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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #14-0171 ([Institute of Makers of Explosives] [Ms. Cynthia Hilton])

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Institute of Makers of Explosives

Individual Name: Ms. Cynthia Hilton

Location State: DC Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

January 28, 2015

Ms. Cynthia Hilton
Executive Vice President
Institute of Makers of Explosives
1120 Nineteenth Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036

Reference No. 14-0171

Dear Ms. Hilton,

This is in response to your recent e-mail and attached letter to Mr. William Schoonover, Deputy Associate Administrator, Field Operations, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).  You ask for clarification of what is meant by the wording “damaged package” as this term is used in § 173.54(c) concerning the commercial transportation of explosives under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180).   Mr. Schoonover forwarded your letter to PHMSA’s Standards and Rulemaking Division for reply.  

You provided as examples five photographs of fiberboard boxes with a crease, dents, torn shrink-wrap, pallet shift of several inches, and peeled outer surface paper, and two photographs of fiberboard boxes with one outer-surface puncture and one outer-surface paper tear.  You state that airlines are refusing shipments of Class 1 (explosive) materials in packages your organization believes have minor damage, i.e., have not lost their structural integrity.  You also state the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) Instruction states that each packaging must be inspected for damage before being filled and offered for transportation, and packagings that show signs of reduced strength in comparison with their design type must not be used.  

Although the HMR does not specifically define “damaged package,” this wording essentially means a completed package that does not comply with the packaging requirements prescribed in the HMR for the hazardous material it contains.  At a minimum, these requirements include those for general packaging prescribed in §§ 173.24, 173.24a, and 173.24b, as well as 173.27 if transported by air.  For explosives, this also includes the packaging’s ability to protect the explosive material it contains from external stimuli that might initiate the material’s energetic components.  The structural integrity of the package is critical to achieving this result.  

A hazardous materials packaging or package that is damaged (e.g., through compression, forceful contact with materials inside or outside the packaging such as those that result in tears or punctures, exposure to environmental elements, or sudden inner packaging expansion) may be sufficiently reduced in effectiveness to no longer meet the HMR’s general packaging requirements and increases the probability that the package may release the hazardous materials or other substances or articles it contains.  Therefore, packages containing explosives that exhibit tears or punctures, or are impaired in a manner that indicates their internal packagings may be crushed or considerably damaged should be considered significantly reduced in structural integrity such that they are unable to protect the materials they contain or carry loads imposed upon them, which can result in an unsafe shipping environment.  However, damage (e.g., creases and/or dents in an outer packaging that contains an explosive, or small shifts of such packages on a pallet) that does not inhibit the structural integrity of the package should not be considered a “damaged package.”  This should be evaluated on individual per package basis.  

I hope this satisfies your request.


T. Glenn Foster
Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

173.54(c), 173.24, 173.24a, 173.24b, 173.27

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
173.24 General requirements for packagings and packages
173.24a Additional general requirements for non-bulk packagings and packages
173.24b Additional general requirements for bulk packagings
173.27 General requirements for transportation by aircraft
173.54 Forbidden explosives