PHMSA To Address Hazmat Industry Wish List

Posted on 10/11/2021 by Roseanne Bottone and Roger Marks

DOT PHMSA regularly amends the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to improve clarity and consistency, address emerging transportation challenges, and harmonize US rules with international standards.

PHMSA does not pull regulatory changes from thin air. Now and then, the HMR is revised in response to petitions from industry stakeholders like shippers, carriers, packaging manufacturers, industry associations, and others. By listening to those with practical experience using the HMR, PHMSA can develop regulations that ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials without overburdening the regulated community.  

As early as this month (October 2021), PHMSA will propose a rule to address petitions for rulemaking, reduce regulatory burdens, and clarify requirements, per the Spring 2021 Unified Agenda released earlier this year.   

Below we highlight five petitions under consideration that demonstrate the range of industries and products covered by US DOT’s hazmat regulations. See the full hazmat rulemaking "wish list" here. 

New Lithium Battery Shipping Names

A trade association representing rail carriers petitioned PHMSA to create new proper shipping names for Lithium Batteries Installed in Cargo Transport Unit (UN 3536) and Battery-powered equipment/vehicle (UN 3171).

In their petition (P-1754) the association points out that the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) addresses lithium-ion, lithium-metal, and wet batteries with separate entries. These entries “provide conflicting response information depending on the battery type.”

Adding new proper shipping names to the Hazardous Materials Table (HMT) will ensure that carriers and first responders can safely respond to emergencies involving lithium batteries, the petition states.

Food Grade Vinegar in Bulk

An industry group representing vinegar shippers has petitioned PHMSA to except from regulation as a hazardous material bulk shipments of food grade vinegar with 30 percent or less by weight acetic acid. Under an active hazmat Special Permit (SP 16198), these shipments are not considered hazardous materials when certain packaging, shipping paper, and hazmat training conditions are met.

In addition to addressing petitions for rulemaking, DOT also works to incorporate long-standing hazmat special permits with proven safety records into the text of the HMR.

(Petition number P-1759)

Steel Drum Reconditioning and Reuse

An association representing hazardous materials packaging reconditioners has requested that PHMSA allow for reconditioning and reuse of steel drums with a minimum steel thickness below what’s currently authorized in 49 CFR 173.28(b)(4).

Modify the Definition of "Liquid"

This petition for rulemaking asks PHMSA to modify the definition of liquids in 49 CFR 171.8. The requested definition would include a test for determining fluidity (penetrometer test) prescribed in European dangerous goods regulations (ADR 2.3.4).

Adding this test to the HMR definition would save shippers significant difficulty when re-shipping liquids classified using the ADR 2.3.4 procedure and then imported, the petition states. Under the current regulations, a liquid classified using the ADR 2.3.4 and imported into the US “may not be reshipped…without performing the ASTM D4359 test.”

The penetrometer test is already referred to in international regulations like the UN Modal Regulations and the ICAO Technical Instructions (TI).

Larger Lithium Batteries as Materials of Trade

Lithium batteries may be carried in a vehicle under the provisions for Materials of Trade (MOT). However, the MOT provisions only authorize up to 30 kg (66 lbs.) of hazardous materials per package.

Larger format lithium batteries—those that could power an outdoor concert or a nighttime construction site, for example—must be transported as fully-regulated Class 9 hazardous materials subject to strict packaging, handling, and employee training requirements.

A petition for rulemaking under consideration asks PHMSA to increase the weight of lithium batteries allowed as materials of trade and add corresponding packaging and hazard communication requirements to 49 CFR 173.6.

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Join a Lion instructor for live, expert-led training and build a step-by-step approach to keep hazardous materials shipments in full compliance with US DOT PHMSA's Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). 

The upcoming Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT) Webinar provides hazardous materials general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training to help satisfy hazmat employee training mandates in 49 CFR 172.704
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