Among fellow execs on the website of The Kenan Advantage Group, William Downey’s unassuming portrait hints at a demeanor one would not associate with a pistol-packing G-man. His smile is confident, but approachable, reflecting the trust he has borne for the safety of adults and children alike.
After about thirty years with the FBI, including as a supervisory senior resident agent, Downey retired in 1999 to become Executive Director of Safety and Security for the eighth largest school district in Ohio. Switching gears again in May of 2002, he joined The Kenan Advantage Group, North America’s largest tank truck transporter and logistics provider to the petroleum, specialty products and merchant gas industries. Downey describes TKAG as the only fuels delivery carrier with a national presence.
A lifetime devoted to the safety of others led Downey to Washington, DC this spring. As Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Chief Security Officer for TKAG, as well as representing American Trucking Associations, Downey spoke in Congress on behalf of carriers across the nation.
On April 2, Downey addressed the United States House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, to share concerns and suggestions about reauthorization of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
TKAG is among over 34,000 trucking companies represented by the ATA. Despite the size of his employer, Downey pointed out that the trucking industry consists mainly of small fleets, with an overwhelming majority consisting of twenty trucks or fewer.
Downey praised the committee and Congress for “the hard work and bipartisan leadership… in reauthorizing the HMTA two years ago as part of the Moving Forward for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 (MAP-21). By passing the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012’s (H.R. 7) hazardous materials title, this committee underscored the importance of the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials.”
He then proposed “four common sense solutions that will improve the safety, security, and efficient operations of transporting hazardous materials.”
Downey began with changes to the current fingerprint-based background screening process for a hazardous materials endorsement on a commercial driver’s license, which would save time and money for commercial drivers and the federal government without compromising security.
He recommended halting a proposed wetlines rule, clarifying the distinction of responsibility for safety functions between shippers and carriers, and revising the state hazardous materials permitting process “to maintain current safety practices and state funding streams while easing carriers’ application burden.”
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the subcommittee, focused on the issue of wetlines, the pipes that run beneath fuel tankers. In 2011 the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed limiting the flammable liquid that could be carried in unprotected wetlines, out of concern that an accident could cause the fuel contained in them to spill and ignite.
Tank carriers are reluctant to install pumps to empty the wetlines, due to high costs, and the risk of explosion from welding retrofit pumps onto tank trailers.
The Government Accountability Office analyzed the rule last year. When Denham raised questions about this analysis, GAO administrator Cynthia Quarterman noted that Downey’s alternative would be to use the money that would go to retrofitting wetline pumps, to train drivers and to install anti-rollover technology on the trucks. She expressed interest in learning more about this alternative.
Downey’s full testimony appears at http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/What%20We%20Do/Trucking%20Issues/Documents/hazmat/Downey%20Testimony%20HMTA%20Reauthorization%20040214.pdf