It may be lengthy (filling nearly 40 pages in the Federal Register,) but it's not comprehensive, at least not comprehensive enough for the National Industrial Transportation League. A rule issued last fall by the Research and Special Programs Administration that attempts to define when hazardous materials transportation begins and ends has prompted the league and other groups to file an administrative appeal. The problem? The rule is unpredictable and sporadic, says the league, and it doesn't represent "the comprehensive regulation [that] Congress envisioned."
The rule, issued under a proceeding called HM 223 and scheduled to take effect in October, attempts to clarify when the hazmat regulations apply and when they do not. Basically, it stipulates that transportation begins when a carrier takes possession of a hazardous material and continues until the hazmat is delivered to the destination indicated on the shipping documentation. Among other matters, it adds the term "pre-transportation functions" to the regulations, bringing under the rules' purview a number of previously unregulated functions such as determining the hazard class of a material; selecting, filling and securing closures on packaging; marking and labeling packages and providing placards; preparing shipping documentation; and blocking, bracing and segregating hazardous materials in freight containers or transport vehicles.
In its weekly newsletter to members, the NITL said it told the RSPA that the rule "fails to achieve certainty, uniformity and predictability in application of hazardous materials regulations (HMR) because it creates unpredictable 'on-again, offagain' regulation of shipments of hazardous materials moving in commerce." It also argued that the agency ignores the precise meaning of "transportation" under hazardous materials transportation law, which keeps it from becoming the comprehensive rule Congress intended.
A copy of the league's formal letter to the RSPA can be read at www.nitl.org/rspaletter.pdf.