PHMSA proposes updating hazmat rules

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In a move the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says could save the automotive industry nearly $900,000 a year in costs while maintaining safety standards, the agency on Monday, March 26, issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to end the special permit requirement for several widely-used auto parts normally installed during the manufacturing process.

Automakers and suppliers still would have to comply with standing conventional regulations for packaging, marking and transporting the assembly components, which still are considered hazardous materials capable of posing some risk to health, safety and property.

“Safety is PHMSA’s chief priority, but when rules or regulations become outdated or unnecessary, we must explore updating them to keep the hazmat transportation process efficient and effective,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

PHMSA proposes to update the Hazardous Materials Regulations so that a special permit no longer would be required for these items. Specifically, the NPRM states that auto manufacturers no longer would have to bear the burden of obtaining and maintaining an explosive number on hazmat shipping papers for air bag inflators, air bag modules and seatbelt pretensioners prior to transporting them.

“EX” numbers denote approval to transport explosive items in accordance with the federal HMR, which governs transportation safety for such items. The activation devices in the airbag and seatbelt components currently are classified as explosives under the HMR.

“The president’s Regulatory Review Initiative calls precisely for this kind of action – reviewing existing rules for effectiveness, relieving the private sector of regulations where costs outweigh benefits, and encouraging feedback about these regulations from those most likely to be affected – the public,” says PHMSA administrator Cynthia Quarterman.

Comments on the NPRM can be posted at; the docket number is PHMSA-2010-0201 (HM-254).