Trucking Seeks Approval of Electronic Documents for Hazmat

The American Trucking Associations and the National Tank Truck Carriers petitioned the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for a rulemaking to allow motor carriers to use electronic shipping documents for hazardous materials, according to news reports.

In a letter to PHMSA, the trade groups ask that the agency “begin a rulemaking to allow offerors and transporters of hazardous materials by motor carrier to use and accept electronic shipping papers and shipper’s certifications on the same basis as offerors and carriers of hazardous materials by rail. The letter, dated Nov. 11, was published in Transport Topics, a trade paper published by ATA. It read, in part:

“NTTC and ATA ask that PHMSA amend [regulations] to the extent that those provisions require the shipping paper to accompany the shipment by being physically present on the vehicle. The petitioners seek new requirements for shipments by motor carrier that are similar or identical to those in [a regulation that] specifically authorizes rail carriers to accept shipping paper information from an offeror of hazardous materials either telephonically or electronically (EDI).

“Additionally, NTTC and ATA ask that the signature requirements for a shipper’s certification…be amended to allow for transmission by telephone or electronically, as is allowed for rail shipments…

“For many years, shippers and carriers of general freight by commercial motor vehicle have developed a number of protocols for the electronic interchange of shipping documents. Companies routinely use electronic data interchange capabilities to transfer information about the nature and count of products being shipped, the date and time of pickup and delivery, and related commercial and legal language. Many of these commodities are time and/or security sensitive, and EDI technology has facilitated the safe and efficient transport of these products.

“Most recently, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the declaration of a National Emergency1 by President Trump, companies have redoubled their efforts to develop procedures that avoid human-to-human transmission of the virus. For example, on June 29, 2020, the Consumer Brands Association launched the Contactless Delivery Task Force to bring together manufacturers, supply chain partners and retailers to develop standards for reducing human contact when moving freight from Class 8 vehicles to last-mile drop-offs. See Transport Topics, July 13, 2020, at 3.

“The task force now includes 25 consumer packaged goods companies and retailers. This task force reportedly will first look at electronic bills of lading, but will consider electronic delivery verification and document digitization more generally as the effort progresses. The Transport Topics article describes how electronic document interchange allows companies to build efficient and resilient supply chains by reducing entry error; increasing visibility to over, short or damaged shipments; lowering transportation costs; and improving the environmental footprint of the transportation system.”

NTTC’s membership comprises 600 companies that specialize in bulk transportation services by cargo tank throughout North America, according to the letter.

ATA is a united federation of motor carriers, state trucking associations, and national trucking conferences. Directly and through its affiliated organizations, ATA represents more than 30,000 motor carriers in the United States encompassing every type and class of motor carrier operation.

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