Face The Future

From the Hazardous Cargo Bulletin, September 2000

The second day of HMAC's annual conference for 2000 looked both backwards and forwards, reviewing ten years of the POP standard and examining what's in the regulatory pipeline for the hazmat industry in North America.

The Hazardous Materials Advisory Council (HMAC) held its 23rd Annual Conference and Hazardous Materials Transportation Exposition this past May 3 to 5 in Alexandria, Virginia, marking the 10th anniversary of performance-oriented packaging standards (POPS) in the US. More than 100 delegates and 14 exhibitors were presented with a schedule of plenary and breakout sessions preceded by an optional two-day recurrent training course on the multimodal transport of hazardous materials and followed by open committee and board meetings.

The first part of this two-part report (HCB August 2000, page 14) covered the first day's proceedings, which included discussions of emergency response, drum usage, packaged goods distribution and third-party packaging certification. The second day's sessions concentrated on POP and finished with the meeting's regular update on regulatory activity.


The second day was moderated by Craig Phillips, supervisor of global hazardous materials transportation for Amway Corporation and newly elected chairman of HMAC. Vaughn Arthur, HMAC director of education and training, opened the programme with an abbreviated POP class. As he does in standard classes, Arthur provided all delegates with a 20-page handout containing the applicable excerpts from Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49CFR), parts 171 and 178. Studying the regulatory requirements allows shippers and manufacturers to understand the "what, who, when and why" of UN packaging performance testing. First, definitions must be checked in 171.8 as well as 178.2(e) and 178.601(c). Next, there are three types of testing that must be considered and understood: design qualification; periodic retesting; and production testing. Design qualification testing is defined in 178.60(c)(1) and covers, as applicable, the drop test, leakproofness test, hydrostatic pressure test, stacking test and cooperage test (for bung-type wooden barrels). Prior to qualification testing, construction requirements (178.504-523) and preparation of packagings and packages for testing (178.602) must be consulted. The manner of qualification testing will vary, based on:

  • (a) preparation requirements;
  • (b) applicability of particular tests;
  • (c) procedure for performing applicable tests;
  • (d) number of samples needed;
  • (e) criteria for passing tests;
  • (f) design type;
  • (g) materials of construction; and
  • (h) characteristics of contents.

Because the manner of qualification testing varies, the qualification for use varies with the same factors. That covers the "what"; the "who" is the "manufacturer" as defined in 178.601(d); "when" is at the start of production of each new or different packaging and "why" is " ensure that packages containing hazardous materials can withstand normal conditions of transportation..." per 178.601(a).

Periodic retesting is defined in 178.601(c)(2) and, as applicable, involves the same tests as those required for design qualification testing. Per 178.601(e) it must be carried out by the manufacturer, at intervals established by the manufacturer, but at least once every 12 months for single/composite packagings or once every 24 months for combination packagings, for quality assurance purposes, i.e. " ensure that each packaging produced by the manufacturer is capable of passing the design qualification tests". Production testing is cited in two paragraphs: 187.60(c)(3) - "performance of the leakproofness test on each single or composite packaging intended to contain a liquid" - and 178.804(b)(1) - "all packagings subject to this test must be tested and must pass the leakproofness test". Production testing is non-destructive and therefore does not test closures. Unfortunately, 49CFR uses "packaging" on occasion to mean "a design type" (e.g. 178.601(d)) and at other times to mean "each unit of a design type" (e.g. 178.601(e)), and does not specify "who" (manufacturer or shipper) must do this testing nor "why" it must be done. However, 178.604(b)(1) clarifies that production testing must be done before first use in transport and prior to reuse.

Howard Skolnik, president of Skolnik Industries, presented a POPS perspective on drums. He noted that POPS has led to a number of innovations, such as:

  • (a) the round (triple) seam vs. the box (double) seam;
  • (b) critical gasket performance;
  • (c) critical closure ring design and tolerance; and
  • (d) reduction of metal thickness.

Some drums can now be packed four-abreast in freight containers, giving 80 units per container. However, POPS has also brought with it some problems.

There is a requirement for third-party testing for drums manufactured outside the US.

  1. The shipper's burden of responsibility has increased.
  2. A new container nomenclature had to be learned and adopted, i.e. metric units have to be used exclusively and specific gravity must be taken into consideration.
  3. Components became non-interchangeable, making it difficult for reconditioners.
  4. Despite this, non-similar containers can now have similar markings.
  5. Cost comparison has become difficult.
  6. Closure instructions have become an issue.

