Operating large trucks and buses on public highways can be dangerous, but adding hazardous materials to the mix can significantly raise the stakes and warrants extra caution. At Trucksafe, we talk a lot about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and how they impact fleets, but we spend less time addressing the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs), an entirely separate body of the federal law. If you transport or otherwise handle hazardous materials, it's imperative you understand precisely how these rules apply. In this article, we're going to break down two specific components of the HMRs: (1) hazardous materials registration; and (2) hazmat training.
Hazardous materials registration
In another article, we discussed USDOT registrations and operating authority, including what types of motor carrier operations require a USDOT number and/or motor carrier operating authority. Those particular registrations are administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is charged with regulating the safe operation of "commercial motor vehicles."
What many fail to realize is that if you haul certain types and quantities of hazardous materials, you may need a separate type of registration issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA), which is another modal agency under the umbrella of the USDOT. Importantly, PHMSA's hazmat registration requirement extends beyond hazmat transporters to those that "offer" certain types and quantities of hazmat for transportation.
Who exactly must register with PHMSA?
According to PHMSA, you must register with the agency if you offer for transportation or transports in commerce a shipment containing any of the following categories of hazardous materials (including hazardous wastes):
A highway route controlled quantity of a Class 7 (radioactive) material, as defined in 49 CFR 173.403. A "highway route controlled quantity" may be shipped by highway, rail, air, or water.
More than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of a Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 (explosive) material (see 49 CFR 173.50) in a motor vehicle, rail car, or freight container.
More than one liter (1.06 quarts) per package of a "material extremely toxic by inhalation" (that is, a "material poisonous by inhalation" that meets the criteria for "hazard zone A" as specified in 49 CFR 173.116(a) for gases or 173.133(a) for liquids).
A hazardous material (including hazardous wastes) in a bulk packaging having a capacity equal to or greater than 13,248 liters (3,500 gallons) for liquids or gases or more than 13.24 cubic meters (468 cubic feet) for solids. Please note that persons who offer or transport hazardous materials that do not require placarding (that is, Class 9 materials) in a bulk packaging with a capacity greater than 3,500 gallons or 468 cubic feet, must register.
A shipment in other than a bulk packaging of 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) gross weight or more of one class of hazardous materials (including hazardous wastes) for which placarding of a vehicle, rail car, or freight container is required for that class.
A quantity of hazardous material that requires placarding.The offering and transporting of hazardous materials by farmers in direct support of their farming operations are excepted from this category of activities requiring registration.
See 49 CFR 107.601.
It's important to understand that the sixth item on this list is a catch-all, which essentially encompasses anyone who transports or offers for transportation a placardable quantity of hazardous materials. What is a "placardable quantity?" 49 CFR 172.504 is the regulation that details what types and quantities of hazmat require placarding. Notably, that regulation contains an exemption, which states: "Except for bulk packagings and hazardous materials subject to § 172.505, when hazardous materials covered by table 2 of this section are transported by highway or rail, placards are not required on - A transport vehicle or freight container which contains less than 454 kg (1001 pounds) aggregate gross weight of hazardous materials."
Thus, with a couple of notable exceptions, hazardous materials are considered "placardable" when they exceed 1,000 lbs. aggregate gross weight on a single transport vehicle.
So, as a general rule, motor carriers that transport--and those who "offer" for transport--shipments of hazardous materials listed in 49 CFR 107.601, including "placardable quantities" of hazardous materials must register with PHMSA.
Must property brokers or shippers register with PHMSA?
Unlike FMCSA, which generally only regulates motor carriers who operate commercial motor vehicles on public highways, PHMSA extends its jurisdictional reach to others in the supply chain. As noted above, PHMSA requires not only those who "transport" but also those who "offer" for transportation certain types and quantities of hazmat to register with the agency. What does it mean to "offer?" The regulations define it this way:
Person who offers or offeror means:
(1) Any person who does either or both of the following:
(i) Performs, or is responsible for performing, any pre-transportation function required under this subchapter for transportation of the hazardous material in commerce.
(ii) Tenders or makes the hazardous material available to a carrier for transportation in commerce.
49 CFR 171.8. The regulation goes on to define "pre-transportation functions" to mean: "a function specified in the HMR that is required to assure the safe transportation of a hazardous material in commerce, including -
Determining the hazard class of a hazardous material.
Selecting a hazardous materials packaging.
Filling a hazardous materials packaging, including a bulk packaging.
Securing a closure on a filled or partially filled hazardous materials package or container or on a package or container containing a residue of a hazardous material.
Marking a package to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
Labeling a package to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
Preparing a shipping paper.
Providing and maintaining emergency response information.
Reviewing a shipping paper to verify compliance with the HMR or international equivalents.
For each person importing a hazardous material into the United States, providing the shipper with timely and complete information as to the HMR requirements that will apply to the transportation of the material within the United States.
(Certifying that a hazardous material is in proper condition for transportation in conformance with the requirements of the HMR.
Loading, blocking, and bracing a hazardous materials package in a freight container or transport vehicle.
Segregating a hazardous materials package in a freight container or transport vehicle from incompatible cargo.
Selecting, providing, or affixing placards for a freight container or transport vehicle to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
Put another way, anyone who performs any of these listed "pre-transportation functions" with respect to the types of hazardous materials packages that we described above is deemed an "offeror" of those packages and must generally be registered with PHMSA.
In many cases, this will include shippers who engage others to transport or arrange for the transportation of their hazardous materials cargo. Why? Because shippers of hazardous materials are often performing at least one, if not several, of the pre-transportation functions relative to their hazmat loads (e.g., packaging, marking, preparing shipping papers, loading, etc.).
