U.S. to establish safety permit, reporting system for hazmat haulers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 21, 2003, via truckinginfo.com) — The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a safety permit program for motor carriers that transport certain hazardous materials in interstate or intrastate commerce.

The permit program, mandated by federal law, would apply to carriers hauling route-controlled quantities of Class 7 (radioactive) material, more than 25 Kg (55 lbs.) of explosives, more than one liter (1.08 quarts) per package of a “material poisonous by inhalation” or liquefied natural gas in a package with a capacity equal to or greater than 13,248 liters (3,500 gallons).

To obtain a permit, a carrier would have to be registered as a hazmat hauler and would need an U.S. DOT number and a “satisfactory” safety rating assigned by FMCSA or the carrier’s base state.

The new rules would add several hazmat items to the list of acute and critical violations used when determining a rating. Some of the additions include failure to provide security awareness training, offering or transporting hazmat without a security plan, and several regarding the acceptance or transportation of hazardous materials that don’t meet federal packaging and identification requirements.

The proposed rule also includes a temporary permit provision for carriers that don’t have a safety fitness rating.

Permit applicants would need a security plan, including employee training, which meets federal requirements. Each motor vehicle used to transport specified materials would have to be equipped with a communications system that enables the driver to immediately contact the carrier during the course of transportation.

A copy of the permit or other documents showing the permit number would be carried in each vehicle, along with written route plans as required for certain shipments, the telephone number of a carrier employee who has the route plan and is able to determine whether the truck is on the route specified.

Trucks carrying Class 7 explosives would have to undergo pre-trip inspections by federal, state or local employees or contractors trained to determine if the carrier, driver and vehicle are in compliance with federal safety and hazardous material regulations.

Drivers transporting loads requiring safety permits would have to follow the written route plan, unless an alternate route is required by emergency conditions or a law enforcement official, and would have to check in with the carrier at least once every two hours or whenever they deviated from the written route plan. Motor carriers would be required to contact law enforcement authorities if more than three hours elapsed since the last communication.

In order to obtain a safety permit, an intrastate carrier would have to apply for an U.S. DOT number and be subject to a compliance review. However FMCSA said the safety rating would not be posted on its web site and would not be used for any purpose other than determining the carrier’s fitness to hold a safety permit. It also emphasized that Canadian and Mexican carriers transporting hazardous materials in the U.S. would be subject to permit rules.

Safety permits would be good for two years and there would be a two-year phase-in period, starting January 2005, for carriers already transporting specified materials.

Comments are due Oct. 20, 2003, and can be submitted online at dmses.dot.gov. Reference docket number FMCSA-97-2180. The proposal and discussion can also be accessed at that site.

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