In my June 2007 Newsletter, I wrote about the DOT taking regulatory action to insure the safe transport of lithium batteries aboard aircraft. As a result of this article, many readers have called asking why lithium batteries are drawing so much attention from the DOT. In the June Newsletter, I referenced two incidents in which transportation vehicles (in the air and on the road) were involved in fires that started as a result of the lithium batteries on board. What most airline passengers don‘t know is that since 2005, there have been at least 29 incidents (smoke and/or fire) related to aircraft cargo and baggage in the US alone. We’ve been fortunate that these incidents were discovered in time to avert a catastrophe, but here are just a few of the incidents logged in by the DOT and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): 1) a ramp worker removed a checked bag that was on fire when loading a passenger aircraft — on fire was a battery-pack for a Sony video game; 2) on a domestic passenger flight that was taking off, smoke poured out of an overhead bin that when opened spewed smoke and flames. The flight made an emergency landing and flight attendants were able to extinguish the fire which was caused by loose batteries packed in a bag with audio-video equipment; 3) on an international flight, a passenger found that the battery-powered photographic flash in his bag had burnt holes in some of his clothing. To date, the battery related incidents have gone relatively unnoticed by the traveling public so it is prudent that DOT establish packing and packaging regulations to address this growing concern.
Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues
Archive for 2007
Most shippers recognize that when transporting a hazardous material (dangerous goods), there are regulatory requirements affecting the safe transport of the shipment. However, once the initial shipment is made, fillers and re-shippers often fail to comply with these same regulatory requirements, resulting in hefty fines. In addition, companies that have Return Logistic Programs, or Recall Programs, must convey to their customers the need to present packagings for shipment that are in compliance with the DOT, including continuing use of the packaging manufacturer‘s Closure Instructions. Only recently Home Depot was required to pay a fine of nearly $10 million dollars as a result of "aggressive cost cutting procedures, which lead to non-compliance" for 55 gallon drums in which hazardous waste was stored and eventually transported in a non-compliant mode. As a result of this widespread breech of shipper practice, DOT is aggressively looking at packagings that indicate a potential for non-compliance.
Our customers have been telling us that the 2007 wine harvest looks like it will be bountiful. We‘re glad to be a part of this year’s success and know that the end of the season is in sight. Therefore, if you find yourself needing 55 gallon stainless steel wine drums you can call us to see if we are able to ship immediately from stock, or check our lead time. However, if you don‘t have the ability to wait for us to manufacture and ship the barrels, there’s another option to pursue. The Vintner Vault, located in Paso Robles, CA. and the Davison Winery Supply located in McMinnville, OR., both stock our standard 55 gallon drum with the 2″ tri-clover fitting in the body center of the drum. They keep an inventory readily available, and are capable of getting drums to customers quickly. Vintner‘s phone number is 805-226-8100 — ask for Ryan Horn. Davison’s phone number is 503-472-1711 — ask for Terry Sherwood.
When shipping non-bulk drums that contain hazardous materials, it is the shippers responsibility, and liability, to confirm that the packaging is compliant with 49CFR 178.500 and 178.600. With respect to the markings on the package, 178.503(a) states, “The markings must be durable, legible and placed in a location and of such a size as to be readily visible.” In addition, the CFR does not specify a required marking system and therefore, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to choose a compliant format. At Skolnik, we emboss our permanent marks and use a laser printed pressure sensitive label for the durable side mark. Recently, we have seen drums in which the bottom embossment is illegible and we have seen other marking systems, (that print directly onto the drum surface) which often result in unreadable letters. If a shipper accepts new packagings (drums) that have an embossment or a durable mark that is not legible, they should return it to the manufacturer. If the drum is shipped, it is likely that the DOT will consider the illegible marks to be in violation of the CFR and the shipper will be fined.
It‘s not news that, except at Skolnik, all forms of packaging have been on “diets” for the last 20 years. Less steel, less plastic, less paper — it’s all about reduction of material thickness to reduce cost and natural resource depletion. In the case of steel drums, we‘ve seen other manufacturers reduce the weight of their drums by as much as 25%, claiming that these lighter gauge drums perform as well as the heavier ancestor. Now comes recent news from the DOT (Department of Transportation), that for bulk packagings, 25% of hazardous material incidents occur during the process of loading or unloading for transportation. In addition, 33% of incidents that occur in transportation were the result of damage that occurred during the process of loading or unloading. Furthermore, most of the damage during the unloading/loading process is related to puncture by forklift, nails and other sharp objects used to secure the load. Though DOT did not summarize the loading and unloading statistics for non-bulk (steel drums) packagings, the DOT incident log (as summarized by CL Petit of RIPA), indicates that 61% of failures were due to drums being punctured or crushed with 63% of failures the result of a forklift accident; improper preparation; inadequate blocking and bracing; impact with a sharp object, and abrasion. With wall thickness diminishing, statistics now confirm that the increase in packaging incidents relates directly to these “slimmer” versions of the steel drum “work-horse.” The result is more clean-ups and more product loss — all for very little savings. In my opinion, a packaging option is not favorable if, by diminishing the cost, the risk to the contents is increased. In the case of steel drums, thickness does matter.
Originally conceived for winemaking, our complete line of stainless steel wine barrels is now being used for more than just wine. Recent customer applications include the making of tequila; rum; vodka; beer and Limon cello. Because our stainless barrels range in size from 5 to 55 gallons they are ideal for small artisan batches and experimentation. As an additional benefit, stainless steel acts as a superlative material for aging wine, beers and spirits, allowing the natural flavors to develop without added flavors imparting from the barrel. Makers of Sauvignon Blanc have known of this benefit for quite a long time and now, others are learning of this trade secret. Our standard version stainless steel wine barrels have a 2″ Tri-Clover fitting in the center of the body, and other plug options are available for special applications. With grape harvest in full swing be sure to leave us ample time to fabricate and ship your orders.