Pottle’s Transportation avoids hefty fine with Qualcomm spill detector

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A newly developed onboard spill reporting system for trucks is helping Pottle’s Transportation avoid a hefty fine from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management for making a late fuel spill incident report.

The Bangor, Maine-based 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 DEP, says Sheldon Cote, the carrier’s safety manager. An $11,500 penalty for late notification has been reduced significantly because the carrier implemented the onboard system, Cote says.

The system enables a driver to fill out a preformatted electronic message and transmit it from the truck to provide authorities with rapid notification and details of an incident through Spill Center, a company specializing in environmental claims and spill emergency management, Cote says.

A Pottle’s truck leaked an estimated 20 to 30 gallons of diesel fuel after a fuel tank was pierced by debris in the road last October in Charlton, Mass. A local police officer who noticed the trail of leaking fuel followed it to the Pottle’s truck and pulled over the unsuspecting driver, Cote says.

In Massachusetts, the reportable quantity of a spilled petroleum product is 10 gallons, and the DEP must be notified within two hours of the incident to avoid a citation, says Nick Child, chief of emergency response in the DEP’s Central Regional Office. Child called the onboard reporting system an innovative way to sound the alarm after a spill, noting that faster response is definitely better for the environment.

Spill Center worked closely with Pottle’s and communications specialist Qualcomm to develop the onboard spill reporting system, says Tom Moses, an environmental attorney and president of Spill Center. A “spill macro” was loaded into the Qualcomm OmniTracs mobile communications system on all of Pottle’s company trucks. A key on the driver’s terminal brings up the spill form, which the driver fills in.

Once the message is sent, it travels from the truck to Qualcomm’s Network Management Center in San Diego. From there, it is relayed to Pottle’s and to Spill Center’s 24/7 call center, which immediately notifies authorities and completes all required reports.

Cote says DEP was receptive to the SEP proposal. “We proposed something that I think is going to benefit other trucking companies down the road as well as environmental regulatory agencies and emergency response agencies,” he says.

Moses, who accompanied Cote to the DEP enforcement hearing, commended Pottle’s Transportation for deploying an integrated solution in its effort to achieve best management practices for over-the-road safety and emergency response management procedures.