[ID] => 8285
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2017-07-18 09:22:24
[post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-18 08:22:24
[post_content] => Several years ago, the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was criticised for being “too cosy” with industry. Heads rolled, reputations were trashed and things went backwards for a while. Industry was confused by the upheaval, thinking that it was not a matter of being “cosy” but of having a good working relationship with the regulators.
Subsequently, PHMSA promised to be more pro-active in its rulemaking and to rely more on data collection and analysis to both drive regulatory activity and to target enforcement activity.
Spool forward to 2017 and, under a new president committed to being more business-friendly, the cosy relationship seems back on again. That does not mean, though, that the new era of data management is over.
As Bill Schoonover, recently installed as associate administrator in PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, explained in May, PHMSA’s goal is to become even more proactive and, through better use of data, to take the right steps to prevent accidents.
Schoonover was speaking as the keynote presenter at this year’s Annual Forum of the Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles (COSTHA), which took place in Scottsdale, Arizona in the first week of May.
He described this year as being a “dynamic time” for the agency – but its remit remains unaltered. Indeed, Elaine Chao, appointed as the new Transportation Secretary at the end of January, has been consistent in her message that “safety is the Department for Transportation’s (DOT) number one priority”. She is, Schoonover said, “someone who really understands transportation”.
The new political environment in the US has also seen greater emphasis placed on value for money – or “fiduciary management”, as Schoonover termed it. Tami Periello has been appointed as CFO and associate administrator to help get the best value from PHMSA’s budget, while Howard ‘Mac’ McMillan is the new acting deputy administrator and executive director.
What does this all mean for PHMSA and the other DOT agencies? For a start, Schoonover said, OHMS will be investing in its people, adding skills and competences needed to provide a useful service in the modern world. It will also increase its frequency of communication with industry, using the latest IT techniques, and it will also ‘position for innovation’ – “We don’t want to be seen as an impediment,” Schoonover explained.
All in all, Schoonover said, PHMSA will aim to foster transparency – “The regulated community needs to know what’s going on.” This will involve better engagement all round and, as he said, “dialogue not direction”. Perhaps echoing the ideas propounded by President Trump, Schoonover was clear: “Companies that invest in themselves don’t need government stopping them. PHMSA should be helping them, not imposing strict oversight.”
And rather than expect industry to understand the regulatory process, the regulatory authorities are aiming to work more like business. For instance, Schoonover said, industry has been using safety management systems (SMSs) for years – PHMSA will now follow suit. It is looking where and how to use the approach, but it will certainly be data-driven. “Information and data sharing will be critical going forward,” he added.
PHMSA is also keeping a close eye on technical developments across industry. It is currently doing a lot of work on electronic shipping papers and will be looking at autonomous vehicles and increased connectedness, and how that will affect transport in general, and hazardous materials transport in particular.
Yet another development is what Schoonover called ‘Hazmatics’ – the ability to collect data on incidents and product releases. This will help drive its quality management system. Schoonover also revealed that PHMSA is closing in on achieving ISO 9000 accreditation for its data collection systems, something that will be unique within government.
Also nearing completion was ‘oCFR’, an online version of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) that are found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR). This is an interactive web-based app that automates HMR and incorporates related special permits, interpretations and other material for ease of use. It will be also good for internal use within PHMSA, Schoonover said. (More information on this can be found at www.phmsa.dot.gov/regulations.)
PHMSA has been given a budget to invest in improving safety in the transport of hazardous materials. Some of this will be put into outreach and enforcement but the model is likely to change. For instance, the agency is aiming to gather a core group of professionals that can assist industry to work with the regulators – in other words, to get the regulators to think like industry.
“We’re moving from outreach to engagement,” Schoonover said, “but we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that means.” This suggests efforts will be put into actively helping industry comply with the regulations, not just explaining what they are. PHMSA is aware that it needs a system that connects people, rather than just collecting data. That does not mean that it wants to become a compliance consultant – although there seems a fine line and there were some in the audience who could see problems coming if PHMSA ends up taking work from independent consultants.
PHMSA is aiming to provide better visibility of the special permits and approvals process through a new portal, which was in beta-testing at the time of the COSTHA event. It also wants to provide better transparency on its policy as regards international standards. Furthermore, it wants to identify the true innovators in the hazardous materials sector, particularly those that can help industry move towards heightened levels of safety and competitivity.
Finally, Schoonover alerted the audience to the development of a DOT-wide programme to identify outdated and superfluous regulations, something else high on President Trump’s agenda. It is likely that there will be agency-specific units that will engage with stakeholders, so the regulated industry should keep an eye open for announcements.