But what about property brokers? Must they register with PHMSA? Well, brokers undoubtedly fall more in a grey area. Fortunately, PHMSA has, on several occasions, addressed the question of whether property brokers must register. For example, in written guidance, the agency notes the following:
A broker must register under the U.S. DOT’s Hazardous Materials Registration Program provided they perform a function of an ofteror or carrier and otherwise meet criteria requiring registration. Functions of an offeror include, but are not limited to: selection of the packaging for a hazardous material, physical transfer of the hazardous materials to a carrier, classifying hazardous materials, preparing shipping papers, reviewing shipping papers to verify compliance with the HMR or international equivalents, signing hazardous materials certifications on shipping papers, placing hazardous materials markings or placards on vehicles or packages, and providing placards to a carrier. In addition, a carrier is defined in § 171.8 to mean a person engaged in the transportation of passengers or property by: land or water; as a common, contract or private carrier; or civil aircraft...It is the opinion of this Office that provided none of the aforementioned functions of an offeror or carrier are performed by the broker, and provided the broker performs only specific duties not included among those functions of an offeror or carrier (e.g., making a phone call to a carrier), the broker is not required to register...
So, unless a property broker is performing one of the listed pre-transportation functions relative to a hazardous materials shipment, then it is NOT required to register with PHMSA.
How to register with PHMSA
So once you've determined that you must register with PHMSA, how do you go about doing it? Fortunately, the agency's website makes it fairly easy to do so. Registration can be accomplished online through PHMSA's registration platform, or via mail.
PHMSA registration requires answering basic questions about the nature of your operations and the types and quantities of hazardous materials that you transport or offer for transportation. Registrations are valid for one year and must be renewed annually thereafter. Registrants must pay a registration fee each year. The annual fee for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations for registration year 2022-2023 is $250, (plus a $25 processing fee for each registration form), and $2,575 (plus a $25 processing fee for each registration form) for all other registrants.
PHMSA registrations are available publicly through the agency's company search feature here.
Sample PHMSA Registration
Hazardous Materials Training
Aside from registration, another commonly overlooked aspect of the HMRs is hazmat training. Unlike the FMCSRs, which only prescribe specific training in very limited circumstances, the HMRs generally require that all "hazardous materials employees" receive recurrent training on certain topics at least every three years. The HMRs training requirements are set out in 49 CFR 172.700-704, and generally require provide that a "hazmat employer shall ensure that each of its hazmat employees is trained in accordance with the requirements prescribed in this subpart."
Who must receive hazmat training?
The regulations define the term "hazmat employee," for purposes of dictating who must receive the required training, as follows:
A person who is:
(i) Employed on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer and who in the course of such full time, part time or temporary employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
(ii) Self-employed (including an owner-operator of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft) transporting hazardous materials in commerce who in the course of such self-employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
(iii) A railroad signalman; or
(iv) A railroad maintenance-of-way employee.
(2) This term includes an individual, employed on a full time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer, or who is self-employed, who during the course of employment:
(i) Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials;
(ii) Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.
(iii) Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;
(iv) Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials;
(v) Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.
Thus, any person who is employed by (or contracted with) a hazmat employer (i.e., those required to be registered with PHMSA) and whose position "directly affects" hazmat transportation safety must receive the required training. This broadly includes those who load, unload, or handle hazmat, those who design, manufacture, inspect, mark, repair or test hazmat packages, those who prepare hazmat for transportation, and those who operate vehicles used to transport hazmat.
What topics must hazmat training cover?
Pursuant to the HMRs, all hazmat employees must receive training on the following topics:
general hazmat awareness/familiarization;
in-depth security training, if a security plan is required; and
driver training (for each hazmat employee who will operate a motor vehicle).
Hazmat employers must provide this training to all hazmat employees initially (i.e., within the first 90 days of employment or change in job function) and then at least every 3 years thereafter. The training must be provided by a properly trained and knowledgeable person.
To evidence that a hazmat employee has successfully completed the required training, the hazmat employer must administer a knowledge test and must ultimately issue the hazmat employee a certificate. Training records must be kept by the hazmat employer for each hazmat employee, and must include the following:
the hazmat employee’s name;
the completion date of the most recent training;
training materials used (copy, description, or location);
the name and address of the hazmat trainer; and
certification that the hazmat employee has been trained and tested.
Training records must be retained for each hazmat employee for three years from the date of the last training, and for 90 days after the employee leaves.
Where can I source hazmat training?
The HMRs do not mandate a specific type or source of required training, leaving it up to hazmat employers to develop or source their own. Many third parties offer the required hazmat training for sale. Our own Trucksafe Academy includes a hazardous materials course, intended to help hazmat employers meet their training obligation.
Transporting hazardous materials adds another layer of complexity to the regulatory landscape. Understanding precisely when and to what extent the HMRs apply to your operations is critical. If you have questions about these rules and how they may impact your fleet, please feel free to contact us.
About Trucksafe Consulting, LLC: Trucksafe Consulting is a full-service DOT regulatory compliance consulting and training service. We help carriers develop, implement, and improve their safety programs, through personalized services, industry-leading training, and a library of educational content. Trucksafe also hosts a monthly live show on its various social media channels called Trucksafe LIVE! to discuss hot-button issues impacting highway transportation. Trucksafe is owned and operated by Brandon Wiseman and Jerad Childress, transportation attorneys who have assisted some of the nation’s leading fleets to develop and maintain cutting-edge safety programs. You can learn more about Trucksafe online at www.trucksafe.com and by following Trucksafe on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.