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Hazardous Materials Safety FAQs

  1. What is PHMSA's purview/regulatory authority on transport of hazardous materials?
  2. What is the DOT hazmat registration program and who is required to register?
  3. How many hazmat enforcement investigators does PHMSA have, and what is their function?
  4. Is there a cap on fines? How are fines determined and enforced?
  5. Where do I find statistics on accidents/incidents fatalities, fines and corrective actions for hazmat infractions?
  6. Where can I find a listing of current hazmat proposed rulemakings and their status?
  7. To determine the corrosivity of certain materials, is there an alternative form of testing other than the one specified in § 173.137 of the HMR? Further, is this alternative form of testing no longer based on live animal test results?
     
  1. What is PHMSA's purview/regulatory authority on transport of hazardous materials?

    PHMSA's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety performs a range of functions to support the safe transport of hazardous material. These are outlined here.

  2. What is the DOT hazmat registration program and who is required to register?

    Under law, certain offerers and transporters of hazardous materials are required to register with the Department of Transportation and pay a registration fee. Hazmat registration fees are redistributed as Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grants (HMEP) to approved emergency responders for hazmat training and to States, Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and Indian Tribes for hazmat planning. Learn more here.

  3. How many hazmat enforcement investigators does PHMSA have, and what is their function?

    PHMSA has 48 hazardous materials investigators who conduct risk based compliance inspections and complaint investigations of companies subject to the hazmat regulations. PHMSA investigators foster partnership roles with other Federal agencies and state and local governments to conduct investigations of packaging manufacturers, requalifiers, reconditioners, and certifiers, shippers, freight consolidators, and freight forwarders. The investigators review company procedures, practices, and operations for compliance with the regulations and recommend enforcement action for violation of the regulations. Outreach and education is always an integral part of every operation.

  4. Is there a cap on fines? How are fines determined and enforced?

    The correct term is "civil penalties," not "fines." Federal hazardous materials law has set $50,000 as the maximum civil penalty that may be assessed for a violation with $250 as the minimum civil penalty, except for training violations which are set at a minimum of $450. If an inspection has revealed violations warranting the initiation of a civil penalty enforcement case, the matter is referred to PHMSA's Office of Chief Counsel.

    An Office of Chief Counsel attorney then prepares a Notice of Probable Violation, proposing a civil penalty. The company may respond to this Notice by paying the penalty or providing information in its defense.

    If the company does not pay the penalty, then its information is evaluated. If the Chief Counsel determines the penalty should be assessed, an Order is issued which makes a formal finding of violation and assesses a civil penalty.

    If a company still does not pay the penalty, debt collection procedures are initiated.

    Current Penalty Guidelines can be found at here
     

  5. Where do I find statistics on accidents/incidents fatalities, fines and corrective actions for hazmat infractions?

    The Office of Hazardous Materials Enforcement (OHME) enforces the requirement to submit a telephonic and/or written report (DOT Form 5800.1) following the unintentional release of hazardous materials in transportation.

    The penalty action reports, or enforcement notices, provide the name of company and type of business, a summary of the violations, and the civil penalty paid. Information about corrective actions is not made available to the public and is not kept in statistical form.

    Incident Data can be found here.

  6. Where can I find a listing of current hazmat proposed rulemakings and their status?

    Rulemakings, Federal Register Notices, and other pertinent information can be accessed here.

  7. To determine the corrosivity of certain materials, is there an alternative form of testing other than the one specified in § 173.137 of the HMR? Further, is this alternative form of testing no longer based on live animal test results?

    The answer is yes. Section 173.137 establishes test criteria and packing group assignments for Class 8 (corrosive) materials. Since 1993, PHMSA had authorized under the terms of a special permit (i.e., DOT-SP 10904) an in vitro test method (available commercially as Corrositex®) as an alternative form of testing to that specified in the HMR, which is based on live animal test results, to determine the corrosivity of certain materials.

    In the January 19, 2011 Final Rule, we adopted the OECD Guideline Test Nos. 430, 431, and 435, and revised Test No. 404, authorizing multiple variations of non-live animal testing. Further, we agreed with PETA that non-live animal testing should be used where available and encourage shippers to use the in vitro test methods to determine the classification of a material as corrosive and assignment of a packing group. We also reminded shippers that historical data may also be used to classify a material in accordance with § 173.136(c). Thus, we revised § 173.136(a) to codify the authorization to use in vitro test methods and to highlight the availability of classifying a material based on historical data.

Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017