USDOT proposes real-time hazmat information rule to improve freight rail safety

USDOT proposes real-time hazmat information rule to improve freight rail safety
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The proposal would require railroads to maintain and update real-time electronic information about hazardous materials shipments, accessible to authorized emergency response personnel.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a new proposal aimed at enhancing public safety and minimizing environmental impacts by strengthening regulations governing the provision of hazardous materials information to emergency responders during rail incidents. The proposed rule would require railroads to maintain and continuously update accurate electronic data on hazardous materials shipments within a train formation and ensure that authorized personnel have real-time access to this critical information. In addition, railroads would be required to proactively share this data with local first responders as soon as a hazmat incident is identified.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the importance of safely transporting hazardous materials, stating, “Our proposal would improve rail safety and help protect communities across the country by requiring railroads to maintain detailed, real-time information about trains carrying hazardous materials.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would require all railroads to generate, in hard copy and electronic versions, real-time train consist information for shipments containing hazardous materials. This information would include details such as quantity, position, origin, destination, and an emergency point of contact at the railroad.

By giving emergency responders on-demand access to critical information about hazardous materials shipments and enabling proactive data sharing, the proposed rule aims to empower first responders to better prepare for risks before they arrive on the scene. The proposal aligns with the congressional mandates outlined in the FAST Act and a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation, which emphasize the provision of electronic train consist information to emergency officials responding to hazmat incidents in railroads. 

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