Rail hazmat shipments targeted by PHMSA reg proposal

Sept. 1, 2011
Rail operations, including tankcars and tank containers containing hazardous materials, would be impacted by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the

Rail operations, including tankcars and tank containers containing hazardous materials, would be impacted by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). HM-216B was published in the August 18 edition of the Federal Register.

The proposal would amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations to incorporate provisions contained in certain widely used or longstanding special permits that have general applicability and established safety records. The rulemaking also proposes to respond to two petitions for rulemaking concerning the use of electronic shipping papers, and eliminating the Association of American Railroad's (AAR's) AAR-600 portable tank program for previously adopted standards that meet or exceed the AAR-600 requirements. Comments should be submitted to PHMSA before October 17, 2011.

PHMSA is proposing to incorporate the following provisions into the Hazardous Materials Regulations: (a) Establish an alternative tank car qualification program; (b) permit the electronic transmission of shipping paper information; (c) permit straight threads in the clean out and/or inspection port openings of a DOT Specification 110A500W multi-unit tank car tank; (d) permit alternative start-to-discharge pressure requirements for certain DOT Specification 105J500W tank cars containing chlorine; (e) permit alternative pressure relief requirements for pressure relief devices for DOT Specification 105J300W tank cars containing certain flammable liquids; (f) permit certain DOT and AAR specification tank cars with stainless steel identification plates to have their specification and other required information stamped on the identification plate instead of the tank car head provided certain requirements are met; (g) permit liquefied anhydrous ammonia gas to be measured by a metering device when loaded into a tank car as an alternative to measuring the cars by weight; and (h) revise Section 179.13(b) to require that rail tank cars with a gross weight that exceeds 263,000 but not 286,000 pounds containing poisonous-by-inhalation (PIH) materials must be approved for use by the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA's) Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety;

Finally, the rule proposal would eliminate use of the AAR 600 program concerning the FRA's approval of bulk packagings in container-on-flatcar (COFC) and trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC) service that is incorporated into Section 174.63(c)(2). The AAR Tank Car Committee and the AAR Hazardous Materials Committee have recommended the discontinuance of the AAR 600 program as incorporated in Section 174.63(c)(2).

The current regulations require approval by FRA's associate administrator for Railroad Safety, unless, among other things, the tank conforms to requirements in AAR 600 of the AAR Specifications for Tank Cars, “Specifications for Acceptability of Tank Containers.” In accordance with AAR 600, approval and registration of compliant portable tanks is required based on a determination that the tank meets all applicable standards and payment of a registration fee.

Since incorporation of the AAR 600 standard into the HMR, PHMSA has adopted standards for portable tanks that meet or exceed the AAR 600 requirements. The AAR committees believe that the current HMR portable tank regulations now exceed the AAR 600 requirements and that all of the specifications for original construction listed in the AAR 600 Standard were not allowed to be built after January 1, 2003, except for the DOT Specification 60 and other United Nations (UN) portable tanks that are authorized in the Hazardous Materials Regulations.