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FAQs Regarding the Special Permits and Exemptions of the PHMSA for Hazardous Materials Transportation

FAQs Regarding the Special Permits and Exemptions of the PHMSA for Hazardous Materials Transportation

The use of Special Permits (formerly known as Exemptions) in the Hazardous Material Regulations of the PHMSA/USDOT presents opportunities and challenges for Shippers and Carriers of hazardous materials.  While they provide an opportunity to transport or offer for transportation a hazardous material in a manner not allowed for in the HMR, they will have requirements all of their own that are in addition to those of the HMR.  One example of this is that anyone who uses a Special Permit in the transportation of a hazardous material must provide additional Function Specific training to their HazMat Employees on the specific requirements of the Special Permit.

Below are some FAQs from the PHMSA website regarding the use of Special Permits for the transportation of hazardous materials.

When did the term “exemptions” change to “special permits”?

The Hazardous Materials Safety and Security Reauthorization Action of 2005, signed August 10, 2005, amended the Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.) by revising certain terminology, definitions, and requirements. PHMSA incorporated these changes into its regulations (49 CFR Parts 105-107 and Parts 171-180) under Docket HM-240 (70 FR 73156), which was published as a final rule on December 9, 2005.  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/pdf/05-23754.pdf

Will DOT immediately reissue all exemptions as special permits?

No. Current exemptions are valid until they expire, are terminated, or become due for renewal. As each exemption is revised either by renewal, adding a party, or modifying its terms, the exemption will be reissued as a special permit. We anticipate completion of this process in about 2 years.

May I start using the “SP” marking on packages or shipping papers even though my authorization is still an exemption?


Permanent DOT Exemption Marking on a HazMat Packaging


Yes. It is understood that the “E” and “SP” markings mean the same thing.

What documentation do I need to use my special permit?

A special permit authorization consists of the special permit authorization letter issued to the grantee together with the special permit document itself.

May I use a special permit indefinitely?

A new special permit may not exceed 2 years. Subsequent renewal applications may be granted for up to four years. A person requesting party status is authorized for no more than two years with a renewal cycle every four years thereafter. Existing exemptions that are converted to special permits with no change in the terms of the exemption will be granted for four years.

May I continue to offer packages that are marked “DOT-E***” rather than “DOT-SP***”?

The final rule published under Docket HM-240 49 CFR 173.23 to authorize an exemption packaging that is permanently marked “DOT-E” prior to October 1, 2007, to continue in use with the “DOT-E” marking for the life of that exemption packaging, so long as the terms of the exemption or special permit remain valid.

May I continue to use shipping papers with the notation “DOT-E***” rather than “DOT-SP***”?

DOT Special Permits require HazMat Employee Training

Train your HazMat Employees on the requirements of any Special Permits you use


Section 172.203 requires a shipping paper for a shipment made under a special permit to include the notation “DOT-SP” followed by the special permit number assigned. As an alternative, shipping papers for shipments made under an exemption or special permit issued prior to October 1, 2007, may include the notation “DOT-E” instead of “DOT-SP” followed by the number assigned. Thus, a shipper may use either notation for shipments made under an exemption or special permit issued prior to October 1, 2007.

Is it a violation to offer or transport packages where the package may be marked “DOT-E” and the shipping papers marked “DOT-SP” or visa versa?

No, there is no violation. The provisions in 49 CFR 172.203 and 173.23 allow for such transportation.

Last Updated: Jan 18, 2008

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The use of a Special Permit or Exemption for the transportation of a hazardous material will require you to provide additional Function Specific training for your HazMat Employees.  This training must be provided initially (within 90 days of new hire or new job assignment) and every three years thereafter (triennially).  If a Special Permit is new to your operations or changes during this three-year time cycle, it will be necessary for you to re-train HazMat Employees on the changes to their Function Specific responsibilities.

Please contact me for a free consultation on your HazMat Employee training responsibilities.