RSPA Looks Anew at Issues Relating To HazMat Loading, Unloading, Storage

Aug. 1, 1999
Officials from the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) continue to explore the need for new regulations

Officials from the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) continue to explore the need for new regulations relating to the loading, unloading, and storage of hazardous materials.

The latest government initiative was published in the Federal Register in July as a supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking. An advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) was published in July 1996.

RSPA's objective is to develop a clear statement of applicability of the hazardous materials regulations that will cover all of the activities performed by hazmat shippers, carriers, and consignees that directly affect transportation safety. Both bulk and nonbulk shipments will be covered.

During discussions of the ANPRM, commenters generally agreed that the following activities should be subject to the hazardous materials regulations: classification of a hazardous material; preparation of a shipping paper, including emergency response information; selection of an appropriate packaging; and placarding of the transport vehicle.

However, RSPA is still looking for answers on at least two key questions: When does transportation begin? When does transportation end?

An alliance of 16 associations was formed to help RSPA find the answers. Representing some of the largest hazmat manufacturers, shippers, and transporters, the alliance suggests that the offeror's intent should determine whether the hazardous materials regulations apply.

Basically, transportation should begin with the shipper's decision to ship a hazardous material. Transportation should end at the completion of unloading of the bulk package or transportation vehicle, vessel, or airplane at the destination facility.

At the shipper level, the following aspects should be covered: loading of nonbulk packages by the offeror or carrier onto a transport vehicle, vessel, or aircraft; loading of bulk packagings by the offeror or carrier, including monitoring or attendance of the loading function; in-plant movements of bulk packages or transport vehicles loaded and qualified for off-site transportation; and unlimited storage of packages awaiting pick-up at the offeror's facility, including loaded railcars at plant sites.

The hazardous materials regulations should apply to the following in-transit activities: parking or staging of transport vehicles, including railcars, incidental to movement; loading, unloading, and handling, such as transferring a package from a vessel, aircraft, or transport vehicle to a staging area or another transport vehicle, vessel, or aircraft; and storage of packages awaiting shipment to their ultimate destination.

The regulations should cover functions performed at the destination facility, including: long-term storage of packages at destination facilities; unlimited storage awaiting unloading at the destination facility, including loaded railcars at plant sites; in-plant movements of bulk packages or transport vehicles loaded with nonbulk packages; and unloading of a bulk package or a transport vehicle, vessel, or aircraft loaded with nonbulk packages.

The association alliance said it is opposed to setting time limits for completing unloading of bulk packages, after which the hazardous materials regulations would no longer apply. The alliance also rejected the idea of determining the applicability of the rules based on a shipment being under "active shipping papers." RSPA should regulate the unlimited storage of hazardous materials, including on leased track, if the products are intended to be or had previously been offered for transportation under the hazardous materials regulations.

The association alliance went on to state that RSPA should broadly exercise its exclusive authority to establish rules governing storage, movement, and handling of hazardous materials in transportation as the alliance would define it.

Questions regarding shared or overlapping jurisdiction among RSPA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be resolved by examining each agency's "preeminent authority." In the alliance's view, RSPA's preeminent authority is to establish uniform fed-eral transportation safety standards, OSHA's is for worker safety and health, and EPA's is for environmental protection.

Additional Questions In light of the alliance comments and recommendations, RSPA has developed additional questions. They include the following: *When specifically does transportation of a hazardous material begin? Is it upon selection of a packaging for the material; upon preparation of a package, including marking and labeling, for shipment; or upon preparation of shipping papers for the package? *If a hazardous material has been placed in a DOT-specification packaging, does this constitute an intent to offer the package for transportation? *At what specific point or points could a shipper be in violation of the hazardous materials regulations? *Should loading and unloading of tank containers be subject to the same regulations as cargo tanks and rail tankcars? *Should cargo tanks that are detached from their motive power be subject to the same unloading regulations as cargo tanks that remain attached? *Should the hazardous materials regulations cover unloading of cargo tanks and rail tank cars into manufacturing processes? *Should there be a time limit on storage after which the product is no longer subject to the hazardous materials regulations? *What objective criteria could RSPA use to determine when a hazmat shipment is in storage incidental to transportation? *How is storage incidental to transportation different from storage generally? *Should different standards apply to hazardous materials stored in bulk packages, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and nonbulk packages?