Too many cooks

Hazmat
Too many cooks

Q: What do hazmat shippers need to know about the current federal security requirements?

A: A lot, and unfortunately there is far less coordination among the various government agencies than you would expect.

The most obvious requirements already in place were adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under their Docket No. HM-232 (69 Fed. Reg. 14509; Mar. 25, 2003). Most companies engaged to any significant degree in offering hazardous materials for transportation or in transporting them now have three new major obligations thanks to this rule.

The first is a requirement to conduct general awareness security training as part of recurrent hazmat employee training. For this general requirement, DOT offers a training module on the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) hazmat web site (http://hazmat.dot.gov).

The second key requirement under HM-232 is to prepare a written hazmat security plan for shippers and carriers who handle placarded loads. The plan must address these materials, assess the security vulnerabilities in transporting them, and put requirements in place to reduce those vulnerabilities. The written plan, unlike the familiarity training, necessarily must be more product-, site- and company-specific. This requirement entails a major effort, and the plan must be completed and put in place by September 25, 2003.

The third facet of HM-232 requires employees who handle placarded loads to be certified as trained and tested on the new written security plan by December 22, 2003.

A variety of other security measures are in the works. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the Department of Homeland Security has developed background check provisions being implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for drivers, and RSPA in other respects. The core of this will be new efforts by individual states as part of their commercial drivers license programs. This is a cumbersome effort that is not moving as swiftly as regulators intended and, at the state level, will most likely cause significant operational problems long after the November 2003 proposed start date.

Motor carrier permits for higher hazard materials are expected to be proposed shortly, and if adopted, shippers of these materials will have to verify that their carriers are properly permitted. Several government agencies — including TSA, Motor Carrier Safety and the Secret Service — are developing security modules, guidelines and other requirements to tighten access to hazmat. Several of these efforts appear to be overlapping and certainly involve duplicated efforts.

While historically DOT has held primary control over the regulation of hazmat transportation, other players such as TSA have entered the field and seem determined to stay. In addition, DOT appears to be moving forward in giving away much of its jurisdiction in Docket No. HM-223. In what industry people view as DOT’s misguided interpretation of its role, a step that takes that agency out of much of transportation will create a regulatory vacuum into which other federal agencies such as TSA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are likely to step, along with every local jurisdiction.

A variety of additional security controls for higher-consequence materials are being evaluated. Tracking and monitoring systems are likely, and many agencies are studying security needs as well as security programs already in place, in order to identify what they believe to be gaps. Who fills such gaps and how remains unclear.

DOT is involved in hazmat security, as its recently revised statute says it should be, but the substantive role of other agencies is increasing daily. As proposals are floated, be prepared to respond quickly. Not every idea in the name of security is a good one, and not all of these proposals are likely to enhance security or safety. LT

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September, 2003

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