Ryan Paquet, director of PHMSA’s approvals and permits office, was again working hard at the COSTHA meeting and he followed up on Schoonover’s comments on visibility in the process. The new portal for special permits and approvals will provide applicants with better tracking data. It is expected online at the beginning of 2018.
Paquet provided an insight into the size of the problem. During 2016, he said, 96 existing special permits were incorporated into HMR, something that is seen as part of the new focus on efficiency for industry. On the other hand, PHMSA receives around 150 applications every year for approvals for jet perforating guns. This is an expensive and time-consuming process both for industry and for PHMSA. The agency is now working with the Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME) to develop a standard that can be included in HMR and thus avoid the need for approvals.
Rick Schweitzer, COSTHA’s general counsel, who normally provides an update on legislative developments of relevance to the Council’s members, was unable to make the Scottsdale session. However, his role was ably filled by Paul Rankin, president of the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA), who also acts as the chair of the Interested Parties group of trade associations.
Rankin was quickly into his stride. “Things in DC are pretty wild right now,” he said. Recent changes at the top indicate there will be fewer new regulations in 2017, which could be both good and bad. However, there is also likely to be more positive approach to industry and a greater focus on the part of enforcement agencies on ‘problem’ facilities, which for many in the business cannot come soon enough.
Rankin also ran through some of the important legislative developments that have the potential to impact shippers and carriers of hazardous materials. These are enumerated in greater detail in Rankin’s first ‘Letter from Washington’.
Quite what this means for the various modal administrations is not yet fully apparent, but it was evident from the presentations made during the COSTHA forum that they are having to get used to a new normal. For a start, the usual lengthy presentation from PHMSA giving details of rulemakings recently completed or in progress was nowhere to be seen, with Bill Arrington giving some brief notes on the size of PHMSA’s tasks and a reminder that training remains the number on source of non-compliance issues.
More forthcoming were Andrew Pipping and Robert Cassidy from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which is, they said now implementing SMS approaches. This is helping to identify gaps in oversight.
An interesting example of the new, more collaborative relationship between regulators and industry is the FAA’s Hazmat Principal Inspector (HMPI) system, introduced just over a year ago. This assigns lead inspectors to each carrier, to provide a single point of contact and ensure consistency across the application of regulations and enforcement activities. Each HMPI is responsible for assessing risk and it remains up to field inspectors to do the actual work. The feedback from industry so far has been positive and FAA is now looking to extend the concept to shippers and other participants in the air cargo chain.
Vincent Babich from the Hazardous Materials Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gave a lengthy but interesting presentation focusing on recent work the agency has done in terms of safety and research. Over the past year it has issued a number of safety notices, covering:
- Registration requirements for Canadian cargo tank facilties that work on US DOT cargo tank motor vehicles or portable tanks
- Limitations of the EPA Method 27 test as an alternative leak test for DOT-specification carto tank motor vehicles
- A recall of certain DOT 407/412 cargo tank motor vehicles manufactured by Keith Huber Inc
- A safety warning on the use of e-cigarettes on commercial vehicles, and
- A safety warning about hot work on cargo tanks.
The main violations relating to cargo tanks that FMCSA finds tend to involve testing and training and the documentation thereof, Babich said. In that regard, things do not seem to change a lot. He also ran through a lengthy and detailed list of violations found at cargo tank manufacturing facilities, which was both interesting and concerning, as a number related to technical shortcomings – although once more training and documentation were high on the list of non-compliance.
Much of the information that underpinned Babich’s presentation can be found on FMCSA’s recently redesigned website
Babich also spoke about two research projects in which FMCSA is taking part. One had only just started at the time of the COSTHA forum and involved PHMSA and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. This is looking at human factors in cargo tank rollovers. Babich explained that it will focus on finding out why crashes do not occur – by learning from those carriers that do not suffer rollover incidents, it may be possible to draw lessons for other operators.
Another study started in October 2016 and is looking at the roadside identification of cargo tank facilities, the use of cargo tank vehicle identification numbers (VINs) in tracking, and the adequacy of mobile testing facilities. This project is bringing together industry representatives and the regulators and Babich appealed for more participation from the industry side.
NORTH OF THE BORDER
If the pace of regulatory change has slowed up in the US, things have been rather busier of late in Canada. But Benoit Turcotte, executive director at Transport Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Directorate, began his presentation with an explanation of the new ‘TDG Registry’ project, which aims to identify parties active in the dangerous goods transport chain. That will allow the agency to apply risk assessments so as to focus inspection activity and outreach efforts.
