In comments filed with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, American Trucking Associations asked the agency to withdraw its proposal to regulate the loading and unloading of hazardous materials in order to conduct needed research.

"ATA supports PHMSA's efforts to reduce loading and unloading incidents," ATA Vice President Richard Moskowitz wrote in comments to the agency. "However we cannot support the proposed rule as written on the grounds that it will frustrate motor carriers' ability to comply with the hazardous materials regulations, makes it unlikely that drivers will be properly trained and its costs will far exceed its benefits."

On March 10, PHMSA announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM, that would require additional training for employees and new safety requirements for motor carriers and facilities that transfer hazardous materials to and from rail cargo and highway cargo trucks. According to PHMSA, the most dangerous part of transporting hazardous materials occurs during transfers by hose or pipe between the holding facility and the rail or truck transporting it. Human error and equipment failure cause the greatest number of incidents during loading and unloading operations.

The NPRM would require practice drills and classroom training of truck drivers and other workers who unload or load hazardous material, training on automatic valve shutdown to ensure the systems are in place and that employees know how to use the systems. Developing inspection and maintenance programs to ensure the safety of hoses, valves and other equipment used in loading and unloading will also be included.

Moskowitz told the agency that the goals of the proposal could be best achieved through standardized regulations for loading and unloading for carriers, and by requiring facility operators to manage unique conditions at their facility. He also noted that uniformity is the key to safety and that the NPRM has the potential to erode the regulatory system that has produced an exemplary transportation safety record.

"PHMSA should withdraw the proposed rule and begin an evaluation of regulatory requirements to address the specific causes of loading and unloading incidents," Moskowitz concluded.