DG Digest: FMCSA pulls revised carrier safety fitness determination and EPA cuts could portend the end of the Chemical Safety Board

The Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee (RETAC) will meet on April 6th. This committee advises our nation’s rail regulators on issues surrounding the transport of both coal and bulk flammable energy products like petroleum, alcohols, and natural gas derivatives. A BNSF train hauls coal north through Tacoma, Washington on January 14th, 2017. Photo © 1/2017 by Nikki Burgess; all rights reserved.

As March Madness approaches its climax with the selection of the “Final Four,” Dangerous Goods’ own version of this Spring’s guessing game goes on as well.  The elusive USDOT/PHMSA HM-215N UN Harmonization remains unpublished as of this morning, and the rumors that had its release “imminent” seem to have ebbed as well.  For now, patience remains the watchword.  Up in Canada, rumor has Transport Canada’s UN Harmonization for the TDGR publishing this coming summer at some point—you may recall comments closed earlier this year.  However, despite all that, things are getting busy again on many other fronts!  Here’s a look at the last week’s very intensive and varied action:

DHS

By now everyone’s heard of the ban on carry-on of electronics larger than a cell phone from eight mainly Middle Eastern countries. Such items must now be in checked baggage. The ban applies to non-stop flights from certain airports in those eight countries. The US government has been reticent about its reasoning although it is logical to conclude that it fears some new type of weaponization of such devices based on new information it has received.  Equally closed-mouth British flight authorities have issued a similar although somewhat more targeted ban affecting six rather than eight nations. IATA has issued guidance for helping to cope, and here it is

FMCSA

  • The agency announced a further delay in effective date to its new rule in reference to minimum standards for training for new commercial drivers. In accordance with the Presidential “freeze” directive of January 20, this action now delays until May 22, 2017.  See the delay language here
  • The agency submitted an ICR in reference to accident reporting. 49 CFR 390.15(b), requires motor carriers to make certain specified records and information pertaining to CMV accidents available to the FMCSA upon request or as part of an inquiry. Motor carriers are required to maintain an accident register consisting of information concerning all accidents involving their CMVs.  The carrier must maintain accident reports required by insurers or governmental entities for three years after the date of the accident. See the ICR here
  • In a very significant action, the agency has withdrawn its January 21, 2016, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which proposed a revised methodology for issuance of a safety fitness determination (SFD) for motor carriers. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on road safety data and investigation information. FMCSA had recently announced that, rather than move to a final rule, a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) would be the next step in the rulemaking process. However, after reviewing the record in this matter, FMCSA withdraws the NPRM and cancels the plans to develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Agency must receive the Correlation Study from the National Academies of Science, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process. The NPRM is withdrawn as of March 23, 2017.  See the action here
  • The agency is also issuing an ICR related to recordkeeping requirements for the training of drivers of so-called LCV’s, or “Longer Combination Vehicles.”  These are the double or triple trailers one sees on our nation’s highways, and special training requirements apply to the drivers. See the new ICR here

OSHA

On January 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a rule entitled ‘‘Occupational Exposure to Beryllium’’ with an effective date of March 10, 2017. The agency subsequently delayed the effective date of the rule to March 21, 2017 and proposed to further delay the effective date to May 20, 2017 (March 2, 2017). This action finalizes that proposal. See the revision here

PHMSA

  • In a significant action for bulk transporters of Class 3 materials, PHMSA extended the comment period for its NPRM in reference to Hazardous Materials: Volatility of Unrefined Petroleum Products and Class 3 Materials. PHMSA is extending the comment period for the advance notice of proposed rulemaking that was published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2017. In response to stakeholder requests, the comment period will be extended for an additional 60 days, from March 20, 2017 to May 19, 2017. Comments must be received on or before May 19, 2017. Here’s the extension
  • In other PHMSA news the agency issued notice that they are aware of concerns in reference to new requirements in the HMR regarding a reduction in the requalification period for volumetric expansion testing from 12 to only 10 years.  PHMSA is now reviewing those concerns and states that it will not take enforcement action against a person who requalifies DOT cylinders using volumetric expansion testing pursuant to a 12-year requalification period.  They will allow the use of either a 12 or 10-year requalification period for volumetric expansion testing until the new notice is rescinded or modified. See this notice here

STB

The “Surf Board” has scheduled the next meeting of the Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee (RETAC). The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 6, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. The committee helps develop guidance on the transport of energy products, especially bulk flammable liquids and coal, by rail. Get your meeting access here

DOT Tank Car Action

USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is requesting establishment of a new ICR to gauge the effectiveness of pace of conversion or replacement of the nation’s tank car fleet from the older  DOT-111 standard cars to the newer (and more accident resistant) DOT-117 standard cars.  This as a result of several serious derailments and fires involving the DOT-111’s, most tragically the 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec accident, which killed forty seven. See the ICR here

EPA

The new proposed federal budget has little but bad news for the agency, imposing a 31% cut in its operating funds. Among other things, this would make a casualty of the US Chemical Safety Board, a little known but important federal entity that helps guide regulatory action contributing to the safety of both industry and the public from chemical accidents. See more news here

UNECE

The world’s joint body for modeling dangerous goods regulations announced its next meeting. The UN Committee of Experts on the Transport f Dangerous Goods will hold its fifty first session in Geneva, Switzerland July 3 – 7, with the week after that focusing on the GHS.  As usual, expect lots of work on lithium batteries. Get all the info here

Transport Canada

Our northern neighbor’s Dangerous Goods agency has invited comment on proposed revisions to the TDGR’s ERAP system—the emergency response action plan structure unique to Canada.  If you ship to, from, or through Canada, you may want to have a look. Here’s your portal

ICAO

In a long awaited action, the world aviation agency published its draft of a proposed new “competency based” set of training provisions for shippers of dangerous goods.  Depending on what finally comes out of the process, the result is intended to focus training on verifying core competencies rather than simply going through a rote “checklist” type training program. See the new draft here

 China (PRC) Regulations Update

The People’s Republic of China’s National Standards Agency has published a new database of complete standards which can help users understand and navigate the country’s regulatory system. A link is provided here, but it’s important to note that as of press time, only the Chinese version is available as a formal document.  Online translation engines may only give an approximation of the formal language, so use care when considering using such a system. Here’s the link


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