Current hazardous materials transportation regulations require many documents to be paper.

Current hazardous materials transportation regulations require many documents to be paper.


Perhaps aiming to fully embrace the 21st century, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a formal request for input on whether the agency should accept electronic documents as an alternative to paper-based hazard communication requirements.

PHMSA explained that it is considering revisions to the Hazardous Materials Regulations to “authorize a performance-based electronic communication alternative to the existing physical, paper-based hazard communication requirements.”

For this request for information, “hazard communication” includes shipping papers, dangerous goods manifests, and emergency response information, as well as associated administrative documentation including Department of Transportation Special Permits, approvals, and registrations.

The HMR currently require that hazard communication be maintained as physical, printed documents during transportation. However, PTSA acknowledged that “widely adopted technologies could supplement, or replace, the existing paper-based hazard communication system, and offer opportunities for improved emergency response and oversight, as well as increased efficiency in the operations of transportation networks.”

The agency said it anticipates that electronic communication would improve transportation safety, efficiency, and effectiveness by providing electronic access to the same required information currently contained in hazard communication documents. ““With this RFI, PHMSA seeks your input, to help determine the most effective mechanisms and potential impediments for implementing electronic hazard communication,” the agency stated in its RFI.

The questions on the implications of electronic hazard communication posed in the RFI are extensive. From hazmat motor carriers, logistics providers, and shippers, PHMSA is seeking input on everything from “What value could you gain by using electronic hazard communication?” to “Do you anticipate resistance from other entities in the hazardous materials supply chain, if you decide to adopt electronic hazard communication?”

Comments on the request may be submitted to PHMSA on or before Sept. 9, 2022. Comments received after that date will be considered “to the extent practicable,” the agency noted.

Submit comments, identified by the Docket Number PHMSA-2021-0043, by any of these methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Fax: 202-493-2251.
  • Mail: Docket Management System; U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Routing Symbol M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
  • Hand Delivery Docket Management System: Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

All submissions must include the agency name and Docket Number (PHMSA-2022-0043) for this notice. All comments received will be posted without change to the Federal Docket Management System and will include any personal information commenters provide.

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David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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