- Industry Links
- HCB Shop
Status quo on combustibles
Originally published:  29/05/2012
More than two years after asking industry for its views on changing provisions in the US Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) relating to combustible liquids, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has determined that there will be no changes. It issued a notice this past May 30 withdrawing the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) of April 5, 2010.
Despite the fact that there will now not be any changes to the provisions, the recent notice does make interesting reading. For those unfamiliar with the rules as they stand, HMR varies from international provisions and the UN recommendations in two respects:
(a) non-bulk packagings containing material with a flash point of 38˚C (100˚F) or more but less than 60˚C (140˚F) may be reclassified as a combustible material and are not subject to HMR in domestic transport by road or rail; they are, however, subject to the relevant provisions for maritime and air transport; and
(b) material consigned in bulk with a flash point between 60˚C (140˚F) and 93˚C (200˚F) is regulated as a combustible liquid in domestic transport in accordance with 49 CFR 173.50 and must carry the ‘COMBUSTIBLE’ placard.
The situation is interesting, since on the one hand it provides some relief for flammable liquids in non-bulk packages, while on the other it places an additional burden on bulk consignments of combustible material that is otherwise not regulated. Indeed, the burden is doubled for international shipments, since consignments prepared in accordance with HMR may be frustrated by inspectors and enforcement personnel overseas; carriers often remove the COMBUSTIBLE placard before a consignment goes onboard a vessel for overseas shipment and this can cause delays and congestion in port areas.
The April 2010 ANPRM drew a considerable number of comments. Those who wanted no change, in order to preserve the relief for non-bulk packages, outnumbered those who approved of harmonisation to avoid the problem with bulk packages in international trade. PHMSA has also taken the opportunity to deny three petitions from rulemaking. The International Vessel Operators Dangerous Goods Association (IVODGA) and the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) both sought removal of the requirements for bulk shipments, on the grounds of international harmonisation and port congestion; DGAC also asked that high flash point combustible liquids should be excepted from HMR when carried in specification packages smaller than 3,000 litres or when in a tank container in international commerce. A third petition came from US Custom Harvesters, dealing with a specific problem affecting seasonal agricultural work.