By Richard Pummell, Foley Carrier Services
With so much focus on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) regarding issues such as Hours-of-Service and Drug & Alcohol Testing, it’s easy to forget that hazmat carriers have their very own set of regulations to comply with.
Although an imperative component to the safe transportation of hazardous materials, the regulations can be about as simple to translate as Mayan hieroglyphics. For example, the Hazardous Materials Table (see Code of Federal Regulations [49 CFR] Part 172.101) contains over 3,000 shipping substances considered hazardous. With that in mind, this article will focus solely on motor carriers whose vehicles are required to be placarded, and what regulations pertain to them.
Not only must hazmat carriers register with the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) each year, but they must retain each certificate for a minimum of three years. In addition, a copy of the carrier’s current registration certificate must be kept in each vehicle.
Hazmat carriers are required to implement a detailed plan that addresses company-specific information, including risks associated with your operations, procedures taken in the event of an accident, and the following information:
• Procedures regarding background checks on applicants;
• Assessment of the likelihood of unauthorized individuals gaining access to hazardous materials and/or vehicles and prevention measures;
• Specific routes and storage facilities primarily used;
• Identification of individual who is responsible to manage, distribute and update the plan.
Security plans must be distributed to all personnel involved in the operation and/or transportation of hazardous material. If updates are made, addendums must be distributed as well.
Communication and Route Plans
The regulations state that hazmat carriers must try, to the best of their ability, to avoid heavily populated, crowded areas as well as tunnels, alleys and narrow passageways. Prior to a trip, the carrier and/or driver must develop a written route plan detailing the routes that will be used and a copy must be retained in the vehicle.
A communication plan that enables the driver and carrier to have regular contact must also be in place. At a minimum, drivers must make contact at the beginning and end of each trip. Records of contact made during each trip must be maintained for a period of six months.
There are various training requirements that pertain to all hazmat employees, which include:
• General awareness training to ensure employees obtain basic knowledge and know where to find specific regulations;
• Security awareness training to be completed within 90 days of beginning employment;
• Job function training regarding specific positions, roles and responsibilities;
• Safety training, which includes emergency response information and procedures specific to each job function;
In-depth security training centered on the carrier’s security plan and safety procedures must be completed within 90 days of beginning employment and repeated every three years. Furthermore, if the security plan is updated at any time, training must be completed within 90 days of the update.
Shipping Papers and Placarding
One of the most common violations hazmat carriers receive is the incorrect preparation of shipping papers. It makes sense, considering that the daunting Hazardous Materials Table mentioned at the beginning of this article plays a significant role in applicable information. Fortunately, the PHMSA provides a Guide for Preparing Shipping Papers, which can be found at hazmatonline.phmsa.dot.gov. Likewise, they provide a Hazardous Materials Markings, Labeling and Placarding Guide located on the PHMSA website (phmsa.dot.gov).
We all know accidents happen. And regardless of the type of business you operate, an accident can have a devastating effect. Now, put hazardous materials into the mix and the effect could be catastrophic. Therefore, no matter how tedious it may seem, it is crucial for all hazmat carriers to understand the regulations and to be vigilant about compliance.