PHMSA Update
U.S. Publishes Proposed Rule HM-215N on International Harmonization

It’s autumn — we’re surrounded by orange leaves and orange pumpkins, and children are thinking about Halloween. Regulators, on the other hand, are thinking about something else orange. A new edition of the Orange Book (the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods) is out.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has made a commitment that U.S. transportation will stay well-harmonized with international regulations. So, now that the 19th Edition of the Orange Book is upon us, we must prepare for changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR).

DOT’s rules on international harmonization can be identified by their HM-215 docket numbers. On September 7, 2016, PHMSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, HM-215N. This rulemaking is intended to harmonize the HMR with the latest regulations on hazardous materials, including:

  • 2017-2018 Edition of the International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (ICAO TI),
  • Amendment 38-16 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG),
  • Canada’s “Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations” (TDG) up to an amendment incorporated on May 20, 2015,
  • 6th Revised Edition of the UN Manual of Test and Criteria, and
  • 6th Revised Edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

What changes can we expect?

As always, PHMSA does not simply cut and paste from the latest Orange Book. Instead, it reviews how international changes will interact with current U.S. regulations, and attempts to balance harmonization with international requirements against specific U.S. safety concerns. Some of the major changes proposed will include:

Provisions for polymerizing substances – PHMSA will add to the Hazardous Materials Table (HMR), section 172.101, four entries for a new type of hazard called polymerizing substances in Division 4.1. They will also establish classification criteria defining what are polymerizing substances, specific packaging authorizations and safety requirements for these unstable materials. These requirements will include stabilization methods and operational controls.

Polymeric beads – PHMSA proposes to add a procedure for declassifying polymeric beads if they don’t give off dangerous amounts of flammable gas, based on the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria.

Modification of the marine pollutant list – The list of marine pollutants in Appendix B to the HMT is a remnant of an earlier system under which aquatic hazards were determined by environmental authorities such as MARPOL. The Orange Book has for some time used a system of classification criteria instead of the list. In other words, a marine pollutant in the Orange Book and the IMDG Code is any chemical that tests positive as an environmental hazard. PHMSA will maintain the old list as a starting point for classification, although it will allow the use of the IMDG criteria for chemicals not listed, and this amendment will update the list to reflect current knowledge of marine hazards.

Hazard communication for lithium batteries – Lithium batteries have remained a thorn in the side of hazmat shippers as well as regulators, as the international community still scrambles to establish a fool-proof method of transporting these items. Under the 19th Edition of the Orange Book and the ICAO TI for 2017-2018, a new Class 9 label specific for batteries has been introduced, as well as a new simplified Lithium Battery Handling mark for low-powered batteries. PHMSA plans to incorporate these to match. Also, the Lithium Battery Handling mark will made mandatory.

Engine, internal combustion/Machinery, internal combustion – Under this proposal, the entries existing for “Engine, internal combustion” would be assigned their own UN numbers and hazard class based on the type of fuel – for example, a gasoline engine would be put in Class 3, UN3528, while a propane-powered engine would be put in Division 2.1, UN3529. The entries for UN3166 will be eliminated.

Harmonization with Canadian regulations – PHMSA proposes to eliminate several costly and annoying areas of non-harmonization with Canadian TDG regulations that have been addressed by the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). PHMSA proposes to recognize cylinders approved under Transport Canada. Also, Canadian equivalency certificates (the Canadian term for permits for equivalent level of safety) may be used for shipments coming into the U.S., until the first destination. These changes will be made along with Transport Canada, who will amend TDG to give similar reciprocity for cylinders and permits regarding shipments coming into Canada.

PHMSA has already moved forward on some issues that the UN is only now addressing. For example, the proposal notes that while the Orange Book has created an exemption for ping-pong balls under the entry for UN 2000, Celluloid, PHMSA has already declared in a letter of interpretation that the U.S. does not consider such articles to “pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety or property during transportation.” This comes as a significant relief to those who enjoy a rousing game of table tennis.

You can view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at PHMSA’s rulemaking archive. Comments on the proposed changes may be received by November 7, 2016, by mail, fax, hand-delivery or the Federal Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.


If you have any questions about these proposed changes and how they can affect your operations, please contact us here at ICC Compliance Center at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).

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