DOT offers interpretations of specific questions regarding regulated shipments. Recently, Glenn Foster, Chief of the Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch of the DOT’s Standards and Rulemaking Division offered the following interpretation of several questions about HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180, posed by a hazmat trainer. The trainer asked specific questions about the use of specification packaging for the transportation of non-hazardous materials in commerce when the specification marking is visible on the packaging. DOT paraphrased and answered the questions as follows:
Q1. If a bulk specification packaging (e.g., IBC, tank car, portable tank) that is filled with a non-hazardous material (e.g., water) and offered for transportation after the test or re-inspection date marked on the packaging would comply with the HMR?
A1. The answer is yes. For example, under §173.35(a), for which the prescribed periodic retest or inspection under subpart D of part 180 of the HMR is past due, may not be filled and offered for transportation until the retest or inspection have been successfully completed. This requirement is not applicable to an IBC filled with a non-hazardous material. If the United Nations (UN) standard or Department of Transportation (DOT) specification packaging is not maintained in accordance with the HMR, we recommend securely covering any identifying marks or specification plates representing it as such.
Q2. If a non-bulk specification packaging (e.g., 55 Gal/208 L steel drum) is filled with a non-hazardous material that exceeds the marked specific gravity and offered for transportation in commerce would comply with the HMR?
A2. Although not recommended, such a practice is not a violation of the HMR provided the specification packaging design is manufactured, fabricated, marked, maintained, reconditioned, repaired, and retested in accordance with the applicable requirements of the HMR when used to package hazardous materials for transportation in commerce. Please note that a specification packaging exceeding the limitations to which the packaging design was tested may degrade its capabilities.
Q3. Do the requirements of the HMR regarding the use of a specification packaging, apply when the packaging is used for the transportation in commerce of a non-hazardous material and the specification marking is visible during transport?
A3. Generally, no. However, under § 171.2(g), no person may represent or offer a packaging as meeting the requirements of the HMR unless the packaging is manufactured, fabricated, marked, maintained, reconditioned, repaired, and retested in accordance with the applicable requirements of the HMR. These requirements are applicable whether or not the packaging is used for the transportation of a hazardous material. Therefore, if the specification packaging is not maintained in accordance with the HMR, we recommend you securely cover any identifying marks representing it as such. Otherwise, a specification packaging may be used to package a non-hazardous material and be offered for transportation in commerce.