Companies trucking large quantities of hazardous materials such as bulk diesel fuel and liquid asphalt cement are running out of time to update security policies to guard against terrorism. On Sept. 25, a new U.S. Dept. of Transportation rule hits the road, requiring that some firms document potential security risks or face hefty penalties.

Carriers across the country haul about 800,000 shipments of hazardous goods every day, according to DOT, which seeks to hold truckers responsible for protecting highway loads from terrorist activity. Called HM-232, the regulation was issued March 25 by DOT’s Research and Special Programs Administration.

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The regulation has two main components that cover employee training and security planning. All businesses that transport hazardous materials–regardless of quantity–must complete "security awareness training" for current HAZMAT employees no later than March 24, 2006. Training for new hires must be done within 90 days of employment.

Firms with higher degrees of risk must adopt stricter security guidelines and train employees. For example, when special placarding on trucks is required under existing DOT regulations, the new rule mandates a written "security plan" by the Sept. 25 deadline. Firms also must provide employees with appropriate "in-depth security training" by Dec. 22. This rule applies to a contracting firm hauling diesel fuel in a tanker larger than 119 gal.

Contractors affected by the new rule call it more annoying than protective, but they nonetheless are working to comply with it. "We get bitten by these rules in the most unusual places," says William Wagy, Granite Construction’s equipment manager in Watsonville, Calif.

HM-232: HAZMAT Security Plans 
General Requirements
Substance Threshold
Radioactive materials All placarded quantities
Explosives > 55 lb
Poisonous inhalants > 1 liter
Liquids/gases in bulk packages = / > 3,500 gal
Solids in bulk packages = / > 468 cu ft
All non-bulk packages = / > 5,000 lb
Biohazard materials All placarded quantities
All other materials Only when placards are already required
(e.g., diesel fuel exceeds 119 gal)
Source: USDOT Research and Special Programs Administration 

DOT spokesman Joe Delcambre says regulators will treat the law seriously, but he notes that it has ambiguous language that helps low-risk firms, such as contractors, comply. "There really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ rule for construction companies. We left it flexible...depending on what and how much they are shipping," says Delcambre.

Accountability is the end goal. "DOT is looking for documentation...they just want to see that you have done your homework," says Randy Skoog, a consultant for J.J. Keller & Associates, a risk-management services and training provider based in Neenah, Wis.

DOT estimates that firms will spend about $1,700 each on security plans, for a nationwide cost of $54.3 million this year, and $11 million next year. Training also is an added cost. Civil citations for noncompliance will cost between $275 and $32,500 per day, per violation.