The lessons learned in these first ten years of POPS include:

  • (a) greater understanding of construction minima;
  • (b) Tobyhanna test laboratory identified drums that may not be performing as they should according to their markings;
  • (c) airline restrictions are being adopted for drums due to repetitive incidents;
  • (d) there have also been road, rail and sea in-transit incident increases, leading to
  • (e) the conclusion that POPS tests need to reflect in-field failure trends.

In Skolnik's opinion, metal thickness must ultimately affect the performance of drums. To illustrate this, he asked three delegates to each bend pieces of steel 22 gauge (0.8 mm) thickness, which they did with no trouble, and then do the same with 16 gauge (1.5 mm) thickness, which presented more of a challenge. Skolnik then suggested four areas where regulators should concentrate their future efforts:

  • (a) standardisation of steel thickness minima;
  • (b) closure instructions that offer a universal closure procedure;
  • (c) tracking of global incidents and updating POPS testing to reflect failure trends; and
  • (d) updating POPS testing to simulate what actually happens in the field.


A carrier panel presenting carriers' experience with POP consisted of Brad Cook of UPS, Kevin O'Brien, national manager, hazmat policy and compliance, Maersk, Inc, and moderator Ed Sprenkle, chairman of the dangerous goods committee of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). Cook opened by reminding delegates that although UPS is a common carrier and must not refuse cargo, dangerous cargo (hazmat) is now contract service only and UPS has the right to refuse unsafe packages. He stated that UPS always requires performance packaging because of its single package environment. Today it is POP - or UN-certified - packaging, formerly it was ISTA-certified packaging. International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) certification is still required in certain circumstances today. UPS looks for POP to be UN marked, and non-UN packaging for hazmat to show the ISTA mark or have the minimum burst strength or edge crush test value marked. Limited quantities, as hazmat not requiring UN marked packaging, must be indicated on the shipping papers.

In general, Cook said UPS likes POP, but they still have some concerns. POP seems complicated and exemptions, exceptions and variations still exist. Certification control is lacking, meaning that the carrier has no assurance that certified UN packages actually passed the tests. Packaging control is also uncertain; the carrier has no way of knowing if it is packed on the assembly line as tested.

Concluding, Cook noted that UPS Hazmat Requirements will no longer be published on paper; they will only be available online and contract customers will receive web browsers that will access only UPS.

Kevin O'Brien reminded delegates that, in general, ocean carriers just see intermodal containers, not packages. To have an effective package in a container, the correct package must be chosen but equally important is how it is stowed, blocked and braced. That is what seems to be lacking in many container shipments. The bottom line is that even if testing is done and the package is effective, it can be compromised by improper handling.


John O'Connell, director of the office of hazardous materials enforcement (OHME) for the US Department of Transportation (DOT), accompanied by Douglas Smith, enforcement officer, presented the inspector's perspective on POPS. He brought delegates up to date on the Tobyhanna test programme, noting that the laboratory is now testing intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). O'Connell provided a summary of violations involving POPS from the notices of probable violations issued by DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) in 1999. Packaging manufacturers were issued notices involving steel, plastic and fibre drums (18); fibre and wooden boxes (10); IBCs (2); bags (2); and steel jerricans (6). Package certifiers were issued eight notices; fibre box manufacturers/shippers five; and drum reconditioners seven. These included manufacturing, marking and selling packaging not capable of performing as marked, failure to provide closure notifications to customers, failure to maintain testing records, failure to provide training or recurrent training to employees, and certifying packaging or reconditioned packaging without performing proper tests or after they failed required tests. Based on these violations, OHME offered a short list of issues for guidance on POPS.

  1. The Tobyhanna programme is focused on 'over-certified' packages; don't request them if they are not required.
  2. Test reports from manufacturers are still not specific enough; more detail needs to be provided.
  3. Shippers need to understand they are responsible for determining that the packaging is authorised for the material to be transported and for obtaining the manufacturer's or certifier's test report from them or from the distributor, as applicable, to be sure the packaging conforms to the manufacturing requirements (49 CFR 173.22).
  4. The package offered must be identical to the package that was tested.
  5. Manufacturers must prepare complete closure instructions, provide them to customers and keep records for at least one year.
  6. Shippers must obtain these instructions from suppliers and must train employees to follow these instructions exactly, so packages are closed as tested.
  7. Design qualification and periodic testing requirements are minimum; a good quality control programme must be in place so unforeseen changes (e.g. a bad load of resin in the process, a fibreboard strength change due to a variation in kraft paper, etc.) can be identified immediately, not when the testing requirements become due, long after the non-complying packages are in the pipeline.

