Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ: What is a Special Permit?

Truck Driving on highway at sunset

If you ever navigate our packaging section on our website, you will notice a section for U.S. Special Permit Kits.

You may ask yourself, what is a special permit and how does it apply to packaging? Well, basically special permits allow a shipper to perform a function that is not currently authorized by the regulations, or not perform a function currently required under the PHMSA regulations. Below are answers to questions regarding special permits.

Q. Why would someone need a special permit?

A. Special permits can provide relief from specific regulations when shipping dangerous goods. For example, it can allow a shipper to transport their dangerous goods in a specific UN-rated package without having to use hazard labels, as long as they adhere to the required provisions stated within the Special Permit.

Q. How do you apply for a special permit?

A. An application has to be completed and submitted to the US DOT along with specific documentation including written descriptions, drawings, flow charts, plans and other supporting documents.

Q. Do special permits expire?

A. Yes. Special permits expire after a period of time and the manufacturer must re-apply with the Department of Transportation.

Q. Does the Department of Transportation reject applications for a special permit?

A. The application must demonstrate that the special permit achieves a level of safety at least equal to that required by regulation, or if a required safety level does Continue Reading…

Special Permits
Adoption of Special Permits into the HMR (HM-233F)

There was a Legislative act signed by US president Barack Obama in July of 2013 called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21. As a result, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is making changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). These changes will incorporate some provisions from some of the special permits that have a proven safety record and have been widely used over an extended period of time. The intent in doing this is to provide widespread access to regulatory flexibility normally offered in special permits and removing the need for abundant renewal requests. The adopted amendments will also reduce paperwork burdens and help commerce while sustaining an appropriate level of safety.

Special permits set out variances to the requirements found in the regulations, but still has a level of safety that is equal to the safety level required otherwise in the regulations. The MAP-21 legislation required PHMSA to take a look at the special permits that have been in effect for 10-years. PHMSA conducted an investigation of all active special permits and categorized them, as appropriate, as suitable for inclusion into this rulemaking.

The result is PHMSA amending the regulations, 49 CFR Parts 171–180, by accepting requirements within 96 existing special permits. These amendments are based on the review they did of all active special permits as of January Continue Reading…

SOP! Yeah, You Know Me!

SOPs have always been part of my working life. Do you know what a SOP is? SOP refers to a Standard Operating Procedure. It is a written step-by-step procedure used in many facets of business to describe the process in order to complete the tasks involved. SOPs are found throughout many work environments from the office to manufacturing. They are always being changed based on modifications to the task, to help increase efficiency, and to improve processes.

When there is a lack of SOPs in place it can lead to confusion in the process(es) leaving more room for error. This can also lead to slow or delayed response times. This is just what the DOT has experienced with the process for approving special permits. This had led them to update the 49 CFR establishing an improved standard for the approval of special permits. This will be effective November 9, 2015 under a final rule of HM-233E.

Have you ever submitted documentation to apply for a special permit through the DOT? If you have, you know that the changes in the final rule were needed.

I needed help, and like many of you, probably never had submitted an application before. It was evident from the beginning that this process needed some TLC. Multiple calls were needed before, during and after the request was submitted, tracking numbers were not available and Continue Reading…

Applying for an Equivalency Certificate in Canada

So, you want to bend the rules? What happens when you have a scenario where following the regulations to ship your dangerous goods becomes impractical to the point of impossibility?

This blog entry will speak to what the process is for applying for an Equivalency Certificate in Canada as per the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Clear Language Regulations.

Generally when people ship dangerous goods, the process becomes a matter of reading and complying with everything the regulations state. However, below are some scenarios where following exactly what the regulations state is… shall we say… less than ideal.

Scenario 1)

Al wants to ship some large batteries for equipment within Canada with classification:

               UN 2794, Batteries, Wet, Filled With Acid, Class 8, P.G. III

His dilemma is that when a new battery is commissioned, the outer package is generally discarded due to space limitations. In many cases these batteries were installed prior to the packaging requirements of Part 5 of the TDG Regulations.

Al wants to ship this without UN approved packaging.

Scenario 2)

Bill wants to ship a MRI machine that contains liquid helium, classification:

               UN 1963, Helium, refrigerated liquid, Class 2.2

His dilemma is that his MRI machine is what contains the Helium and it is not in an approved means of containment. He requires the helium to remain in his equipment during transport in order to keep the magnet cool.

Bill wants to ship this Continue Reading…

PHMSA Publishes Rulemakings

On September 13, 2011, PHMSA published the current 180-day special permit application list in the Federal Register. Under 49 U.S.C. 5117(c), PHMSA is required to give notice to the public of Special Permit applications which have been under review for issuance or renewal for longer than 180 days. The list includes initial Special Permit applications as well as modification, renewal, and party status requests. The reason(s) for delay and the expected completion date for action on each application is provided in association with each identified application. The full notice can be viewed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-13/pdf/2011-22942.pdf

PHMSA also published HM-244D, a corrections document in the September 13, 2011 Federal Register. PHMSA annually reviews the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) to identify typographical errors, outdated addresses or other contact information, and similar errors. In the final rule, PHMSA is correcting typographical errors, incorrect CFR references and citations, inconsistent use of terminology, misstatements of certain regulatory requirements, inadvertent omissions of information and outdated transition dates. The full Final Rule can be viewed at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-13/pdf/2011-23167.pdf

U.S. House Committee Passes HazMat Safety Bill

In the US, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the Hazardous Material Transportation Safety Act of 2009. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has been under fire from the House for its "cozy" relationships with industry.

As a result of this approval, PHMSA will be required to conduct safety fitness tests of the applicant before issuing or re-issuing special permits. It also allows PHMSA to charge for the processing of the applications.

Included in this authorization is the phasing out of wetlines to transport flammable liquids. Wetlines will be prohibited on vehicles manufactured 2 years after enactment. Current vehicles will be prohibited from transporting flammable liquids in wetlines after December 31, 2025.

If this affects your operation, it is expected that this bill will be brought before the full House by mid-December. Contact your legislative representative or your trade association to have your voice heard.