Feds ponder new hazmat trucking regs

September 1, 2002 By    

The federal engine is being tuned up to take its first ride toward further regulation of hazmat trucking.

Prompted by continuing terrorism fears, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Research & Special Programs Administration are exploring ways to enhance security. Possibilities including armed guards on vehicles, tracking and monitoring systems, emergency warning devices, remote shut-offs, direct short-range communications, routine notification of state and local authorities of shipments.

Questions the feds want input on include:

  • Should emergency responders know in advance what’s passing through town
    so they can prepare for a leak or catastrophe?
  • Would armed guards or anti-theft devices thwart terrorists? Would tracking
    trucks with cellphones or satellites?
  • Would having two drivers in the cab reduce risks by shortening the time
    hazmat remains on the road? While one driver rests, the other could drive,
    reducing downtime.
  • Should the federal government prescribe standards for safe havens where
    drivers can leave vehicles unattended?

Send your thoughts by Oct. 15 to Dockets Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL 401, 400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 2059-0001. Identify Docket Number FMCSA-02-11650 (HM-232A).

Briefly Speaking

    • Ergonomics

New attempts at ergonomics rules have taken the first steps: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions has approved legislation that would give the Department of Labor two years to issue rules specifying when employers must address the issue, emphasizing injury prevention.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill for FY 03 that would give the Occupational Safety & Health Administration $2 million to develop new ergonomics rules.

    • Hazmat records

Effective Aug. 12, carriers and shippers must retain paper or electronic records of all hazmat shipments for 375 days after acceptance. With minor modifications, RSPA adopted a rule it proposed last September.

RSPA also rewrote its hazmat safety rulemaking and program procedures in “plain language” easier to understand. It didn’t substantially rewrite existing regs because its staff is overloaded trying to keep up with substantive work. But it promised that when it writes future rules, you’ll have an easier time understanding them. Details are in the July 25 Federal Register.

    • LIHEAP

Southern states want a bigger piece of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but they’ve decided to wait till next year to get it.

Congress initially designed the formula to favor Northern states with heating needs, but legislators from the South have protested that they deserve a bigger share to deal with cooling needs.

The formula says that Northern states can’t get their share cut of the first $1.975 billion appropriated each year, no matter how population shifts. Rep. Ronnie Shows (D-MS) introduced a measure that would reduce that cutoff to $1 billion.

But Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), dropped a plan to try to change the formula after getting a promise from HELP Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to address the issue during reauthorization next year.

    • Weatherization funding

Congress didn’t warm up to the administration’s desire to spend more money insulating homes. Appropriations legislation for FY 03 would deny most of President George W. Bush’s proposed $47.1 million increase for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

The House passed a bill that would fund the program at $245 million, a $20 million increase, while the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill with only $240 million.

Both bills would double funding for the Energy Star program. Both bills would budget slightly more than $80 million for the Energy Information Administration and $8 million for the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.

    • Security rights

The new Transportation Security Agency could conceivably make life impossible for the propane industry without giving it any chance to protest. The Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public comment and Office of Management & Budget review of proposed regulations, doesn’t apply to the agency should it enact “emergency” rules. The House passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which would put TSA into a new Department of Homeland Security and subject it to most provisions of APA. The Senate bill wouldn’t, however, leaving the matter to a conference.

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