The Research and Special Programs Administration has extended the deadline to February 1, 2002, for comments on proposed changes to federal hazardous materials transportation rules that would clarify its jurisdiction over certain functions, including loading and unloading.

Last June the agency proposed that “transportation in commerce” as it pertains to federal Hazardous Materials Regulations apply to a carrier’s possession of a hazardous material from pickup through delivery to the consignee or destination. That would include loading and unloading by drivers and other carrier personnel. It would also include storage in transit. Federal rules would also cover “pre-transportation” activities performed by shippers prior to transportation of a hazardous material, such as packaging, marking and preparation of the shipping papers.
The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the proposed changes are intended to reduce confusion among federal, state and local agencies concerning the extent of RSPA’s jurisdiction. It also acknowledged that another federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has concurrent authority. However, it said that OSHA rules apply to the working conditions where pre-transportation hazmat functions are performed, while RSPA rules apply to the functions being performed.
RSPA noted that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have increased concern for the safety and security of hazardous materials transportation and emphasized that it intends to move forward with this rulemaking as expeditiously as possible. However, delays caused by the attacks plus new considerations regarding hazmat security prompted it to move the comment deadline to February 1. It was originally set for October 12 and has already been extended once.
The proposal, along with comments received, can be accessed on the Internet through the Dockets Management System website, Reference Docket No. RSPA-98-4952 (HM-223).