Rail HAZMAT Target of Homeland Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Docket No. TSA-2006-26514 Rail Transportation Security acknowledges that rail carriers and shippers “lack positive chain of custody and control procedures for rail cars as they move through the transportation system” and requires regulated parties to allow TSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “enter, inspect, and test property, facilities and records relevant to rail security.” The goal of the new rules is to enhance security of the nation’s rail system.

Initially, the rule targets specific commodities it identifies as posing the greatest risk. These include materials that are poisonous by inhalation, explosive and radioactive.

The current docket notes that a final rule published by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on March 25, 2003 (HM-232) requires covered persons to develop and implement security plans. “In effect, then, the HM-232 final rule applies the security plan requirement to a shipper or carrier of a hazardous material in an amount that requires placarding and to select agents.” This may imply a future direction that would broaden the scope of security compliance once the initial high-risk categories of HAZMAT have been dealt with.

In comparing the TSA proposed rule to existing Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) would “expand the scope of pre-shipment inspections of rail cars containing hazardous materials.” The TSA proposal would “require certain rail hazardous materials shippers to physically inspect a rail car from a security perspective before transferring custody of a rail car to a rail freight railroad carrier.” This includes closures and seals, and it would require shippers to inspect for signs of tampering and other signs that the security of the car may have been compromised. It also calls for shippers to inspect for suspicious items, including the presence of an improvised explosive device (IED).

Rail carriers will also be called upon to compile data on shipments, routes and alternate routing and to assess those risks and the potential for alternate routing. The rule also focuses particular attention on interchanges and transfer points and calls for plans to address en route storage, delays in transit and delivery notification.


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