In conclusion, Mr. O'Connell provided his (and Smith's) telephone number - (202) 366 4700 - and names and numbers in the five enforcement regions. He requested that shippers and manufacturers with questions call. O'Connell promised that they will not be put on a hit list for calling, rather OHME will work with them. "Trust me" were his closing words.


Kelly Coyner, RSPA administrator, shared with delegates the Administration's perspective on the current state of the regulations. Coyner believes industry and government have come very far in the past years and everyone involved should be congratulated on POPS' 10-year anniversary for this successful approach to regulating safety. Turning to a recent evaluation of DOT's hazardous materials programme (HCB August 2000, page 12), she noted that DOT was doing reasonably well but needed to improve its programme through DOT-wide strategic planning, programme coordination, more focused programme delivery and better data. One of the recommendations emanating from the review - that a department-wide focus was needed for key hazmat issues - has led to the establishment of a DOT-wide focal point for hazmat in the existing Office of Intermodalism, directly under the associate deputy secretary of transportation. This change will provide for more effective deployment of the department's hazmat resources, Coyner said. The office will be staffed through rotational assignments from each of the five operating administrations with hazmat responsibilities and will take department-wide approaches to improve hazmat safety. The text of the report into DOT's performance, whose recommendations are currently being implemented, has been posted on the internet at RSPA's website,

Within RSPA, Coyner said she is taking steps to move hazmat training and technical assistance activities out of the Washington, DC headquarters to the regions in support of the current enforcement branches. She noted that this change will enable RSPA to improve hazmat compliance through targeted assistance where it counts and where problems occur.

Linda Hume, chief, legislation and regulations, with the Transport Dangerous Goods (TDG) Directorate, Transport Canada, Bob Richard, assistant international standards coordinator at RSPA, and Ed Mazzullo, director, office of hazardous materials standards (OHMS), RSPA, formed the North American regulatory update panel.

Canada Linda Hume covered highlights of the latest Clear Language Edition of the Canadian rules. This document, weighing in at over 800 pages, is going to Justice by the end of June. Some points to note are:

  • (a) Schedule 1 is in UN number order which makes the bilingual requirement in Canada easier to handle as far as the list of shipping names is concerned and harmonises with the UN recommendations;
  • (b) an alphabetical index of names follows the UN order of shipping names;
  • (c) the "low-threat consignment" concept has been postponed for the moment;
  • (d) there is a 500 kg exemption for retail outlets; this covers public use, for transport from the retail outlet to home, not for commercial or industrial use;
  • (e) limited quantity provisions will reflect the UN quantities in the 11th edition of the model regulations as amended by the UN Committee of Experts in December 1999;
  • (f) safety marks may be pantone colour or UN or 49 CFR;
  • (g) retroreflectivity has been deleted;
  • (h) shipping documents for transport from the US to Canada may be those specified in 49CFR but will have to include the international shipping name and an emergency response assistance plan (ERAP) reference as is the case today;
  • (i) carriers will be responsible for the shipping documents, their legibility and language, and there will be location requirements for the documents;
  • (j) when there is no consignee in Canada, a carrier transporting from the US through Canada for a destination outside Canada is regarded as the importer and takes on the responsibilities for consignor duties;
  • (k) the permit process will still be there, as in the US, for equivalent levels of safety;
  • (l) reciprocity will return to the status quo.

The latest information on the Clear Language Regulations can be found on the internet at

Mexico Bob Richard reminded delegates that the Secretary of Communications and Transport (SCT) first published regulations for the transport of dangerous goods in the Mexican Federal Register on April 7, 1993. Since then many official standards (NOMs) have been published for comment and implemented. Several are being updated or amended and new ones are also under development for series 331 and 338 tanks. NOMs will eventually all be changed so that they apply multimodally. English translations of NOMs are found online at

There are two important updates to note.

