Polyurethane Foam Not a Hazardous Material

July 1, 2007
The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA, Alexandria, Va.) told an agency of the Department of Transportation it should not classify as a hazardous

The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA, Alexandria, Va.) told an agency of the Department of Transportation it should not classify as a hazardous material a material that is commonly found in upholstered furniture and even in all truck equipment.

AMSA told the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration it should deny a request to have polyurethane foam (PUF) classified as a hazardous material when being transported.

The National Association of State Fire Marshals asked PMHSA to classify PUF as a hazmat so that appropriate information can be conveyed to emergency responders for their protection in the event of a truck fire.

NASFM seeks to have PUF classified as a miscellaneous hazardous material, so drivers would not be required to have a hazmat endorsement on their commercial drivers license before hauling PUF.

The proposal also would exempt carriers and shippers from hazmat requirements regarding employee training, specific packaging, shipping papers and placarding.

However, the proposal would include a requirement to mark vehicles that carry PUF with an orange panel. AMSA President and Chief Executive Officer Linda Bauer Darr said the proposed rule is unduly burdensome and unnecessary to protect the public. “The National Association of State Fire Marshals failed to show that transporting PUF currently poses a danger to emergency responders, and hasn’t proven that the dangers of transporting PUF are greater than the dangers of transporting non-hazardous materials.”

While the fire marshals group offered specific examples of truck fires, it failed to show a direct causal link between those fires and any PUF they may have been carrying, AMSA said in comments filed June 28.

Moreover, AMSA noted, PUF is a ubiquitous material that shows up not only in furniture but in truck and trailer insulation, truck cabs and other truck equipment. AMSA also said movers would find it difficult to determine whether PUF is involved in a move because most homeowners don’t know whether upholstered furniture contains PUF.

By contrast, freight carriers can normally obtain reliable information from manufacturers on the composition of products they carry, AMSA pointed out. Absent specific knowledge of the composition of goods it is carrying, a HHG carrier would be placed in an impossible position, AMSA argued. It could violate the proposed rule for failing to properly mark a vehicle carrying PUF because it cannot obtain reliable information from the shipper. Or it could violate other existing regulations by marking a truck for hazmats “just to be on the safe side” because if it doesn’t contain them, doing so is a violation.

The petition seems to be written from the perspective of a truckload carrier transporting a full trailerload of products from a manufacturer where such information is readily available, AMSA observed.

But when it comes to household movers, AMSA argued that the costs and administrative burdens associated with the proposed rule are unnecessary.