What’s your plan?

Shippers and carriers of hazardous materials should assess their security risks and implement plans to reduce or eliminate them, says the Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration. In an advisory notice published in the Feb. 14 Federal Register, RSPA said that a security plan should address personnel, facility and en route security issues.

The document is not a regulation or mandate, but RSPA “strongly suggests” that you consider implementing these measures. The recommendations follow the work of the Hazardous Materials Direct Action Group (Hazmat DAG), which DOT established after Sept. 11. Hazmat DAG met with representatives of the hazardous materials industry, emergency response community, and state governments to discuss transportation security issues. Many, if not most, recommendations are common-sense measures that responsible shippers and carriers should be doing already.

RSPA suggests that shippers and carriers use a risk management model – one is posted on the agency’s site at www.hazmat.dot.gov – to develop appropriate security measures. The model should help:

  • Identify areas of concern and partners that may be affected or with whom coordination may be appropriate;
  • Assemble detailed information on system operations;
  • Identify control points where interventions can reduce or eliminate risk;
  • Select and prioritize options to meet identified security goals;
  • Take action to implement the strategy;
  • Verify implementation of the strategy; and
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy to determine whether additional actions are necessary.

The RSPA advisory notice lists some steps carriers and shippers may take to ensure security in the areas of personnel, facilities and en route transportation. In the area of facility security, for example, the notice suggests, among other things, adding security guards, improving fencing, requiring employees to display identification cards or badges and restricting access to a single entry or gate.

In the area of en route security, the advisory notice recommends that shippers adopt a system for qualifying the carriers they use to transport hazardous materials. “Use carrier safety ratings, assessments, safety surveys, or audits and ask the carrier to provide information on security measures it has implemented,” RSPA tells shippers. It also recommends that shippers verify that the carrier has an appropriate employee hiring and review process, including background checks, and an on-going security training program.

Some of the other suggested steps for en route security include:

  • Identifying preferred and alternative routing that avoids tunnels and bridges where possible and minimizing exposure to downtown areas;
  • Minimizing stops en route and, if stopping is necessary, selecting locations with adequate lighting on well-traveled roads;
  • Checking vehicles after each stop to make sure nothing has been tampered with;
  • Consideration of using two drivers or driver relays to minimize stops during the trip;
  • Establishing a communication system with transport vehicles and operators.
  • For a copy of the advisory notice and more information on hazmat security, visit RSPA’s Hazmat Safety website (http://hazmat.dot.gov).