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March 30, 2011

Look for Tougher DOT Hazmat Shipping Inspection Rules in May

DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) inspectors(and others) soon will have greater authority to investigate shipments of hazardous materials during transport and take tougher enforcement action against companies shipping in an unsafe manner.

"This rulemaking will give our inspectors the tools they need to ensure hazardous materials are packaged correctly and reach their destination safely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The new rule allows inspectors to close shipping companies with poor safety records. It also specifically authorizes inspectors to take immediate action when there is a significant safety problem with a package in transit, including ordering restrictions, bans or immediate recalls of faulty packages.

With these new provisions, inspectors will be able to temporarily detain and inspect packages that may pose a serious threat to life, property or the environment. They will also be able to immediately open packages even if the request to open them is refused. However, if a particular package is detained, the rest of the shipment may continue in transit.

The new rule applies to inspectors in PHMSA, the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration.The rule becomes effective in May (60 calendar days after the March 2 publication date).

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