NTTC, ATA Seek Approval of Electronic Documents for Hazmat Shipments

A Mack truck tanker on a highway. (Mack Trucks)
A Mack truck tanker on a highway. (Mack Trucks)

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National Tank Truck Carriers and American Trucking Associations have petitioned federal hazardous materials regulators to “without delay” develop a rulemaking that would allow motor carriers to use and accept electronic shipping papers and certifications for hazmat shipments.

In a letter dated Nov. 11, the trade organizations made a formal request with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to begin work on a regulation to offer the same opportunity to use electronic documents that are currently permitted for hazmat shipped by rail.

“PHMSA currently allows rail carriers to accept shipping paper information either telephonically or electronically from an offeror of hazardous material,” the letter said. “The petitioners request that PHMSA extend this option to shipments by highway transport as well.”

NTTC, ATA Letter to PHMSA by Transport Topics

“Specifically, NTTC and ATA ask that PHMSA amend 49 CFR § 177.817, 49 CFR §§ 172.201-172.205 and related regulations to the extent that those provisions require the shipping paper to accompany the shipment by being physically present on the vehicle,” the petition letter said. “The petitioners seek new requirements for shipments by motor carrier that are similar or identical to those in 49 CFR § 172.201(a)(5), which authorizes rail carriers to accept shipping paper information from an offeror of hazardous materials either telephonically or electronically.”

The petition letter said NTTC’s membership consists of more than 600 companies that specialize in bulk transportation services by cargo tank throughout North America.


According to Shelley Dellinger of  Cargo Transporters and Alphonso Lewis, ATA’s Road Team Captain and YRC Freight driver, diversity in recruitment methods is essential. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to

“The tank truck industry generates roughly 5.1% of all truck freight revenue, but that represents 25.6% of all truck freight in terms of tonnage due to the heavy nature of the liquid bulk products they handle,” the trade organizations said.

The topic of electronic shipping papers for hazmat came up this spring when the nation was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dan Horvath, ATA’s vice president of safety policy.

“The question was how do you limit the contact between drivers and dispatchers or shippers,” Horvath said. “This was one of the first kind of concerns that came up.”

He added, “A driver can have an electronic shipper paper for whatever commodity they’re transporting. But on the hazmat side, they have to have the shipping paper in paper format while they’re driving. That’s what started our discussions on this.”


ATA and NTTC noted that in a list of frequently asked questions on May 1, 2020, related to COVID-19 and posted on the PHMSA website, the agency made it clear that even during the pandemic shipping paper must be in hard copy form for hazardous materials being transported by highway.

“Furthermore, a driver of a motor vehicle containing hazardous material and each carrier using such a vehicle, shall ensure that the shipping paper is readily available to, and recognizable by, authorities in the event of an accident or investigation,” PHMSA said in its website posting.

For many years, shippers and carriers of general freight by commercial motor vehicle have developed a number of protocols for the electronic interchange of shipping documents, according to the two trade groups.

“Companies routinely use electronic data interchange capabilities to transfer information about the nature and count of products being shipped, the date and time of pickup and delivery, and related commercial and legal language,” the petition letter said. “Many of these commodities are time and/or security sensitive, and electronic technology has facilitated the safe and efficient transport of these products.”

ATA recently asked the Senate Commerce Committee to consider legislation to amend federal shipping paper requirements to provide truck drivers hauling hazardous materials with the option to utilize electronic shipping papers.

While it would be helpful to have Congress pass legislation to mandate that PHMSA adopt such changes, the agency already has the statutory authority to amend its shipping paper regulations to allow electronic shipping papers for motor carriers through rulemaking, ATA said.

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