Look for more hazmat safety measures

November 1, 2003 By    

We may see some new federal efforts next year to improve hazmat carrier safety. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a funding bill for the Department of Transportation in 2004 that includes support for assorted initiatives at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

  • $4.456 million for the new entrant program ($11.7 million less than the president proposed) to help state inspectors help new carriers transport cargo safely. The bill assumes states will pick up most of the costs, as 46 of them are participating in the new program.
  • $2 million for conditional carrier reviews, as some 36,000 haulers have received conditional safety ratings because of lax controls, accidents or non-compliance.
  • $7 million for research and technology.
  • $8 million to help develop regulations, as FMCSA is charged with developing many new rules and coping with multiple safety hazards.
  • $2 million for a satellite-based mobile communications system to track hazmat in remote areas.
  • $1 million for Operation Respond to start a seamless hazmat incident detection, management and response system linking emergency responders to each other and with automatic crash notification.FMCSA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration would share $500,000 for a project to educate commercial and passenger vehicle operators about considering each other.

    The bill also would continue to support pipeline safety initiatives enacted in the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002. It would provide $67.6 million for the Office of Pipeline Safety, including:

    • $1 million for state one-call grants
  • $9 million for research and development
  • $200,000 for a training curriculum for emergency responders.

    Stricter hazmat penalties
    The Research and Special Programs Administration has increased the maximum civil penalty for a known violation of a federal hazardous materials transportation law or regulation. The top fine has been raised from $27,500 to $32,500 and the minimum fine increased by $25 to $275.

    Propane price brochure
    The Energy Information Administration has released a consumer brochure explaining propane prices and what determines their levels during the heating season. “Propane Prices: What Consumers Should Know” can be ordered by calling 202-586-8800 or via e-mail at infoctr@eia.doe.gov. It’s also at tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT?other/Propane_Prices_Pub.pdf.

    RSPA rules state fees OK
    A state can charge inspection fees on cargo containers and safety equipments on in-state vehicles without violating federal law, the Research & Special Programs Administration has ruled.
    Upon reconsideration, RSPA partially overturned its ruling a year ago in a New Mexico case, noting that the fees “appear to bear some approximation to the work involved” in the inspections. RSPA, however, reaffirmed the rest of its earlier decision saying that a state cannot charge the fees to vehicles based out of state. Details can be found in the Sept. 22 Federal Register.

    Security funding
    The Senate has voted to fund the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board at $8 million, an increase of $1.6 million, with a proviso to work with the Department of Homeland Security to identify requirements to protect plants from terrorism.

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