PHMSA Civil Penalties Increase 2019

Effective July 31, 2019 the fines for civil penalties within the Department of Transportation are increased.  This increase impacts the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Pipeline of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

The fines are increased as a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.  This happens every year, so you would think it would have an abbreviation at this point.  This act basically requires federal agencies to adjust civil penalties each year to account for inflation.  A list of the increases for 49CFR is shown below.  These are found in 49CFR Part 107. A definition for “Penalties of non-compliance” is found in 171.1.  To see the full ruling with the changes to the other agencies, go here

PHMSA Adjustments:

  • Maximum penalty for a hazardous materials violation is $81,1993.
  • Maximum penalty for hazardous materials violation that results in death, serious illness, or severe injury to any person or substantial destruction of property is $191,316
  • Minimum penalty for hazardous materials training violations is $493.   
  • Maximum penalty for each pipeline safety violation is $218,647
  • Maximum penalty for a related series of pipeline safety violations is $2,186,465
  • Maximum penalty for liquefied natural gas pipeline safety violation $79,875
  • Maximum penalty for discrimination against employees providing pipeline safety information = $1,270

Keep in mind Continue Reading…

USPS Allowing Reduced Size for Excepted Quantity & Limited Quantity Marking

From time to time the Universe aligns and changes in the dangerous goods shipping regulations actually make our lives a bit easier.  That is the case now that The United States Postal Service (USPS) has published new options for hazardous materials markings in their June 20th Postal Bulletin. USPS is now piloting the use of smaller Excepted Quantity and Limited Quantity marks incorporated into or applied adjacent to the address label which allows a minimum size of no less than 50 millimeters (1.97 inches) in height and width.   For use of the smaller marks, you must first request authorization through the USPS Product Classification Group. Additionally The DOT has recently issued a special permit to allow a Limited Quantity mark of a minimum of 50 millimeters on each side when placed adjacent to the package tracking label. The Postal Service temporary authorizations are expected to align with DOT’s special permit process.

                Limited Quantity Mark                                Excepted Quantity Mark

If you are interested you should request authorization through the USPS Product Classification group at the address below:

Manager, Product Classification
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW Rm 4446
Washington DC 20260

The request for authorization should include:

  • A description of the general products you are shipping;
  • Your company name and address;
  • The requestor contact information (name, email, phone, etc.); and
  • A picture of the proposed marking (size) on the postage label/address side of the package

This change can Continue Reading…

Eureka Moment with Batteries

Every year when teaching the concept of density to high schoolers, I would use the story of Archimedes and the king’s crown. They really enjoyed the part of him running naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka, I have found it.” Since that time, the concept of “eureka moments” has become a thing. The moment you finally realize, understand, or discover something is a “eureka moment”.

My most recent one occurred while updating ICC’s lithium battery courses. You see, I’ve always struggled with a few paragraphs in 49CFR 173.185. The paragraphs in question are (c)(1)(iii) and (c)(1)(iv) for those smaller or “excepted” cells and batteries. My brain just couldn’t comprehend or truly understand what they were telling me. Add to that the changes brought in by the interim final rule HM-224I and my brain was just fried. Both paragraphs are shown below for your reference.

173.185(c)(1)(iii)
Except when lithium cells or batteries are packed with or contained in equipment in quantities not exceeding 5 kg net weight, the outer package that contains lithium cells or batteries must be appropriately marked: “PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM ION BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT” or labeled with a “CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY” label specified in §172.448 of this subchapter.

173.185(c)(1)(iv)
For transportation by highway or rail only, the lithium content of the cell Continue Reading…

Lithium ION Battery Phrase Confusion with HM-224I

Laurel and Hardy the comedy duo from the 1930’s coined the phrase, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Sadly, I believe this is the situation DOT created with HM-224I which is an interim final rule published in March.  When this new rule is taken into account along with the general frustration many shippers face when shipping lithium batteries, it is easy to see how the mess was made.

Basically, here’s what happened.  The 49 CFR can be used to make air shipments along with going by ground and vessel.  In the “old” version of the regulations, you were allowed to put lithium ion batteries on passenger planes as long as the net weight of the batteries was below 5 kg.  Well, DOT has finally admitted it is NOT a good idea to put lithium ion batteries on passenger aircraft.  They also wanted to be in closer alignment with the IATA which restricted ion batteries to cargo planes just a few years ago.  This is where HM-224I comes into play.

One of the biggest changes is the addition of a phrase to section 173.185 for small powered or excepted batteries.  It is paragraph (c)(1)(iii) that is causing the most trouble.  Keep in mind nothing changed with the existing phrases in this paragraph. It is simply a matter of a new one being added.  Also, this paragraph Continue Reading…

ICC's Regulatory Helpdesk
49CFR Precedence Table

Every now and then as a trainer I get a question that appears to come out of nowhere. When those happen, classes become quite lively. These questions can happen before training starts, as it is happening or even after we are done. The human brain is a pretty amazing organ that way.

One case in particular happened after a training occurred last April. Yes, even a year later, we still provide Regulatory Support to our customer via our Customer Service line. To set the stage, this particular company took our 49CFR class. The class goes through all the steps needed to transport a hazardous substance correctly and within compliance of 49CFR. Now, we didn’t spend very much time on classifying materials in that courses simply because by this point you know what you are shipping and just need training on how to do that. Class went along without a hitch.

Fast forward now to last week and I received an email. The gist of the email is as follows:

We have a product that is both flammable and corrosive and are having trouble getting both hazard class labels to fit on the box. Can we use the Precedence Table in 173.2a to label the product as just a class 3 and omit the class 8 label?

