By Russ and Tiña De Maris
News floating around the Internet of late may have made it sound as if RVers have new rules about propane cylinder inspections. One source put it this way: “As a result, cylinders must be requalified by proof pressure or volumetric expansion testing every 10 years instead of every seven or 12 years.”
On the one hand, that could be considered good news – only having to have your “tanks” requalified every 10 years; on the other hand, read it again – “by proof pressure or volumetric expansion testing.” These types of testing are expensive, and time consuming. Before we get too much excitement, let’s look at the background and the facts.
First off, yes, there were some changes in federal regulations, put forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The regulations apply to portable LP cylinders – like ones found on trailers and truck campers. The regs have NO effect on motorhome tanks – these are ASME Certified containers, and don’t require recertification.
However, those “take ’em out and fill ’em up” cylinders are under the law, and for some, the new regulations do make for changes. Why? In the recent past, a lot of folks suddenly got into the “food truck” business – selling everything from tacos and tostadas to sushi on any street corner near you. With the big influx in food carts, sadly, came an influx of big LP explosions that even killed a few customers. Reflexively, Uncle Sam’s safety guys woke up and smelled the tacos, and decided a few rule changes were in order.
Do the changes affect RVers? Yes and no. First off, under the old rules, all cylinders had to be inspected and recertified within 12 years of their date of manufacture. Under the new regs, that date is down to 10 years. So, if your LP cylinder was made in 2007, this year you’ll need to have it recertified. But when it comes to requalification, the question is, how?
Under the regs, a cylinder may be requalified by one of three ways: Proof pressure testing, volumetric testing, or visual inspection. The first two, performed by an authorized firm, will then require a recertified tank to be rechecked in ten years. The latter, the one most of us RVers will get done, requires a recheck five years later. By the way, just what does a “visual inspection” look for?
• Excessive rust, corrosion, or pitting on the cylinder, particularly near the bottom.
• Dents, bulges, cuts or cracks in the surface.
• Missing or damaged cylinder footing, cylinder neckring (collar), or valve cover.
• A leaking or defective valve or pressure relief device.
It’s a good thing not to wait for an inspection – all of us can look over our own LP cylinders, because all of these items are safety issues. Got a problem? Get it fixed, or get a new cylinder.
Bottom line? In terms of requalification times, most of us will still have to have our older LP cylinders checked out every five years. All of us, when we buy a new cylinder, will need to look ahead to a decade, not 12 years, for our first requalification.