VIDEO: Reporting Hazmat Transportation Incidents

Posted on 4/11/2023 by Roseanne Bottone and Roger Marks

When a hazardous material is released during transportation, the incident must be reported to US DOT using Form F 5800.1. Depending on the severity of a release and the materials involved, an immediate phone report to the National Response Center (NRC) may be required. A hazmat release can trigger environmental reporting requirements, too.

The severity of the incident determines both who receives the initial report and how soon after the incident a report must be made.

Who Submits a Hazmat Incident Report?

The duty to report a hazmat transportation incident falls to the “person” in physical possession (PIP) of the hazmat at the time of the incident. That might be a driver, a package sorting facility, or the shipper/receiver.

Immediate Report to NRC

The PIP must notify the National Response Center (NRC) by phone* as soon as possible (but no later than 12 hours after the incident) if, as a direct result of hazardous materials, any of the following serious incidents occur as a direct result of hazardous materials:

  • A person is killed or must be admitted to a hospital;
  • The public must be evacuated, or a major transportation artery or facility must be shut down, for more than an hour;
  • The operational flight plan of an airplane must be changed;
  • Fires, breakage, or spillage of radioactive materials or an infectious substance other than a regulated medical waste;
  • A release of more than 119 gallons or 882 lbs. of marine pollutants;
  • Any battery or battery-powered device incident that involves a fire, violent rupture, explosion or dangerous evolution of heat aboard an aircraft; or
  • Any other life-threatening situation in the judgment of the PIP.

[49 CFR 171.15]

The phone number for the National Response Center (NRC)—800-424-8802 (toll free) or 202-267-2675— is part of the Hazardous Materials Regulations, located in 49 CFR 171.15(a). .

VIDEO: Reporting Hazmat Transportation Incidents 

Written Hazmat Incident Report to US DOT (Form F 5800.1)

Whenever an incident occurs that requires an immediate phone report to the NRC, the person in possession must also submit a written incident report to US DOT within 30 days (Form F 5800.1).

The following types of incidents do not require an immediate report, but do require the written incident report to DOT within 30 days:

  • Any unintentional release of hazmat or discharge of any quantity of hazardous waste;
  • Certain damage to cargo tank trucks;
  • The discovery of an undeclared shipment of hazmat; and
  • A fire, violent rupture, explosion, or dangerous evolution of heat derived from a battery or battery-powered device.

(49 CFR 171.16)

CERCLA Reporting for Hazardous Substance Releases

A hazardous materials release can also threaten the environment, and therefore may trigger reporting requirements under environmental law.

If the hazardous material is a listed “hazardous substance” under the CERCLA/Superfund regulations, the NRC must be notified if a reportable quantity or “RQ” or more has reached the environment (e.g., land, water, and ambient air).

The CERCLA hazardous substance release reporting requirement apply to “facilities,” which includes buildings, structures, and equipment, as well as motor vehicles, rolling stock (train cars), and aircraft [40 CFR 300.5].

How Long to Keep Hazmat Incident Reports

The person who reports a hazmat incident must keep a copy of the report for at least two years. A written or electronic copy may be kept.

A copy may be kept at the reporting person’s principal place of business, or elsewhere. However, if the report is not located at the principal place of business, it must be made available at the principal place of business within 24 hours if it is requested by a US DOT agent or authorized representative.

[49 CFR 171.16(b)(3)]

When to Update a Hazmat Incident Report 

If specific events take place in the months following a reported hazmat incident, the original report must be updated.

An update to the incident report is required within one year of the incident when:

  • A death occurs;
  • The original material or package info was misidentified;
  • The damage, loss, or related costs that were not known before become known; or
  • The amount of damage, loss, or related costs changes by $25,000 or more, or 10% of the total estimate (whichever is more).

[49 CFR 171.16(c)]

Importance of Hazmat Incident Reporting

A hazmat transportation incident does not have to be national news, or even make headlines, to be reportable. Hazmat incidents reported to US DOT often involve wet or leaking packages, boxes crushed from stacking, or small spills in a vehicle.

Yet, hazardous materials carry with them the risk of an emergency event during transportation. Hazmat can turn a normal transportation incident into something much more severe, even when shippers and carriers have done everything right.

When an emergency release does occur in transportation, a timely (within 12 hours) report to the NRC allows the agency to activate emergency response coordinators in the local area and devote resources assisting with response and mitigation efforts, air and water sampling, and other functions.

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