What’s odd about this particular question is our standard transport class which this company Continue Reading…

Skull and Cross Bones
National Poison Prevention Week

The main part of my job is to train companies, workers, handlers, and the like on how to manage hazardous materials or hazardous chemicals safely. This can be done under the umbrella of the transport regulations of 49CFR, IATA, and IMDG, or under the OSHA HazCom standard. However, not everyone is going to take one of my courses. Sad, but true.

Granted all of those folks do their jobs well and use marks, labels, placards, and safety data sheets to convey information about their products to other users. But it begs the question, how is the general public made aware of the “other” dangers or poisons out there? Think about the laundry pod scare recently to make my point.

Back in 1962, the first-ever National Poison Prevention Week was announced. In 2019, the week will be from March 17-23. Supported directly by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), the goal is to promote safety tips and the emergency services provided by the Poison Control Centers in the US.

To emphasize just how important Poison Control Centers are, take a look at some numbers from 2016 taken directly from the AAPCC website at www.aapcc.org.

  • There were 2,700,000 cases managed by the centers.
  • Someone called the centers every 14 minutes.
  • Over $1,800,000,000 saved in medicals costs.

For this year’s event, people are encouraged to use the hashtags #NPPW19, #PreventPoison, and #PoisonHelp. Continue Reading…

Lithium
49CFR Trying to Catch Up for Lithium Batteries

Lithium Batteries, Laptop battery
Every year at this time training is busy at ICC. It happens for various reasons. The one that causes it most often is companies are due. As we know each transport regulation has a training requirement to it. Many decide to do all transport training at one time which is great.

Here’s the rub though. To me, 49CFR is always just a few steps behind all of the other transport regulations. I get the whole rulemaking process but it is frustrating to constantly have to explain or mention times when the US ground regulations don’t align with other international ones. When you add lithium batteries to the mix, it just complicates things even more.

For once, efforts are being made to catch up with all of the other regulations. On Wednesday, February 27, the Department of Transportation published HM-224I which is an Interim Final Rule (IFR) centered around transporting lithium batteries. Take note, this is a final rule with no advanced notice and was not open to comment. Comments will still be accepted and reviewed which could cause amendments later on but for now, this is what is required. DOT believes this IFR was “necessary to address an immediate safety hazard” presented when shipping lithium batteries.

So, what changes did this IFR bring in to the regulations? Let’s take a look.

HM-224I: Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries

Small DG shipment via ground from Canada to USA

One of the most frustrating issues with shipping dangerous goods is finding a carrier that will transport the goods. When a client contacts us for repackaging services, besides the DG information, I always ask if they have arranged a carrier to transport their goods. Most of the time it’s a “no”. Then I get started with what their options are; ground or air.

For shipments going from Canada to the US, believe it or not, it is easier to ship by air than ground. Of course, it does depend on the quantity being shipped and whether the DG is allowed for air transport. It is definitely more cost-effective to send anything via ground than air; however, that is not always true especially for small DG shipments. I have been told that sending a small, e.g., 20 lbs, DG package by air will cost about the same as sending it via ground.

Carriers such as FedEx and Purolator do not haul DG packages from Canada to the US via ground service. They do offer air but not ground. UPS which offers both air and ground does transport certain dangerous goods (just check for limitations on the UN# being shipped on UPS’s website under “UPS Dangerous Goods Acceptance Tool” prior to shipping) from Canada to the US but you must have a DG account set up with them.

What I have Continue Reading…

ICC Compliance Center
Looking Forward to 2019

At the start of each new year lots of things are said about changes to make in order for the next year to be better. Many make resolutions about losing weight or getting healthy. Others decide to be nicer to people, spend more time with family or volunteer. It doesn’t mean the previous year was bad, but things can always get better. Let’s look at this from a regulatory compliance point of view, and see if things will be better in 2019.

Changes to Regulations:

Starting January 1, 2019 there is a new version of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. You must now be using the 60th edition. Luckily, IATA does a great job of giving advanced notice about what is changing late in 2018 so people can start to prepare before the new version takes effect. You can see the list of “significant” changes here. The IMDG Code was also updated for 2019. The new version is the 39-18 Amendment. You are allowed to use the 39-18 starting in January 2019, but the older 38-16 version is still viable for the rest of this year. Again, a summary of the changes for that regulation was published as well. You can find them here. The US ground regulations of 49 CFR had a few amendments throughout 2018, and there is a large one looming for 2019. To stay up-to-date Continue Reading…

Web address monitor icon
Amazon Now Targeting Sellers That Ship Unsafe Packages to Warehouses

With the holiday season many of us are opting out of the busy malls and stores, and simply shopping from the comfort of our own homes. To make this option even more enticing some retailers are even offering free 2-day shipping during the holiday season. While this seems like a win-win situation for all there are some obstacles that have been coming to the surface, and unfortunately we are not just talking about late deliveries.  According to the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, the world’s largest internet retailer, Amazon, has seen a sharp increase in reports of shipments allegedly violating the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. In 2009, Amazon only had two incident reports, but that number jumped to 32 in 2016 before reaching 42 so far this year. This has caused Amazon to ultimately respond as they soon plan on adding new penalty fees for packages that fail to comply with its safety requirements.

Incidents

The main issue here is many third-party sellers on Amazon aren’t trained to ship dangerous goods, and simply don’t understand that what they are shipping is indeed hazardous. These third-party sellers often don’t realize what actions need to be taken per the Hazardous Material Regulations that exist to safeguard those who may come in contact with the dangerous goods. For that reason, often times the correct labeling, packaging, and paperwork required to Continue Reading…