Hazmat faces more security measures

The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking comments on whether it should require transporters of high-risk hazardous materials to use escorts, vehicle tracking and monitoring systems, driver teams or various other technologies and practices to thwart terrorist activities. Among the materials DOT believes would be included are explosives, poison-by-inhalation materials and bulk shipments of flammable liquids and gases.

Comments on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), which was published on July 16 by Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are due Oct. 15.

An ANPRM isn’t a formal proposal but an announcement of general intention and a request for more information on costs, benefits and other matters. The requirements envisioned by the ANPRM would be in addition to those that RSPA proposed in May for hazmat transportation (See “Reporting for duty,” CCJ, June 2002.)

Many of the ideas come from practices required or encouraged by certain government agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as some private companies. Among the security measures under consideration are:

Pre-notification. To allow emergency responders to prepare for a potential emergency and authorities to restrict traffic, DOD and DOE sometimes notify state and/or local authorities of the route and time of planned transportation of certain materials through their jurisdictions.

Escorts. Certain hazardous materials shipments may be accompanied by armed escorts, either on the vehicle or in an accompanying vehicle.

Vehicle tracking. Satellite tracking, direct short-range communications and cell phone technologies enable motor carriers to monitor a shipment and to identify and communicate deviations from prescribed routes or time frames, RSPA and FMCSA noted. “Relatively sophisticated systems are currently available and are already used by many motor carriers to deter theft.”

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Anti-theft devices. Devices such as remote vehicle shut-offs, electronic ignition locks and driver verification systems using security codes or fingerprints ensure that unauthorized persons cannot operate a motor vehicle. Tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals and locks on cargo compartment openings protect sensitive cargoes and limit access to authorized personnel.

Operational measures. To reduce or eliminate the need for lengthy en route stops, some motor carriers use two drivers or driver relays on long trips. “These and other adjustments to routine operating procedures are relatively simple and cost-effective ways to enhance hazardous materials transportation security,” the agencies said.

Safe havens. Under current regulations, a driver or qualified representative of the motor carrier must attend certain explosives shipments at all times except under certain conditions. One of those conditions is when the vehicle is parked in a “safe haven” – an area approved by authorities for the parking of unattended vehicles containing those explosives. DOT regulations don’t define the security requirements of a safe haven, but the National Fire Protection Association and DOD have published standards for use in certain circumstances.

The ANPRM includes questions RSPA and FMCSA would like interested parties to answer regarding the costs, benefits and effectiveness of the measures they have floated. For a copy of the ANPRM, to submit comments electronically and to review comments submitted, visit this site and search Docket 11650. For a copy of the earlier RSPA proposal and to review comments on it, search Docket 12064.

Security tech firms offer free trials
The Freight Transportation Security Consortium announced a joint program by its members to raise awareness about the effectiveness of asset tracking, onboard computers, remote vehicle control, biometric identification and other security-related technologies. More than 25 FTSC member companies have agreed to provide free trials and tests of their security devices, systems and services to truck fleets that have security concerns – especially emergency response fleets and haulers of hazardous materials, international containers and foodstuffs.

Qualified fleet operators can apply for the trial program by calling FTSC at (212) 297-6226 or contacting participating members directly. A list of participating members can be found at this site.

FMCSA to drop periodic tire checks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed eliminating the requirement that the drivers of certain vehicles hauling hazardous materials stop periodically to inspect tires. Under current rules, drivers of vehicles with dual tires must stop every two hours or 100 miles.

The requirement was intended to prevent possible fires caused by overheated tube-type tires, but advancements in technology mean that fires caused by tire overheating occur much less frequently than in the past. At the same time, requiring a vehicle transporting a hazardous material to stop at frequent regular intervals increases the security risk, FMCSA said. For a copy of the proposed rule, visit this site and search Docket No. 12773.