The Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) is responsible for regulating the transportation of hazardous materials (HM). This includes actions completed by shippers, motor carriers, and commercial drivers. Guidelines for transporting hazardous materials also falls under the jurisdiction of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Those affected by these regulations often have many questions about them. We explore some of the more common concerns below, and we’ll explain what a cargo tank inspection is.
When and where do HM regulations apply?
The secretary of the USDOT and the PHMSA require any shipment or transport of HM meeting the following criteria to abide by the regulations outlined in 49 USC of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
- Foreign, interstate, and intrastate deliveries by aircraft, motor vehicle, rail car, or vessel.
- Intended transport of a HM contained in an aircraft, container, motor vehicle, package, rail car, or vessel.
- Any fabrication, maintenance, manufacture, marking, reconditioning, repairing, or testing of a container or package certified, marked, represented, or sold for the purpose of transporting HM.
Additionally, anyone transporting HM or arranging for their transport must obtain a safety permit. Certain materials require a placard attached to the back of the commercial vehicle identifying the cargo as HM. These are just some examples of materials that could require a permit, HM placard, or both:
- Explosives: You can find a definition of which explosives this refers to in 49 CFR, Section 172, Subpart F.
- Methane: This refers to both refrigerated and compressed liquid methane or liquified natural gas with a methane content of at least 85 percent. Shippers must prepare the methane in bulk packaging.
- Radioactive materials: Section 173.43 of 49 CFR contains a description of Class 7 radioactive materials that apply to HM permits and placards.
- Toxic by inhalation materials: Section 171.8 of 49 CFR includes a definition of materials that can be toxic if inhaled.
Failure to comply with these regulations could result in a large fine all the way up to an out of service order – the consequences can be quite hefty.
Questions regarding cargo tank inspections.
When a safety inspector (SI) with the FMCSA conducts an inspection of a vehicle transporting HM, the question often comes up whether it falls under cargo tank inspection or non-cargo tank inspection. If the carrier has MC 300 Series, DOT 400 Series or Other indicated to identify the cargo tank type on an inspection report, the SI marks it as a cargo tank inspection. All other vehicles required to display a HM placard go under the non-cargo tank inspection by default.
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