  1. Normex, the testing/certification laboratory in Mexico, is in the process of being accredited by SCT through the Mexican Accreditation Entity (EMA) to certify UN packagings.
  2. Article 49 of the Mexican Law on Standardisation provides the authority for the issuance of exemptions to Mexican NOMs and SCT is now considering applications. PPG Industries obtained the first such exemption and Bob Rau of Clariant Corporation is working on another. Rau was requested to attend a consultative meeting of the sub-committee devoted to hazmat transportation, which meets monthly, and present his case. Irma Flores is the current contact; her email address is Unfortunately, there is still no reciprocity with Mexico and it is hoped that a North American Dangerous Goods Standard (NADGS) will solve this problem. The Standard that would serve as a guideline for all three countries to confirm that their regulations were harmonised to the greatest extent possible in order to promote safety and facilitate trade through seamless transport movements. NADGS would be based on the UN model regulations, with tank truck and rail car requirements added, and perhaps make provisions for country variations. Industry input would be solicited as to what is not in the UN recommendations but could be useful in the NADGS (e.g. the dangerous placard and the combustible liquid concept). However, if the status of NADGS were elevated to "regulations" for transfer among the three countries, decisions would have to be made on how to give official recognition to this standard as incorporation by reference is currently only an option in the US and Canada and is not allowed by Mexican regulations. Questions may be addressed to Bob Richard at BOB.RICHARD@RSPA.DOT.GOV.

USA Ed Mazzullo, the final speaker, presented an update on DOT regulations. Ed told delegates that there are six priorities for 2000: lithium batteries and electrical devices (HM-224C); cargo tank safety (HM-213 and -213A); cargo tank wetlines (HM-213B); applicability of the hazardous materials regulations (HMR) to loading, unloading and storage (HM-223); infectious substances (HM-226); specification requirements for cylinders (HM-220); and incident reporting (HM-229). In addition, International Harmonization (HM-215D), which will bring 49CFR current with the 11th edition of the UN recommendations, will hopefully be published in time to be effective January 1, 2000.

Recent actions include:

  • HM-208C Registration and Fee Assessment Program, which had a final rule issued February 14, 2000. It increases the number of persons required to register and has a two-tier schedule of fees.
  • HM-224A Oxidizers on Aircraft, final rule issued January 19, 1999, prohibits chemical oxidisers in Class D compartments, limits oxygen cylinders in Class B and D compartments and requires overpacks for oxygen cylinders.
  • HM-224B will enhance overpack requirements for oxidisers. A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is scheduled for summer 2000.
  • HM-225A Unloading Cargo Tanks in Liquified Gas Service had a final rule published May 24, 1999, correction and response to petition published July 8, 1999 and a technology update meeting is planned for June 27, 2000 in Des Plaines, Illinois.
  • HM-218B/166Y addresses the appeals and petitions to HM-218, which covers the unloading of combustible liquids from cargo tanks without the attendant remaining within a 25-foot radius.
  • HM-212 Unloading Tank Cars has been withdrawn and will be addressed under HM-223.
    Safety advisories 99-6, 99-8, 99-9, 99-11, 99-12, 00-4 and 00-5 have been issued, covering aluminium valves on cargo and portable tanks, batteries, flammable gas torches, cylinders, and portable tanks for propane.

Lastly, the ONE DOT flagship initiative for hazardous materials aims to define actions relating to hazmat transport that have the greatest potential impact on safety and programme operations and will benefit from the visibility and cooperative spirit of the ONE DOT flagship effort. Human error has caused 86 per cent of all incidents and a significant portion of the 400 serious incidents reported annually. The initiative's intent is to reduce the number and impact of serious incidents and the likelihood of high-consequence hazmat transport events.

Specific RSPA activities in this area are to explore the applicability of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) or similar methodologies to hazardous materials transport; identify high-risk operations and prioritise inspections; revise DOT form F 5800.1 (incident reporting); and examine the definition of a serious incident. The HACCP-type self-evaluation objectives are to seek a system whereby all parties involved in hazardous materials transport continuously and consciously evaluate their operations, use a structured approach and understand how they can improve safety by understanding the hazards, what they can control and the options that are available. A notice was published asking for industry best practice input, a non-government contract was awarded, public meetings held and the current system evaluated. A panel of experts will complete the development phase and prepare a guidebook and/or develop an implementation strategy. Mr Mazzullo concluded by reminding delegates of the HM Information Center, which may now be reached by e-mail at, by phone in the US at 800-HMR-4922 or from outside the US at (+1 202) 366 4488.

This article was prepared by Susan C Saltzman, e-mail:

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