Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations


Hazardous materials are transported across the US every day. The responsibility for safety lies with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the Department of Transportation (DoT), and they have developed the FMCSA Hazardous Materials Program. The FMCSA has a range of rules and regulations regarding hazardous materials and they enforce these rules to ensure safety on US roads.

Hazardous Material Regulations

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was created in 2004 and is responsible for the safe and secure movement of shipments of hazardous materials by all modes of transportation. The FMCSA issues regulations for highway routing of hazardous materials, the hazardous materials endorsement for a commercial driver’s license, and safety permits. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates hazardous materials for items on an aircraft, while the United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulates the transportation of hazardous materials that are loaded or carried on board a vessel without benefit of containers or labels and received and handled by the vessel without mark or count.

Hazardous Material Registration

The shipping of hazardous materials can only be performed by carriers that are registered and only when the material is properly classed, described, packaged, marked, labeled, and in condition for shipment. The details for the regulation can be found in 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Parts 100-185. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires motor carriers to obtain a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP). This has been the requirement since January 1st 2005. A Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP) is required when a carrier transports any of the following material.

To register for a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP), the carrier must do so annually. However, there are some exceptions including

Enforcing the Regulations

The agencies that enforce the hazardous material transportation regulations investigate incidents that are reported, irregularities found during inspection audits, written complaints, and recommendations from other government agencies. When violations are found there can be civil or criminal proceedings. The minimum fine in a civil case is $275, with a maximum of $32,500. In criminal procedures, the fine against an individual can be $250,000 with a jail term of five years, while the fine for a corporation can be as much as $500,000.

Responsibilities of the Shipper

When dealing with Hazardous Materials the shipper has certain responsibilities that are required in safe transportation. These include –

Responsibilities of the Carrier

Although the responsibilities of the shipper and carrier are often the same, it is still important for the carrier to make sure that the shipping papers are correct, that the vehicle and material has the correct placards, and that their employees are properly trained. It is important for the carrier to have a security plan in place when dealing with hazardous materials and also that they provide accurate and timely incident reports to the correct agencies.

Reporting an Incident

A carrier is required to provide a report immediately an incident occurs during the course of transportation of hazardous material. The incident must initially be called in to the Department of Transport and in some cases to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). A written report must also be submitted to the Department of Transport.

An incident must be reported if any of the following occur –

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