Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials announced last month that the agency will no longer permit carriers to make the determination whether or not they are hazmat haulers, said Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations. Carriers identify themselves as hazmat haulers on the MCS-150 motor carrier identification report form filed every two years.
Instead, FMCSA now will classify a carrier as hazmat based on whether the carrier is hauling hazmat in placarded quantities during roadside inspections and compliance reviews, or if the carrier possesses a hazmat safety permit.
Abbott said FMCSA can make changes to the CSA program without a rulemaking or federal register notice.
The effect of the standards revision is twofold, Abbot told members of ATA’s safety policy committee in an Aug. 10 written communication.
“Carriers that had not previously declared themselves as HM carriers (on their biennial MCS-150 form filing) but had a roadside inspection involving placarded HM in the prior 24 months now find themselves subject to lower CSA intervention thresholds (and perhaps assigned an “alert” status as a result due to scores over the lower threshold),” Abbott stated.
“Conversely, carriers that had previously identified themselves as HM carriers but do not haul placarded quantities are no longer subject to the lower thresholds,” Abbott said.
In an interview, Abbott said it was too soon to determine how many carriers might be reclassified as hazmat haulers or lose their hazmat designation.
However, in a blog posting earlier this month, Sloan Morris, director of client services for Vigillo LLC, a Portland, OR., transportation technology provider, said that within Vigillo’s customer base the change would affect nearly 15% of carriers – with about half changing to hazmat and half losing their hazmat carrier status.
Steven Bryan, Vigillo’s chief executive officer, did not return several messages.
Hazmat carriers are subject to 5% lower thresholds than general freight carriers for agency intervention in each of the seven CSA measurement categories, known as Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICSs.
The new policy “certainly on the surface appears to be well-reasoned,” Abbott said.
“But there is some concern there is a potential that a carrier who had a single instance of carrying a placarded quantity within the last two years is labeled as a hazmat carrier,” Abbott told Transport Topics. “That seems to be contrary to the intent of what FMCSA is trying to do here. So I think that over time they may have to revisit whether the program is effective and really identify folks who regularly carry placarded quantities.”
Bryan Price, a senior transportation specialist with the CSA program, declined to comment on the change and an FMCSA spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment.
“Many motor carriers that transport HM only do so in very small quantities and, at that, often carry the least dangerous HM commodities (e.g., paint),” Abbott told the safety policy committee. “Accordingly, FMCSA has decided to apply the lower thresholds only to carriers that haul HM in placarded quantities (generally 1,001 lbs or more of most HM).”
The limitation of the change is that it doesn’t speak to how often or how much a carrier might be hauling in placarded quantities, Abbott told TT.
“With my guys, the issue isn’t ‘are you one’, it’s how are you going to be compared against others that are being classified,” Conley, head of National Tank Truck Carriers, told TT. “If you’re 100% hazmat and somebody else is 3% hazmat, are those equal?”
“But I certainly understand that there is a need to do something so whatever we’re doing is consistent. Obviously, the placard is where it all should begin,” Conley added.