The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering a raft of safety and security measures for hazardous materials shipments.

A notice, published in the July 16 Federal Register, asks for information on the feasibility of requiring some or all of the following:

Pre-notification - The U.S. Defense and Energy Departments sometimes notify state and/or local authorities prior to the transportation of certain materials through their jurisdictions. Pre-notification, including routes and time the shipment will be made, enables local emergency responders to prepare for a potential emergency or accident and gives state or local authorities the opportunity to restrict traffic or take other precautions as deemed necessary.

Escorts - Armed escorts, either on the vehicle or in an accompanying vehicle, may accompany certain hazardous materials shipments.

Vehicle tracking - Required technology might include remote vehicle shut-offs, electronic ignition locks and driver verification systems using security codes or fingerprints to prevent unauthorized persons from operating a vehicle. Tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals and locks on cargo compartment openings could protect sensitive cargo and limit access.

Operational measures - Some motor carriers are using two drivers to reduce or eliminate the necessity for lengthy en route stops. These and other adjustments to routine operating procedures are relatively simple and cost-effective ways to enhance hazardous materials transportation security.

Safe havens - Current regulations require vehicles carrying certain explosives to be attended by the driver or a qualified motor carrier representative "at all times." But there are exceptions, including times when the vehicle is parked in a "safe haven" approved for the purpose by federal, state or local government authorities. There are no DOT regulations for the construction and security of a safe haven, but the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Defense Dept. have published standards.

Comments are due Oct. 15, 2002. The notice and comments received can be accessed through the Dockets Management System Web site at Reference docket number FMCSA-02-11650.