What Stakeholders Say About Hazmat e-Communications

Posted on 10/6/2022 by Roger Marks

US DOT is still accepting public comments on a Request for Information (RFI) about the use of electronic shipping documents and emergency response information for hazardous materials transportation.

The public comment period closes on October 24. Comments can be submitted through the portal.

Based on the public comments submitted so far, many stakeholders favor implementing some form of electronic communications for hazardous materials shipments. Some prefer that DOT continue to require paper copies of shipping papers. Among both groups, common concerns and challenges are evident from the comments.

Questions and concerns include: 

Internet access. There are areas in the US where internet access is unavailable or unreliable. If shipping papers are stored remotely for access via the web, how will emergency responders or law enforcement access the information in areas without internet access?

Hardware/Devices. Some commenters wonder what kind of hardware will be needed to access electronic shipping papers and emergency response information—mobile phones, tablets, laptops? Will the information be stored remotely, kept on a device on board the vehicle, or both?

A device kept in the vehicle could be damaged in an accident, stakeholders warn. Device battery life, screen size, and glare from the sun are also raised as potential concerns that could hinder emergency response efforts.

Training for emergency responders. Emergency responders are trained to obtain shipping papers from the operator or locate them on the vehicle. If only electronic hazard communication is used, emergency responders will need to know how to obtain and quickly navigate the electronic documents.

Commenters also stressed the importance of a standardized format for the information. At least one commenter mentioned that applications (apps) used to retrieve and view this information should be compatible with any device, regardless of the manufacturer.

If a variety of applications will be used, emergency responders and law enforcement will need knowledge of each one to obtain the information required to respond to an emergency or carry out a roadside inspection.

Security. Strict security planning standards apply to some hazardous materials shipments. Transportation of explosives, certain Class 7 (radioactive) materials, poison-by-inhalation materials, some oxidizers and organic peroxides, and bulk quantities of many other hazard classes require additional planning to ensure safety (49 CFR 172.800).

If an electronic hazard communication system will store information about those shipments, the security of data storage and access must be considered.

US DOT PHMSA will accept public comments on the potential for implementing electronic hazardous materials communications until October 24. 

For more details—including the list of questions PHMSA posed for shippers, carriers, emergency responders, and others in the RFI, read our original blog article about it here

What Stakeholders Say About Hazmat e-Communications

Final Hazmat Shipper Workshops of 2022 

Develop in-depth expertise needed to classify and name materials, package hazmat, mark and label packages, fill out shipping papers, and comply with DOT reporting and recordkeeping mandates. These upcoming workshops guide shippers through a step-by-step process to navigate and apply the US and international hazardous materials/dangerous goods regulations.

Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification Workshop (DOT)
Hazmat Air Shipper Certification Workshop (IATA)
St. Louis Oct. 19–21
Atlanta Oct. 26–28
Charlotte Nov. 9–10 (DOT only)
Philadelphia Dec. 7–9
Hartford Dec. 14–16

Browse more upcoming workshops, including training coming in 2023, at

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat shipping, shipping papers

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