Hazmat transport rules still evolving

January 1, 2005 By    

The Transportation Security Administration has changed the rules for individuals applying for a hazardous materials endorsement for a commercial driver’s license.

Charles Pekow
Charles Pekow

Effective immediately, states can process the security threat assessment or have TSA do it. States will no longer have to forward all applications to the agency, but they will have to keep records for a year.

The new rules drop “simple drug possession” from a list of felonies that disqualify drivers, but add illegal possession of firearms or explosives to the list. They also allow more time for appeals and waivers.

Drivers may transfer endorsements from one state to another without undergoing new background checks in most cases. Fingerprinting requirements take effect May 31.

Though TSA issued final rules, it will consider further amendments based on public input. Details are in the Nov. 24 Federal Register.

TSA also proposed rules governing user fees for applications and renewals. States that collect the fingerprints and applications would collect fees for TSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to run the checks, while states can collect their own processing fee. In other states, TSA would collect the fees.

The agency proposes an information collection fee in the $25-$45 range, plus a threat assessment fee of $36. An additional $22 FBI fee applies if TSA handles the collection; $24 if the state does.

About 2.7 million drivers hold hazmat endorsements, but not all not all are expected to renew because of the cost or disqualification. In fact, TSA estimates the number of endorsements fell about 17 percent in the last year because of increased security checks. It also predicts getting 432,000 new and renewal applications in the first year of the new rules. Details are in the Nov. 10 Federal Register.

Briefly Speaking

Notes from Capitol Hill

Funding security

Pipeline and highway safety have received a small slice of federal transportation security research funding made available after 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Transportation Security Administration has spent most of the funds on aviation, and neither it nor the Department of Homeland Security budgeted any funds for pipelines in 2003 or 2004. According to a Government Accountability Office study, Homeland Security programmed less than 4 percent of its research and development budget for highway safety while TSA scheduled none.

TSA did budget $1 million to explore technology to track hazardous material shipped by rail and truck. Homeland Security increased its highway dollars from $1 million in 2003 to $3 million in 2004.

The Department of Transportation dropped its highway safety obligations from $3.5 million in 2003 to just $400,000 in 2004, and cut its pipeline budget from $900 million to $412 million. For details, visist www.gao.gov

Online help

The Research & Special Programs Administration has developed a programming tool to help electronic submission of hazmat incident reports. Companies can also use the tool to check if their own formats comply with reporting requirements. See http://hazmat.dot.gov

Fast lane

Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) has introduced the Hybrid HOV Access Act, which would allow drivers of any propane-powered auto to use high occupancy vehicle lanes. The bill was referred to the Committee on Environment & Public Works.

Fuel of choice

The 2003 American Community Survey reports that almost 62 million homes (57%) heat with gas.

The average residential propane price increased 1.6 cents to 170.4 cents/gallon in November and 36.3 cents from a year earlier. Wholesale prices increased 1.8 cents/gallon to 98.5 cents, up 35.6 cents from a year earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration. Stock fell at a higher-than-average rate for the month, declining 4.8 million barrels.

President George W. Bush signed into law the Norman Y. Mineta Research & Special Programs Reauthorization Act, which will replace RSPA with two offices. A new Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will regulate pipelines and other hazmat transit, with a presidentially appointed chief subject to Senate confirmation. A new Research & Innovative Technology Administration will handle research.

RSPA issued an advisory bulletin to hazmat pipeline operators reminding them that future inspections will consider whether they comply with new operator qualification requirements. The rules include evaluation and training. Details: Nov. 26 Federal Register.

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