USDOT/PHMSA Releases NPRM on Reverse Logistics

In the August 11th 2014 edition of the US Federal Register, the United States Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a proposed rule (NPRM) under Docket # PHMSA-2011-0143 (HM-253) RIN 2137-AE81 defining the term “reverse logistics,” as well as establishing the eligibility of the various hazard classes that are proposed to be allowed to be so defined; the training requirements under which persons shipping such items may do so; and the associated maximum quantities (by class) as well as the handling, packaging, marking, and loading and segregation requirements under which such shipments would fall.

The rule would add the following definition to section US 49 CFR 171.8:

Reverse Logistics is the process of moving goods from their final destination for the purpose of capturing value, recall, replacement, proper disposal, or similar reasons.”

The NPRM goes on to propose in an added section US 49 CFR 173.157 that Classes 1.4S, and 1.4G, 3, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2 (Infectious Substances), 8, and 9 be allowed as materials to be shipped under the provisions of this section. However, it is important to note that quantity and modal restrictions apply across this spectrum, so one should consult the NPRM to determine its applicability to each unique situation. The NPRM also sets forth proposed packaging and marking requirements, much of which bear broad similarities to those presently extant for Limited Quantities. This rule is intended to apply only to those items which are in a retail setting and that will be shipped via road carrier; it is not intended to apply to air or maritime shipments, nor to rail!

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Training requirements are also described; the familiar training required by US 49 CFR 172.700 is not required of employees under this new section, however other, somewhat less onerous and more broadly based training requirements are set forth.

There is also a new section US 49 173.159 which deals with the consolidation of loads of Class 8 lead acid (wet) batteries for recycling.   In essence, it would allow multiple sources in the same load with somewhat fewer restrictions and greater flexibility of handling than under those rules which presently exist.

This NPRM appears in response to a number of petitions from the hazardous materials shipping, transport, and retail industries and appears to be an effort to address the issue of the return shipping of a variety of what might best be characterized as “low grade” hazardous materials by retail businesses. It recognizes that many retail business employees are not trained in regulated hazardous materials shipping and as a result many such shipments occur outside the current regulatory framework. That situation has been the proximate cause of no small angst and trouble for large retailers—if one reads the ancillary language in the proposal discussing the “how and why” of the development process, one finds Walmart as only one example of those companies very much involved. This NPRM appears to be an attempt to recognize the reality of the retail sector’s involvement with shipping hazardous materials while at the same time providing at least a minimal framework for such shipments.

Here is a link to the new NPRM:

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