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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

Infectious Substance Special Permits

When is a special permit needed to transport an infectious substance?

A special permit from the U.S. DOT can authorize alternative transportation methods, subject to operational controls, when a person is unable to comply with the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) as written. The DOT carefully reviews and approves alternative actions and requirements to ensure that the special permit provides for an equivalent level of safety to what is required under the HMR.

Ebola Special Permit Information

Why is a special permit needed to transport suspected or confirmed Ebola contaminated waste?

Solid materials contaminated with the Ebola virus are classified as Category A infectious substances according to the HMR. Category A infectious substances -- including the Ebola virus -- may only be transported in two scenarios: in full compliance with classification and packaging requirements of the HMR; or under the terms of a special permit. Because of the relatively large quantity of contaminated waste generated when treating patients with known or suspected Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the available packagings authorized under the regulations governing the transport of Category A infectious substances were not large enough to meet the need. Alternative packaging designs were needed to meet safety requirements and to accommodate the large volume of waste. PHMSA issued special permit DOT-SP 16279 to authorize transportation of these materials in the alternative packaging designs.

How many special permits have been granted?

There is currently one special permit, DOT-SP 16279, that authorizes transportation of Ebola-contaminated waste. To see which entities currently have party status to transport waste under the provisions of this special permit please visit our Special Permits Search Page.

Where can I find the most recent version of the special permit and how can I locate the most recent list of companies holding party status to DOT-SP 16279?

For a copy of the special permit, click here "DOT-SP 16279" or to find the most recent version of this special permit and a complete list of companies holding party status enter "16279" in the "Special Permit Number" box on our Special Permits Search page.

What is the process for obtaining authorization to use to this special permit?

The requirements for applying for authorization to use DOT-SP 16279, referred to as "party status," can be found in 49 CFR 107.107.

What modes of transportation are authorized under DOT-SP 16279?

Transportation is authorized by both Motor Vehicle and Cargo Vessel.

Can this special permit be used at sites which are not hospitals or other medical facilities?

This special permit may be used to transport Ebola-contaminated waste originating anywhere in the U.S., which would include medical facilities or other areas where Ebola-contaminated waste has been generated and must be transported for disposal.

What other Federal Agencies does DOT coordinate with when overseeing the transportation of Ebola-contaminated waste?

DOT has jurisdiction over transportation; however, we work closely with CDC, OSHA, HHS, DOD, EPA, and state and local government to assure that our respective safety missions are adequately addressed in these scenarios.

What other safety measure have been put in place by these special permits?

In addition to the conditions specified in the packaging section, the special permit requires the following key operational controls:

  • The transport vehicle must be attended at all times;
  • Each commercial motor vehicle and driver involved in this operation must be made available for a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Level I hazardous materials inspection prior to transport.
  • The carrier must maintain a written spill response plan with guidelines for protecting employees and decontaminating any released material in the event of an accident.
  • The carrier must adhere to strict packaging requirements, including a series of inner and outer packaging and the application of a disinfectant recommended by the Center for Disease Control. Outer packaging must meet specified performance requirements.
  • A current copy of the special permit must be maintained at each facility where a package is offered or reoffered for transportation, and a copy must be carried aboard each vehicle or vessel used to transport packages authorized by the special permit.
  • The carrier must use hazardous materials routes where designated and practicable.