PHMSA Seeks Ideas to Improve Safe Hazmat Transportation

hazmat signs

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is seeking ideas for leading-edge research and innovative techniques to advance the safe transportation of hazardous materials.

A new request by the agency specifically calls for new research ideas on safe transport for aerosols and small quantities of explosives, new standards for bulk and non-bulk packaging, better understanding of the hazards posed by dissolved gases in liquids and the deregulation of certain types and quantities of hazardous materials.

Those contracts awarded via what the agency calls a “Broad Agency Announcement” can range from $250,000 to $2 million, the PHMSA announcement said. The proposed major research, testing and analysis “white papers” must be submitted to the agency by close of business on Aug. 24, the announcement said.

The aim of the often highly technical contracts is to minimize the threats posed by all modes of hazmat transportation. PHMSA develops regulations and standards for the classifying, handling and packaging of over 1 million daily hazmat shipments within the U.S.

The agency in the announcement spotlighted its five top research areas:

  • Deregulation: PHMSA said that incident reports indicate that small quantities and non-bulk quantities of hazardous materials account for a majority of transport incidents, but rarely cause an injury or interrupt transportation. Given that data, the agency believes small quantities and non-bulk quantities of hazardous materials may be over regulated. As a result, PHMSA is looking to determine if regulations governing certain classes of hazardous materials transported in small or non-bulk quantities can be relaxed or eliminated without impacting transportation safety.
  • Explosives: The transport of Class 1 materials requires Department of Transportation classification approval before transport, in accordance with federal regulations. In an effort to ease the regulatory and time burden on the impacted industry, PHMSA is looking for offerers to identify through testing small quantities of explosive mixtures that would allow for classification outside of Class 1.
  • Bulk/Non-bulk Packaging: The current code of federal regulations for some non-bulk packages, such as cylinders, needs a comprehensive review and update, the agency said. Toward this goal, it said there must be a scientifically established performance standard, definition, classification, testing criteria, service life standard, etc. A suitable starting point for several of these research criteria is reviewing current equivalent standards and updating or improving them for some current non-bulk packages, the agency said.
  • Aerosols: Aerosols typically contain multiple components (liquids, foams, powders, pastes or gases) and are dispensed as gases or liquids under pressure. PHMSA seeks data detailing the risks posed by different aerosols, and wants measurements of the flammability posed by them. The agency also is looking for a candidate to propose and conduct tests that give some measure of the flammability of the aerosols released, not simply conduct tests that explain whether the aerosols tested are flammable.
  • Gases: There is a need to understand the hazards and risks posed by combinations of gases and liquids such as flammable liquid with flammable gas, flammable liquid with non-flammable gas, and non-flammable liquid with flammable gas, PHMSA said. There are no criteria for the amount of a dissolved gas that makes the “material” — that is gas in liquid — regulated as a gas. The agency said it is looking for a candidate to propose research that explores the issue and states what criteria might be best suited for inclusion in these regulatory areas.

In past years, the agency has sought innovative projects ranging from a comprehensive spill model for incidents associated with bulk hazmat liquid transportation to classification and research of the transportation of bio-derived fuel.

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