stand comparison against Pullars' night delivery costs.

Another argument advanced against night-time delivery is accessibility to premises. All of Pullars' drivers are supplied with keys for the shops on their run. On arrival at the premises they deposit the cleaned garments and pick up soiled garments for return to Pe Nothing could be simpler.

The critics of night deliveries cl that security is the most serious c sideration but it has been suggestec me that because domestic cleaning d not carry a high security risk it is un to compare it with other goods.

Each load of Pullars' garments h. value of around £9,000. So that al times during the run, the drivel carrying £9,000 worth of cargo, I possibly another £500 or more in e shop that he opens. Compared supermarket stock, this might appee be a very low security risk but it has t. remembered that used garments are easily identified than cartons cigarettes; they have a quick disp appeal for the thief.

To overcome this security risk, a Jack Isdale's drivers are hand picl They normally apply for a vacanc3 the recommendation of a well-tru employee of the company.

I sat in on a preliminary inter) with a potential employee and it only after the applicant had left , instructions to report again, th4 realized the full import of Jack Isd seemingly innocuous questions.

The great risk in night or high-v delivery is that thieving might Ix inside help.

Jack Isdale has his own metho checking out his applicants and success of his method can besi measured from his "lost in tral record which to date reads "Nil".

Of course, it could be argued that even with the most careful driver selection, goods might still disappear, because they are "outside jobs". To overcome this possibility routes are careful Iv planned.


Drivers leave the Perth depot around 5.30 pm and drop off and pick up at Pullars' shops throughout Scotland, until about 1.30am. The routes are so planned that deliveries to high securityrisk areas are made either when there are lots of people on the streets, or after potential "highwaymen" have gone to bed. For instance, Pullars' vehicles never drop loads in the centre of Glasgow when public dance halls are emptying around I o'clock in the morning. Such deliveries are made when the most solid citizens are taking the night air, and when the constabulary is less likely to be occupied. • On one occasion while stopped at a set of traffic lights in Glasgow's East End, however, the hack doors of a van were prised open and two thieves made off with a bag of laundry. The driver knew immediately that his doors were open; he turned his van, followed the men and collected a constable en route. Eventually the thieves were apprehended. the bag was replaced in the van and the deliveries were continued.


Every retail delivery transport manager knows the problem of offloading at premises which were designed for the horse and cart era. Few enjoy the special privileges of Jack Isdale, who being a civil engineer is involved in the design and reconstruction of all of the company's premises where vehicles are likely to call. His involvement at this level has undoubtedly gone a long way to perfect the night delivery scheme..

It would he wrong, however, to give the impression that Jack lsdale is a civil engineer with transport as a secondary function. If it were merely a case of proving his ability as a transport manager, it would almost be sufficient to say that all of his vehicles pass the DoE tests first time, but more must be said.

His Ford D400s return prodigious mileages before major overhauls are necessary. One vehicle in his fleet shows 400,000 miles on the clock and the head has yet to be removed. Another is standing at 378,000 miles and the other eight have covered mileages ranging from.357,000 to 208,000. I looked at the repair record of one vehicle with 300,000 miles against it. It showed brake re-lines at 25,000 miles and clutch replacement about every 48,000 miles.

The vehicles are not over-serviced but Jack Isdale is confirmed in his opinion that because of the relatively light traffic conditions during night-time deliveries with the consequent reduction in low gear work and constant brake application, repair costs are kept low. An operating cost less wages of 4.39 per mile is support enough for his opinion. Inconvenient down-time is non-existent since the vehicles are being repaired Or serviced during the day when spare parts stockists and factory premises are open for business.


Driver training does not contribute to the low cost because there is no special driver training. Drivers are employed for their competence and the training which follows occupies only two weeks, most of which is spent learning the garment cleaning process, and thereafter familiarizing themselves with the routes on which they are likely to be engaged.

Having visited Pullars, listened to Jack lsdale and examined his records, I am more than ever convinced that there is still much scope for others who are similarly employed, in retail collection and distribution, to use the silent hours.

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