The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today announced a proposed rule that would protect the public by improving the safe transfer of hazardous materials to and from rail cargo and highway cargo trucks. The proposed rule 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. “Safety is our top priority, and this rule would help cut the safety risks to workers loading and unloading hazardous materials and to people living near those facilities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
PHMSA data show that the most dangerous part of transporting hazardous materials by highway cargo trucks and by rail occurs when the hazardous material is being transferred by hose or pipe between the holding facility and the rail or truck transporting it. More specifically, the data show that human error and equipment failure also cause the greatest number of incidents during loading and unloading operations, sometimes with tragic consequences. The notice proposes to add requirements including:
- Practice drills and classroom training of truck drivers and other workers who unload or load hazardous material;
- Training on automatic valve shut down to ensure the systems are in place and that employees know how to use the systems; and
- Developing inspection and maintenance programs to ensure the safety of hoses, valves and other equipment used in loading and unloading.
Over the past 10 years, fatal and serious accidents during the process of transferring hazardous materials between rail or trucks and holding tanks prompted two recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and one from the Chemical Safety Board. Those recommendations are discussed in detail in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and based on the following accidents: