Q. We ship a mineral spirits product that has a flashpoint of 120ºF in 55-gallon drums. The product has no other DOT hazards and is only shipped by highway. We have been using the opportunity that the DOT provided at 49 CFR 173.150(f) to reclassify our product as a combustible liquid so that we can take advantage of the exception at 49 CFR 173.120(b)(2). We heard that the DOT is eliminating the combustible liquid designation. What will this mean for our shipments?
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) did publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on April 5, 2010 [75 FR 17111
]. The purpose of the ANPRM was to gather input from the public on effect of elimination of the combustible liquid category within the hazardous materials regulations (49 CFR 171-180). Currently, the international hazardous materials regulations do not have a designation for combustible liquids. If the DOT pursues this rulemaking, it would be to harmonize their rules with the international standards, provided it does not diminish the safety of transporting hazardous materials within the United States. If the DOT eventually finalizes a regulation eliminating the combustible liquid category, this would mean two things:
- Liquids with flashpoints above 140ºF, possessing no other DOT hazards, would no longer be subject to the hazardous materials regulations (unless they are hazardous wastes, hazardous substances, or marine pollutants), and
- Liquids, such as your mineral spirits, with flashpoints between 100ºF and 140ºF would have to be shipped as Class 3 flammable liquids.
It is important to remember that currently, the DOT has only published an ANPRM. They have yet to even publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Based on the fall 2010 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda, the DOT planned on publishing the proposed rule in March 2011; however, this action has yet to be completed. Once a proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be an open public comment period followed by Department deliberation, and then a final rule.
Unless and until a final rule is published, you may continue to take advantage of the relief provided at 49 CFR 173.150(f) for reclassed, non-bulk shipments of combustible liquids shipped domestically, by ground.