Hazardous Materials Transportation Act
Purpose and Organization
The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 1975 (HMTA) as amended, is the major transportation-related statute affecting DOE. The objective of the HMTA according to the policy stated by Congress is ". . .to improve the regulatory and enforcement authority of the Secretary of Transportation to protect the Nation adequately against risks to life and property which are inherent in the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce." The HMTA empowered the Secretary of Transportation to designate as hazardous material any "particular quantity or form" of a material that "may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property."
Regulations apply to ". . .any person who transports, or causes to be transported or shipped, a hazardous material; or who manufactures, fabricates, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package or container which is represented, marked, certified, or sold by such person for use in the transportation in commerce of certain hazardous materials."
Enforcement of the HMTA is shared by each of the following administrations under delegations from the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT):
- Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) Responsible for container manufacturers, reconditioners, and retesters and shares authority over shippers of hazardous materials.
- Federal Highway Administration (FHA) Enforces all regulations pertaining to motor carriers.
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Enforces all regulations pertaining to rail carriers.
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Enforces all regulations pertaining to air carriers.
- Coast Guard Enforces all regulations pertaining to shipments by water.
Hazardous materials' regulations are subdivided by function into four basic areas:
- Procedures and/or Policies 49 CFR Parts 101, 106, and 107.
- Material Designations 49 CFR Part 172.
- Packaging Requirements 49 CFR Parts 173, 178, 179, and 180.
- Operational Rules 49 CFR Parts 171, 173, 174, 175, 176, and 177.
Material Designation and Hazard Communication
The Hazardous Materials Table (49 CFR Part 172.101) designates specific materials as hazardous for the purpose of transportation. It also classifies each material and specifies requirements pertaining to its packaging, labeling, and transportation. Hazard communication consists of documentation and identification of packaging and vehicles. This information is communicated in the following formats:
- Shipping papers (Part 172, Subpart C).
- Package marking (Part 172, Subpart D).
- Package labeling (Part 172, Subpart E).
- Vehicle placarding (Part 172, Subpart F).
Hazardous materials' packaging regulations were formulated to meet two criteria:
- packaging of hazardous material must be adequate in strength and quality to withstand normal transportation, and
- packaging used must be compatible with the hazardous material and adequate considering the level of risk presented by the material.
Upon determining the proper shipping name (i.e., the name of the hazardous material shown in Section 172.101 of the Hazardous Materials Table), the Hazardous Materials Table will specify the correct packaging (Part 173). Packaging authorized for the transportation of hazardous materials is either manufactured to DOT standards (Parts 178 and 179) or does not meet DOT standards, but is approved for shipments of less hazardous materials and limited quantities. The shipper is responsible for determining the shipping name. The shipper must also ascertain the hazard class, United Nations Identification number (if required), labels, packaging requirements, and quantity limitations.
The HMTA is enforced by use of compliance orders [49 U.S.C. 1808(a)], civil penalties [49 U.S.C. 1809(b)], and injunctive relief (49 U.S.C. 1810). The HMTA (Section 112, 40 U.S.C. 1811) preempts state and local governmental requirements that are inconsistent with the statute, unless that requirement affords an equal or greater level of protection to the public than the HMTA requirement.
Requirements for the transportation of radioactive materials by carriers and shippers are found in Part 173, Subpart I. Packaging and transportation of radioactive materials are covered in 10 CFR Part 71. Section 173.412 sets forth additional design requirements for Type A packages, which do not require competent authority approval. These requirements include seals, containment systems, material compatibility, and testing.
Several agencies have overlapping authorities for regulating shipments of radioactive materials. DOT regulates the shipment of hazardous materials, including radioactive materials. NRC regulates commercial activities of nuclear power plants. DOE ships commercial radioactive waste for storage and defense nuclear waste and weapons for storage or use.
DOE and EPA share responsibility for transportation of hazardous wastes or radioactive and hazardous waste mixtures generated at facilities operated by DOE under the authority of the AEA. These responsibilities are delineated in the 1984 DOE/EPA Memorandum of Understanding on Responsibilities for Hazardous and Radioactive Mixed Waste Management. DOE agreed to comply with RCRA requirements for hazardous waste transporters (40 CFR Part 263) that require transporters to obtain an EPA identification number for the waste, comply with the manifest system, and deal with hazardous waste discharges. These regulations incorporate and require compliance with DOT provisions for labeling, marking, placarding, proper container use, and discharge reporting.
Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990
In 1990 Congress enacted the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act (HMTUSA) to clarify the maze of conflicting state, local, and federal regulations. Like the HMTA, the HMTUSA requires the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations for the safe transport of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce. The Secretary also retains authority to designate materials as hazardous when they pose unreasonable risks to health, safety, or property.
The statute includes provisions to encourage uniformity among different state and local highway routing regulations, to develop criteria for the issuance of federal permits to motor carriers of hazardous materials, and to regulate the transport of radioactive materials.
New Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations
DOT, motivated by a need for international harmony in hazardous materials transportation rules, has promulgated new rules on its docket HM-181 (55 FR 52402). HM-181, published on December 21, 1990, comprehensively revised the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), with respect to hazard communication, classification, and packaging requirements, based on United Nations Recommendations. One intended effect of the rule was to facilitate the international transportation of hazardous materials by ensuring a basic consistency between the HMR and international regulations.
Final regulations implementing the HMTA statute may be found in Title 49 of the CFR. Parts 101, 106, 107, and 171-180 contain regulations important to DOE.