The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration surprised anhydrous ammonia tank maker American Welding & Tank LLC by imposing a $3.87 million fine on the company last week for allegedly manufacturing and selling unsafe nurse tanks, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting motorists from accidents involving the transport of hazardous materials,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are sending a strong message that companies will face serious consequences when they do not make safety a top priority.”   

FMCSA conducted a thorough safety investigation of AWT’s Fremont, Ohio, manufacturing plant following reports of safety defects with recently manufactured nurse tanks. After investigating the company’s welding practices and safety records, FMCSA claims to have discovered a clear pattern of AWT failing to manufacture, maintain, repair and sell nurse tanks that meet federal hazardous materials safety standards. 

“When cargo tank manufacturers are not living up to federal safety standards, we will take action,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Our agency is committed to using every resource available to keep our roads safe and save lives.”  

AWT disputes the allegations and is reportedly challenging the fine. In a response to FMCSA, the company said, it believes it has always followed and met all federal guidelines for the manufacture of anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks and has provided this information to the DOT.  “AWT is extremely disappointed at this arbitrary and unjustified action,” as it proclaimed in its response.

The company said it is not aware of even a single incidence of injury or property damage from a pinhole defect in any anhydrous ammonia tank manufactured by AWT.

Further, AWT claims it has successfully passed recent regulatory reviews. In March 2011, the DOT concluded a routine inspection that did not require the company to take a single corrective action. This inspection was followed by the company's annual successful ASME examination in May 2011.

AWT also explained it repairs welds at no cost to customers for AWT tanks manufactured within the last three years, in accordance with its warranty policy, which it claims is the longest in the industry. Customers with questions about their tanks can contact their normal AWT representative, the company suggests. But contacting the FMCSA is a wise option, too.

All ag retailers are being advised to identify any nurse tanks in their fleets manufactured by American Welding & Tank Company. The Agricultural Retailers Association has recommended contacting the FMCSA at (202) 366-9999 to determine whether those AWT nurse tanks in a fleet are ones to be concerned about and what actions should be taken.