The DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published the long-awaited HM-215L Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) today. The NPRM proposes a number of amendments to align the Hazardous Materials Regulations; 49 CFR Parts 171-180 (HMR) with the latest editions of the United Nations Model Regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (17th revised edition), the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (Amendment 36) and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions on the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods (2013-2014 edition). Click here to review the NPRM. PHMSA publishes the HM-215 series harmonization rule every two years to ensure that the HMR requirements are consistent with international standards and regulations. PHMSA is committed to maintaining consistency with international regulations.
While international harmonization is a high priority for the agency, in past years the final rule has been published either in late December or early January cutting it very close to the timing when the international regulations come into force (January 1, 20xx). Immediate voluntary compliance from the first of January is always provided, and generally a one-year transition date is provided with a longer transition period for requirements that may require more time to implement (e.g., order of information in the basic description, limited quantity requirements). While many may want the HM-215 rules published several months prior to the international regulations coming into force, when compared to other North American competent authorities (e.g., Mexico’s Normas are several revisions behind), PHMSA is doing an admirable job.
When developing the proposed amendments, PHMSA considers the changes to the HMR from the perspective of how the amendments impact public safety, international trade, facilitation of commerce and those engaged in transporting hazardous materials both domestically and internationally. While the Hazmat Law requires PHMSA to harmonize, it provides the agency discretion to ensure that safety is not compromised. On this basis, PHMSA does not need to incorporate every amendment adopted in international regulations. Nevertheless, PHMSA staff recognize that safety is enhanced primarily because harmonized requirements simplify the complexity of the regulations, make training efforts less onerous and decrease the likelihood of non-compliance. The Model Regulations provide economic benefits by eliminating the costs of complying with a multitude of differing national, regional and modal regulations. The UN Model Regulations facilitate compatibility between modal requirements so that a consignment may be transported by more than one mode without intermediate reclassification, marking, labeling or repackaging. We will publish a more thorough analysis of the HM-215L NPRM in this blog after we have time to review it in its entirety.