Strengthening Hazardous Materials Safety and Enforcement
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Supports:
Restoring funding to the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program.
Requiring access (including electronic access) for enforcement and government purposes, at no charge, to materials, such as technical standards developed by non-governmental organizations, incorporated by reference into regulation.
Language prohibiting or limiting a state’s authority to conduct en route inspections of Level VI shipments.
Language eliminating 49 USC § 5125(h), the ban on preempting non-federal enforcement standards.
Nowhere is the safe, secure, uniform transport of goods more important than when that cargo qualifies as hazardous materials. Priority should be placed on ensuring that the agencies responsible for overseeing the transport of hazardous materials are adequately funded and trained. It is critical that research continues into methods to improve transport and enhance safety and that those enforcing the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) have access to the latest information. Furthermore, the State agencies tasked with enforcing the HMRs must be empowered to enforce federal regulations, while complying with additional State-level regulations.
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) authorized a pilot cooperative research program focused on hazardous materials transportation, the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP). In 2012, the program was reauthorized as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21); however, the bill did not include funding authorizations for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. As such, once projects begun under SAFETEA-LU have been completed, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), contracted to conduct research under the program, will discontinue the HMCRP. Allowing this program to sunset would be a mistake. The HMCRP is a successful program, providing much needed research and guidance on the safe transportation of hazardous materials. For example, as part of the HMCRP, research was done on the use of electronic shipping papers for hazardous materials transportation. There are a number of hazardous materials research needs that have not yet been met. For example, the relationship between tank volume and gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, and how those two variable affect vehicle stability and dynamics needs to be studied, to inform the definition of a ‘tank vehicle’. A strong research program ensures that industry and the agencies responsible for overseeing hazardous materials safety have the tools and information they need to develop and implement strategies and programs that work. Funding the HMCRP at the SAFETEA-LU level of $1.25 million per fiscal year will help ensure that vital this research continues. CVSA supports restoring funding to the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program.
CVSA supports the incorporation by reference of technical standards developed by non-government organizations. When those in industry develop standards that can be used by government it is appropriate to do so, eliminating costly, duplicative efforts and the possibility of competing standards that are similar by not identical. However, if care is not taken in how that incorporation by reference is designed, it could result in materials not being accessible by government and enforcement. Entities may develop the standards and then charge prohibitive fees in order to access them, making them, in effect, inaccessible for state and federal government officials. If government and enforcement personnel are expected to enforce and understand the regulations and the terms and standards used within them, they have to have access to those materials. This is critical for any standards, but even more so for those in the hazardous materials arena, for obvious reasons. If there is regulation that references a privately developed standard, that standard should be made available to those tasked with enforcing the regulation at no charge. To address this, CVSA recommends that the U.S. Department of Transportation require access (including electronic access) for enforcement and government purposes, at no charge, to materials, such as technical standards developed by non-governmental organizations, incorporated by reference into regulation.
When dealing with dangerous materials traveling through their jurisdiction, States should not be limited in their authority to ensure that shipments moving through are 100 percent safe. Transportation of the more dangerous shipments, such as Highway Route Controlled Quantities (HRCQ) quantities of Class 7 material, is more heavily regulated, in part due to the hazard and security risks they pose. Motor carriers who transport HRCQ shipments of Radioactive Class 7 materials must apply for a FMCSA Safety Permit as specified in 49 CFR 385.403. In order to maintain that permit, all HRCQ shipments are subject to the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria and Level VI Inspection Procedures and Out-of-Service Criteria for Commercial Highway Vehicles Transporting Transuranics and Highway Route Controlled Quantities of Radioactive Materials. In addition to this point of origin inspection, many states require that these shipments be inspected en route, as the shipment passes into their State. This is often required as part of a State law or requirement from the Governor. While it is not common, the status of a shipment could change during transport and many States prefer to confirm that a shipment is safe before permitting it to pass through. States downstream of the original point of origin inspection should not be prohibited from conducting this verification, through a North American Standard Level VI Inspection. CVSA opposes any language prohibiting or limiting a State’s authority to conduct en route inspections of Level VI shipments.
Finally, 49 USC § 5125 includes language providing for a Federal preemption over State laws and standards. However, the chapter also includes a ban on preempting non-federal enforcement standards, subsection (h). CVSA is supportive of this language and would oppose any efforts to have the language removed from Title 49. Contrary to what many assume, the States do not enforce Federal regulations. Instead, the States adopt Federal regulations into their own state codes, by reference or through legislative action. If the ban on preempting non-federal standards in subsection (h) were removed, the impact to the states would be an enormous burden. Each of the States has its own laws, regulatory process and requirements and the administrative burden of making the language, fine schedules and processes identical would be enormous. In order to operate efficiently, States need the flexibility to incorporate Federal standards through their individual processes. Preemption of State agencies to apply enforcement of the motor carrier and hazardous materials regulations would severely impact safety on the public roadways. CVSA opposes language eliminating 49 USC § 5125(h), the ban on preempting non-federal enforcement standards.