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January 03, 2013
PHMSA launches 2013 with harmonization

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) underlined its commitment to align U.S. hazardous materials regulations (HMRs) with international standards by issuing a final harmonization rule that coincided with international standards that became effective January 1, 2013.

PHMSA notes that federal law and policy strongly favor the harmonization of domestic and international standards for hazmats in transportation.  “Harmonization facilitates international trade by minimizing the costs and other burdens of complying with multiple or inconsistent safety requirements for transportation of hazardous materials,” notes PHMSA.  “Harmonization has also become increasingly important as the volume of hazardous materials transported in international commerce grows.  Safety is often enhanced by creating a uniform framework for compliance.”

International code and technical instructions

Based on its review and evaluation of the international standards, PHMSA is amending the HMRs to incorporate changes from the 17th Revised Edition of the UN Model Regulations, Amendment 36-12 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, and the 2013–2014 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions, which became effective January 1, 2013.  (While the IMDG Code is effective January 1, 2013, the previous amendment may continue to be used until January 1, 2014.)

Notable amendments to the HMRs effected by PHMSA’s final rule include:

  • Updated references to international regulations, including the ICAO Technical Instructions, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the IMDG Code, the UN Model Regulations, the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, the Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, and various technical standards
  • Addition, revision, or removal of certain proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, bulk packaging requirements, and passenger and cargo aircraft maximum quantity limits from the hazardous materials table (HMT) (49 CFR 172.101)
  • Adoption of new HMT entries for chemicals under pressure and specify acceptable bulk and nonbulk packagings, filling limits, and appropriate segregation requirements
  • Adoption of an exception for the transport of aircraft batteries aboard passenger aircraft in excess of the quantity limits specified in column 9A of the HMT
  • Revision of the vessel stowage provisions in column 10 of the HMT
  • Adoption of minimum size requirements for the “UN” or “NA” markings specified at 49 CFR 172.301
  • Adoption of changes throughout Part 173 (packaging requirements) to  (1) authorize the use of wood as a material of package construction for certain explosives; (2) authorize the use of metals other than steel or aluminum for drums and boxes; and (3) where appropriate, permit the use of nonremovable head drums in those instances where removable head drums are otherwise authorized
  • Adopt a new packaging definition, operational controls, performance-oriented standards, and testing requirements for flexible bulk containers

Lithium batteries

In a parallel action, PHMSA has requested public comment on the impact of changes to the requirements for the air transport of lithium cells and batteries.  Those changes were adopted into the 2013–2014 ICAO Technical Instructions on the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air and subsequently incorporated by reference with the publication of the harmonization rule.  PHMSA says it is considering the long-term impacts of permitting shippers and carriers to choose between compliance with the existing HMRs or compliance with the ICAO Technical Instructions when transporting batteries domestically by air.

Click here for access to the prepublication final harmonization rule and the request for comment concerning the changes to the requirements for the air transport of lithium cells and batteries.