Phase 1 of the project is currently under way, which will define the scope of the registry. A second phase due to start in the 2018/19 fiscal year will establish the legislative and regulatory framework, with a third phase, involving the development of the necessary database and platform, due to go live in the 2020/21 fiscal year.
Turcotte said that Transport Canada estimates that the size of the population to be covered by the TDG Registry is somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000, so there is clearly a need for better information.
On the safety front, Transport Canada has issued five Protective Directions (PDs) since 2014, Turcotte reported. PDs are emergency orders issued by the government to address urgent safety issues. Four of the five related to rail and the other to lithium batteries in air transport. This has already been incorporated into the TDG Regulations and Turcotte expected that three of the others will follow suit.
There are currently some very significant regulatory amendments in process, as Transport Canada attempts to bring its rules up to date with international provisions and to harmonise as much as possible with the US to help cross-border trade. However, the first that Turcotte mentioned is more inward looking and deals primarily with training. It will affect almost every party involved in the transport of dangerous goods, with the aim of increasing compliance.
The current training provisions in Part 6 of the TDG Regulations are, Turcotte said, “thin and vague”. This means they are difficult to enforce. Instead, and inspired by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Transport Canada plans to replace the concept of “adequately trained” with “competent person”. A Competence Framework Standard will be developed, probably through one of the Canadian standards bodies. There may also be a standardised general awareness test.
Initial consultations drew more than 60 responses representing a range of views. There was, though, no outright opposition to the plans. Turcotte said he was hopeful that proposals could be published in Canada Gazette Part 1 (for formal consultation) in early 2018.
A second rulemaking concerns Emergency Response Action Plans (ERAPs) and follows on from the report of a task force issued in December 2016. This may change the requirements for the availability of a person on the emergency contact number, criteria for activating ERAPs and tiered service levels. Consultation closed on 1 May 2017 and publication in Canada Gazette Part 1 is planned for early 2018.
While Transport Canada has continued to reflect ICAO’s Technical Instructions, the domestic air provisions have not been updated since 2001, Turcotte said. Proposals are being put together that will offer more flexibility and greater clarity. These may include equivalency certificates and specific exemptions. A second consultation phase was starting in the second quarter of 2017 with publication of proposals in Canada Gazette Part 1 scheduled for early 2018.
Another rulemaking will gather a lot of issues, partly in response to industry comments and partly to align with US and international provisions. It will also include a new revision of the TP 14877 standard on containers for the transport of dangerous goods by rail, incorporating three PDs. Initial consultation ended in February 2017 and, at the time of the conference, Transport Canada was still analysing the comments received.
Finally, a lengthy amendment was under way to harmonise with international provisions and incorporate recent changes to applicable standards. Transport Canada also added ambulatory references to international provisions to avoid the need to generate a new rulemaking every two years. The amendment also addressed reciprocity for US pressure receptacles and special permits and approvals. [This rulemaking was published in Canada Gazette Part 2 on 20 June 2017.]
Overall, Turcotte said, Transport Canada is under a lot of pressure to update and improve the regulatory framework. There may be a lot going on right now but it will make life easier in the end, he promised. When might that be? Not before 2019.
ACROSS THE BORDER
Both the US and Canadian authorities have spent a lot of time examining how best to ease impediments to cross-border trade, with one work stream covering dangerous goods. Current discussions are working towards full mutual recognition of one-time movement approvals (OTMAs) and temporary certificates, Turcotte said. Joint groups are also looking to identify areas where Canadian exemptions and US exceptions can be harmonised, as well as the standardisation of hazard communication in terms of labelling and placarding.
More information on this work was provided by Lindsey Constantino, international transportation specialist at PHMSA. She mentioned the HM-215N rulemaking – the regular biennial update for international harmonisation. This includes some US/Canada initiatives, including the mutual recognition of standard pressure receptacles, the recognition of repairs made by cargo tank repair facilities in Canada, and the mutual recognition of special permits and Transport Canada’s equivalency certificates as far as the first destination (by road or rail).
Upcoming initiatives include the mutual recognition of inspections undertaken by facilities in third countries, the harmonisation of hazard communication (as Turcotte had already mentioned), better engagement with Mexico, and the establishment of a geographic information system (GIS) working group, which will leverage data from both Transport Canada and PHMSA, including border crossing information.
The second part of this report on the COSTHA Annual Forum in next month’s HCB will concentrate on presentations relating to international matters.
[post_title] => COSTHA: Desert blooms
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
[ping_status] => open
[post_name] => costha-desert-blooms
[post_modified] => 2017-07-17 18:30:14
[post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 17:30:14
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[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=8285
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