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Proposed HazMat Package Opening Rules


On May 22, 2013, the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a proposed rule that would govern the stopping, search, possible opening, and resumption in transportation of hazardous materials.  Although PHMSA issued a final rule addressing this topic in March 2011, the 2012 MAP-21 highway bill mandated changes and additional requirements.  PHMSA believes that its current policy allowing enforcement officials to open outer packagings and to direct transport to a safe place for further inspection is sufficient despite the new legislation.  PHMSA similarly contends that its current regulations for closing packages and returning them to transportation also meet the new congressional requirements.  PHMSA does propose adding a new standard for a “perishable hazardous material,” which includes highly perishable products such as radio nuclear medicines.  The new standard would require the agent to take “appropriate alternatives” before opening these packages.  PHMSA also proposes to require enforcement to “take reasonable measures to notify” offerors and transporters that a package will be opened or seized and examined.  ATA plans to file comments on the proposed rule that would require PHMSA to better define “appropriate alternatives” to be used before opening perishable hazardous materials.  ATA will also suggest that PHMSA clarify that notification, not the attempt at notification, is a requirement under MAP-21 to protect everyone’s safety—including the enforcement official’s.  Finally, ATA will suggest that PHMSA better clarify its March 2011 standards for stopping and opening packages so that they comport with the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety Act.  For more information, contact Boyd Stephenson at bstephenson@trucking.org