Join the Hazmat Special Permit Party

Posted on 4/28/2020 by Flip De Rea

Philip "Flip" De Rea is an instructor for the Recurrent Hazmat Ground ShipperHazmat Air Shipper, and Hazmat Vessel Shipper webinars, presented regularly at Browse all webinars.

hazmat shipping professionalJoe is a completely normal hazardous materials professional. He doesn’t think of himself as special. He’s just like everybody else.

One day, when preparing to ship a new product that meets one of US DOT’s definitions of a hazardous material, Joe discovers that the packaging that’s best suited to his and his customer’s needs is not on the list of Authorized Packagings for his material in the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

In order to use the type of packaging he wants to use, or to “perform [any] function that is not otherwise permitted”, Joe will need to apply to US DOT for a special permit (SP).

Maybe I am kind of special, Joe thinks. 

What is a Hazmat Special Permit?

Hazmat special permits typically allow a person to do one of three things:  
  • Use an alternative packaging or packaging orientation for hazardous materials;
  • Ship or transport hazardous materials in ways otherwise prohibited; and/or
  • Modify or expand the scope of an existing special permit;
PHMSA maintains a database of hazardous materials special permits. Joe searches the database and discovers that another “person” (i.e. a shipper or carrier) has already obtained a special permit to ship the material Joe wants to ship in the packaging Joe wants to use.

This means that, rather than filing for a new special permit, Joe will need to apply to become “a party to” the existing special permit. In other words, because someone is already doing what Joe wants to do, he needs to join the party.

49 CFR 107.107 provides specific guidance on how to successfully apply for “party status” to an existing hazmat Special Permit. 

Joining the Party: The Application

Applications to achieve party status to an existing hazmat special permit must be submitted in writing or by fax or e-mail to PHMSA’s Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety in Washington, DC. 

The application itself must indicate, by identification number, the special permit to which the applicant seeks to become a party.

Applications for party status to a hazmat Special Permit must:
  • Explain why party status is needed; and
  • Include complete contact information for the applicant, or an individual designated as the point of contact (including the name of the ranking executive officer and the company’s Dun and Bradstreet number).
Applications must demonstrate that the proposed alternative will achieve a level of safety that is at least equal to that required by the regulation from which the special permit is sought. The application must contain no false or misleading statements and must indicate whether the applicant will be acting as a shipper, carrier or both.

Approval of party status will depend on the applicant being “fit to conduct the activity authorized by the special permit” based on, among other things, the applicant’s prior compliance history.

To see the full requirements for hazmat special permit “party to” applications, see 49 CFR 107.107.

PHMSA also maintains a hazmat special permits FAQ page. 

Applicants must also submit signed certifications that the applicant has an “understanding of the provisions of the original special permit” and also that the applicant has not previously been granted party status to the specified special permit. (See renewal information below for handling lapsed SP status.)

Party Rules 

Like at any party, there are rules to follow and "party fouls" to avoid when you use a hazmat special permit. Special permits may provide some relief from certain 49 CFR requirements, but often impose specific restrictions, quantity limits, marking requirements, and other measures necessary to maintain transportation safety.

One unique requirement is that shipping papers offered for shipments made under a special permit must include the notation "DOT-SP" followed by the special permit number assigned (49 CFR 172.203).

Special permits also have expiration dates. When an SP expires, party status may be renewed (or reinstated) by following the renewal application procedures located at 49 CFR 107.109.

PHMSA's Associate Administrator may grant or deny an application for party status in whole or in part. PHMSA can also modify a special permit to impose extra provisions not specified in the application or remove conditions in the application that are deemed unnecessary. 49 CFR 107.121 lists four reasons that the PHMSA Associate Administrator may suspend or terminate a special permit. 

As you might imagine, special permits related to the transportation of Class 1 explosives come with additional rules, found at 49 CFR 107.107(b)(5).  

Hazmat Employee Training 

Lastly, it's important to remember that special permit party status allows you to ship or transport hazmat in some way that's different from what's in the 49 CFR regulations. Employees who perform hazmat job functions like packaging, marking, labeling, and handling packages under the terms of a special permit must be trained to properly apply the terms of the permit.

In addition to complying with hazmat training requirements at 49 CFR 172.704, employers must provide and document additional training specific to the conditions of the Special Permit, where applicable.

If you're interested in what kinds of hazmat Special Permits are out there, PHMSA posts its actions of special permits to the Federal Register regularly:

Latest PHMSA Hazmat Special Permit Actions (January 2020) 
Latest PHMSA Hazmat Special Permit Actions (November 2019)
Wal-mart, SpaceEX Request Hazmat Special Permit Mods (April 2019)   

Recurrent 49 CFR Hazmat Training Available Online 

online hazmat trainingJoin an expert Lion instructor for a live, one-day webinar to help satisfy DOT’s recurrent hazmat training mandate at 49 CFR 172.704. DOT requires hazmat training once every three years for all “hazmat employees.”

Live webinars blend the convenience of online learning with the reliable, up-to-date training you expect from Lion Technology. Join from anywhere, get answers to your questions, and download robust regulatory resources to support your decision making.
Upcoming Recurrent 49 CFR Webinars: May 7, June 2, July 21  
Register now

Or train at your own pace with these comprehensive online courses:

Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)
Recurrent Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat shipping, PHMSA, special permits

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