PHMSA Issues Final Rule to Clarify, Amend Provisions on Shipping, Batteries, Documents

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has published a final rule that will allow trucks to ship hazardous materials in unlabeled consolidation bins, require additional information on shipping papers, and clarify that lithium-battery charged wheelchairs and other mobility aids can be taken on aircraft as carry-on baggage without the removal of the batteries.

These provisions are among a dozen or so miscellaneous provisions that PHMSA has either clarified or updated in the final rule published July 20 in the Federal Register (76 Fed. Reg. 43,510).

The final rule, which will take effect Aug. 19, updates and clarifies regulatory requirements governing transport of hazardous materials under 49 C.F.R. parts 107, 171-175, 177, 178, and 180.

PHMSA said these amendments are intended to “promote safer transportation practices; eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements; finalize outstanding petitions for rulemaking; facilitate international commerce; and simply the regulations.”

The rule was proposed Sept. 29, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 60,017).

According to PHMSA, the rule will impose new paperwork requirements at an estimated annual cost of $312.50 per respondent.

In the final rule, PHMSA amended Part 17.404 (b) to allow trucks to transport hazardous materials in consolidation bins without having to affix labels for each class of hazardous materials contained in the bin. This amendment was made in response to a 2009 petition for rulemaking by the American Trucking Associations, which noted that motor carriers would have to be equipped with multiple sets of all labels, as all drivers would not know the hazard classes of freight they would be picking up.

In accepting ATA’s petition, PHMSA noted that it had issued a special permit in 2009 authorizing the use of consolidation bins without labels, and that permit has been used without any incidents.

Despite ATA’s petition, PHMSA declined to allow consolidation bins to be transferred between carriers as they crisscross the country.

Rich Moskowitz, ATA’s vice president and regulatory affairs counsel, told BNA, “We are thrilled that PHMSA has agreed to allow consolidation bins without labeling because their use reduces damage to small packages and improves efficiency of loading and unloading packages.” But Moskowitz said the benefits of safety and efficiency would be further enhanced if PHMSA allowed this exemption to expand to carriers that interchange cargo across regional or state lines.

“We hope PHMSA will consider this expansion after we have had more experience with consolidation bins and reported no incidents,” he said.

Lithium Batteries in Wheelchairs.

To harmonize U.S. rules with international regulations, PHMSA said it was clarifying that lithium batteries do not need to be removed from lithium-battery-powered wheelchairs and other mobile devices that are transported on aircraft as carry-on luggage. The clarification would harmonize domestic hazardous materials regulations with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for transporting lithium batteries. This change was requested by the Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles.

In addition, PHMSA is requiring that applicants for special permits identify whether they are shippers, or carriers. The Institute of Makers of Explosives supported this amendment because it goes to the heart of PHMSA’s fitness evaluation. As IME executive vice president Cynthia Hilton explained, “if you are applying as a shipper, the fitness tests need to relate to a shipper. You should not be denied an opportunity to ship a package ‘x’ that you manufacture because you can’t drive a truck.”

PHMSA is requiring that shipping papers indicate whether the product is non-odorized liquid petroleum gas so that emergency responders can react accordingly in case there is an accident.

Other amendments include:

  • altering the definition of “person” to include people who manufacture, repair, and test packing authorized for hazardous materials transport;
  • discontinuing the reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of incidents involving infectious substances; and
  • harmonizing regulations with ICAO’s Technical Instructions to allow the transport of permeation devices, which are used to calibrate air monitoring equipment and which contain trace amounts of hazardous material, provided they meet stringent safety requirements.

By Amena H. Saiyid