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PHMSA Seeks Volunteers for Paperless Haz Com Pilot Program

PHMSA Seeks Volunteers for Paperless Haz Com Pilot Program

In a notice published in the Federal Register on July 19, 2013, the PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) of the USDOT announced its intent to seek volunteers to participate in its pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of a paperless Haz Com system.  A paperless hazard communication system is defined as, “the use of advanced communication methods, such as wireless communications devices, to convey hazard information between all parties in the transportation chain”.  The volunteers who meet the criteria for acceptance (detailed in the notice) will be invited to participate in the pilot program.

This pilot project is being undertaken within the scope of HM-ACCESS (Hazardous Materials Automated Cargo Communication for Efficient and Safe Shipments).   HM-ACCESS was created with the passage of the Haz Mat Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2012 (aka:  MAP-21 or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century).

The purpose of HM-ACCESS is to determine if a paperless system of hazard communication can effectively replace the currently mandated use of a shipping paper (49 CFR 172, Subpart C) for the transportation in commerce of a hazardous material.  This pilot project – for which volunteers are required – is a means to accomplish that end.  The plan is to allow qualified volunteers to operate with a paperless system for shipping their HazMat in addition to the shipping paper required by regulation.  (Note that under this pilot project PHMSA/USDOT may not waive the current shipping paper requirements).  During the pilot project, volunteers will be required to participate in mock inspections and HazMat emergency response simulations to evaluate the effectiveness of a paperless system.  The result of this pilot project will be a report to Congress by the PHMSA/USDOT detailing its findings, an assessment of the pilot project, and its recommendations for the future.

In addition, if it proves to be effective, PHMSA will use the information it gathers in this pilot project to assess the benefits and costs of a paperless system and its impact on HazMat transportation safety and security.

Volunteer Criteria:

Any person involved in the transportation of HazMat (eg:  law enforcement and emergency responders, shippers and carriers of HazMat) may volunteer for the pilot project by responding to this notice in the prescribed manner.  Persons interested in participating in this pilot project must respond to this notice no later than September 17, 2013.  To be selected to participate, volunteers must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  • Possess e-system(s) capable of managing and communicating the hazardous materials shipping paper information at their own expense.
  • Possess their own equipment and personnel and/or contractor resources necessary to transport hazardous materials shipments.
  • Be willing to allow, and participate in, inspections and emergency response simulations during the pilot tests.
  • Be willing to provide feedback on experiences regarding e-HM communication during the pilot tests, including providing actual e-HM communications data from the pilot tests.
  • Be willing to provide information on the basic function and capabilities of their e-systems.
  • Be willing to provide information on administrative, business, training, equipment, and operational-related benefits and costs associated with implementing e-system(s).
  • Transport hazardous materials within the targeted test regions of the U.S. (with at least one pilot test conducted in a rural area within one of the below regions:
    • Northeast
    • Southeast
    • Northwest
    • Southwest
  • Be in good standing with all levels of government and demonstrate compliance with all applicable regulations governing the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials.

PHMSA/USDOT encourages the 64 respondents to its earlier HM-ACCESS notice to volunteer for this pilot project.  However, it makes clear that “the 64” won’t get preferential treatment in the volunteer selection process.

Important Dates:
  • Notice published in Federal Register:  July 19, 2013.
  • Due date for volunteers to express interest in participation:  September 17, 2013.
  • Due date for volunteers to submit response to questionnaire:  30-days from publication of a future notice in the Federal Register.  Future notice to be published soon after September 17, 2013.
  • Deadline for PHMSA to submit report to Congress on the HM-ACCESS pilot project:  October 14, 2014.
Contacts or for More Information:

Don’t be surprised if the PHMSA/USDOT recommends in its October 2014 report to Congress the implementation of a paperless hazard communication system since they have already made clear their position on the subject:

PHMSA strongly believes, through its prior efforts and activities, paperless hazard communication is possible and that this pilot program will demonstrate the capabilities of e-systems.

However, any such changes are years down the road and will likely be phased in over a long time period.  This notice demonstrates the importance of staying informed of the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR) and any potential changes being considered by the PHMSA/USDOT.  My training services and my monthly newsletter can help you maintain compliance with the changing regulations of the PHMSA/USDOT and those of the USEPA (and your state) for hazardous waste.  Contact me with any questions about the PHMSA, USDOT, HazMat Transportation, HazMat Employee Training, or RCRA/Hazardous Waste Training.