WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently published in the Federal Register a rule finalizing the new federal safety permit for transporting certain highly hazardous materials.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently published in the Federal Register a rule finalizing the new federal safety permit for transporting certain highly hazardous materials.
Motor carriers, including Canadians, transporting specified radioactive materials, explosives, toxic-by-inhalation substances and liquefied natural gas above the listed threshold quantities must comply with the new permit requirements by Jan. 1, 2005.
Trucking companies transporting these hazardous materials must have a “satisfactory” safety rating, acceptable crash and out-of- service rates, trucks with communication equipment, a compliant security plan, and a driver security training program as well as meet other particular operational conditions.
Motor carriers hauling the listed substances must apply for their new permits on Form MCS-150B (their U.S. DOT number will be renewed simultaneously). There is no fee.
The new forms should be available in lieu of the MCS-150 forms already filled out every two years by hazmat carriers, according to Michael Johnson, with U.S. DOT.
“Everybody’s on a different schedule for filling out their MCS-150 forms, so that’s why we’re phasing it in for 2005,” explained Johnson, adding no fingerprinting of drivers is involved.
“This is just for carriers of certain substances. The whole fingerprinting and security check program is with another department.”
The department in charge of the much-debated upcoming security checks on hazmat drivers, including fingerprinting, is the Transportation Security Administration, he said. John Barry, at the TSA, says the U.S. Congress has yet to pass a law requiring Canadian hazmat drivers to undergo security checks including fingerprinting, even though U.S. drivers are required to do so as of Jan. 31, 2005.
“As of Jan. 31, states will have to submit fingerprints and other data on any driver applying for a hazmat endorsement, including those who wish to renew their endorsements. The endorsement will appear on their driver’s licenses,” said Barry.
And therein lies the difficulty of enforcing similar security checks for foreign drivers – unlike U.S. drivers, Canadian truckers do not receive their hazmat endorsements on their drivers’ licences. (Their companies are responsible for training and certifying them.)
That’s why Canadian trucking industry insiders have suggested hazmat security approvals should be included on the FAST card for drivers hauling to the states. (FAST cardholders have already undergone security checks and fingerprinting.)
“We’re aware of the situation with Canada and Mexico, but our primary concern is to get the program up and running in the U.S. first,” he said.
But how will U.S. drivers feel about having to do something that foreign truckers don’t have to do?
“Realistically we know we can’t apply security standards to U.S. drivers alone,” said Barry.
“That’s why we’re working with the appropriate Mexican and Canadian authorities to find ways to conduct similar security checks on their hazmat drivers.
“Obviously our domestic drivers won’t like the fact that Canadians aren’t yet required to undergo the same checks they are, but we don’t want security issues to have a hugely negative impact on commerce either. We want security to enhance and improve commerce.”
Barry said inclusion of hazmat security checks on the FAST driver card is still under consideration by U.S. authorities.
“It’s something we’re examining, but we don’t have an established timeline for coming to a decision. That said, we don’t have all the time in the world either. I’m fairly confident the U.S. government and Congress won’t allow this issue to sit on the wall for very long after the hazmat checks kick in Jan. 31.”
For the FMCSA’s new permit rule visit www.trucknews.com and click on the Border Legislation icon.