Transport Canada recently announced a planned three-year “sandbox” program
to study replacing paper hazardous materials/dangerous goods shipping papers with electronic versions of the documentation. The Canadian transportation agency will partner with US DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to launch the program, which will authorize stakeholders to use digital shipping papers on a trial basis.
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The agencies’ goal is to evaluate the benefits, cost, and effectiveness of using electronic shipping papers for hazardous materials shipments. The program will be used for all modes of transportation and include shipments that cross the US-Canada border.
As a first step, Transport Canada set up a web page
to inform stakeholders and collect thoughts from first responders, businesses, law enforcement, and government agencies.
Pilot testing of electronic shipping documents is planned to begin in 2020.
Shortcomings of Physical Hazmat Shipping Papers
A move to electronic hazmat shipping papers is not simply about using technology for technology’s sake. While hazmat regulatory agencies do want shippers and carriers to have options that reflect the latest technological advances, there are concrete benefits to using electronic shipping documentation.
For example, in the event of an emergency release in transportation, an emergency responder may need access to shipping papers in order to know the exact type and quantity of hazardous materials on board. If the shipping papers are inside the truck
, this can mean putting him- or herself in tremendous danger to retrieve them in order to have the information needed to respond properly.
With an electronic system in place, responders could access information remotely, avoid the risk of entering the vehicle, and respond more promptly.
In addition to the safety benefits, using electronic hazmat documents in place of printed shipping papers can save shippers and carriers the cost of printing and maintaining this paperwork. Electronic shipping papers could also be incorporated into the wireless communication systems that many companies already have in place for added efficiency and improved sharing of hazard data.
Hazardous waste shippers would benefit as well. While US EPA already allows the use of the electronic Hazardous Waste Manifest or e-Manifest, US DOT still requires a paper copy to accompany a waste shipment
under its 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).
Have thoughts about electronic hazmat shipping papers? You can join the discussion here.
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