Compliance with the regulations of the US EPA and the US DOT – not to mention the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) – requires knowledge of those regulations. Knowledge of the regulations can only come after you have familiarized yourself with their structure and content. And familiarity requires access. The objective of this article is to inform you of a free source of the regulations of the US DOT, US EPA, and other Federal agencies.
The general and permanent rules of all Federal Agencies are first printed in the Federal Register and then codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It is the responsibility of the Government Printing Office (GPO) – an agency of the legislative branch of the Federal Government that provides printing and binding services for congress – to make the CFR available to interested parties. In the old days (remember the 90’s?) this would have meant printing and distributing a hardcopy on the printed page. But in this modern age of the internet the CFR is available to you on-line: free, easily accessible, and with tools to help make sense of it.
The CFR is available from the GPO in two formats both of which are available through the GPO’s Federal Digit System (FDsys):
The annual edition of the CFR is available online for calendar years 1996 through 2012. It contains the 50 titles of the CFR which are updated once each calendar year on a staggered basis. The annual update cycle is as follows:
- Titles 1-16 are revised as of January 1
- Titles 17-27 are revised as of April 1
- Titles 28-41 are revised as of July 1
- Titles 42-50 are revised as of October 1
This version of the CFR can be downloaded in several formats: pdf, text, & XML. Of the three, only pdf and text have legal status as parts of the official online format of the Code of Federal Regulations (User Guide Document – CFR XML Rendition). In addition to its legal status, pay attention to the annual updates to the CFR based on the title:
- OSHA regulations are in Title 29 – Annual update on July 1.
- US EPA are in Title 40 – Annual update on July 1.
- US DOT are in Title 49 – Annual update on October 1.
Also available is an electronic version of the CFR known as the e-CFR. This version includes all 50 titles of the CFR but has the advantage of more frequent updates (daily) than the annual edition of the CFR. In addition to the daily updates its advantages include user-friendly tools for searching the regulations. You may also use standard web-browser tools such as search, print, bookmark, or hyperlinks to make the e-CFR more useful to you.
Unfortunately the e-CFR is an editorial compilation of the CFR and Federal Register amendments, “It is not an official legal edition of the CFR”. In other words its a great source of information but before you make any difficult regulatory decisions, be sure you have researched the official legal edition of the annual edition of the CFR.