ATA seeks improved hazmat regulations
The largest U.S. trucking organization has asked Capitol Hill lawmakers to eliminate redundant rules and ensure uniformity across jurisdictions for the transport of hazardous materials.
'While the existing statutory framework and regulations governing hazardous materials transportation have a proven track record, there is room for improvement,' Robert Petrancosta, vice president of safety for Con-way Freight, told the subcommittee on behalf of the American Trucking Associations on Thursday. The ATA represents more than 37,000 trucking companies.
Petrancosta, who also serves on ATA's Safety Policy Committee and is past chairman of the association's Hazardous Materials Policy Committee, said it's important to eliminate duplicative and redundant security background checks, noting that these inefficiencies have contributed to a significant reduction in qualified drivers available to transport hazardous materials. The industry estimates that if these redundancies continue, Hazardous Materials Endorsements (HME) holders will drop by 1.6 million by the spring of 2010.
'This 41 percent reduction in qualified drivers is not the result of individuals failing the background check — less than 1 percent fail the check — but rather is a result of the onerous process associated with obtaining this credential and the fact that drivers often must obtain multiple credentials that entail expensive, duplicative federal background checks,' he said.
Drivers that transport hazardous materials must submit to a fingerprint-based background check to obtain the HME with their Commercial Driver License (CDL). This credential costs about $100 and requires multiple visits to the licensing agency. In addition, drivers that access the nation's ports are required to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) at a cost of about $105.25. Petrancosta estimated that Con-way spends about $250,000 to obtain federal credentials for its drivers.
The ATA wants Congress to enact a 'risk-based approach' to background checks by:
' Recognizing that not all hazardous materials are security sensitive.
' Requiring individuals that transport security sensitive hazardous materials, such as those components used in the manufacture of weapons, to undergo fingerprint-based background checks and obtain a TWIC.
' Continuing to perform name-based background checks for drivers seeking to obtain or renew their hazardous materials endorsements to their CDL.
' Ensuring that TWIC is the only security credential required for transportation workers and preempt other state and local background checks and credentials when applied to transporting hazardous materials.
'If enacted, the legislation — referred to as the Safe Truckers Act — would reduce the cost of background checks for drivers while not impacting the secure transportation of hazardous materials,' Petrancosta said in his testimony.
Other key areas that the ATA wants Congress to address when it comes to trucked hazardous materials include:
' Improving state hazardous material permitting systems.
' Ensuring equitable enforcement of hazardous materials regulations.
' Enhancing safety by increasing the Transportation Department's preemption authority.
' Resolving jurisdictional issues between DOT and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the regulation of hazardous material handling.
' Regulating the transportation of flammable materials in cargo tank wetlines. (Wetlines refer to the product piping underneath cargo tank trucks that transport gasoline and other flammable liquids. ATA opposes a legislative mandate for the installation of equipment to purge residual product from wetlines. The organization said the industry's safety record shows that this mandate is not justified.)
'While maintaining the highest standards for the safe and secure transport of hazmat material, taking these steps to reduce redundant regulation will help support scarce government resources and reduce costs associated with hauling hazmat material,' Petrancosta said.
The ATA estimates that trucks haul 94 percent of the 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials in the United States, including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fertilizers, military supplies and fuel. The rate of serious incidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials by truck is just 0.0001 percent and the percentage of incidents involving injuries is 0.00002 percent or two one-hundred thousandths of 1 percent, the ATA said. ' Chris Gillis