Hazardous Materials Movement During COVID-19 Health Emergency
PHMSA has issued a Frequently Asked Questions document regarding PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) related guidance published on the PHMSA website.
Several waivers have been issued for the movement of Hazardous Materials by commercial carrier.
- On April 2, the Transportation Security Administration issued a temporary exemption from requirements in 49 CFR part 1572 regarding expiration of TSA security threat assessments (STAs) for Hazardous Material Endorsement (HME) holders. This exemption allows states to extend an expiration for up to 180 days for those expiring between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.
- On April 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration gave notice of temporary relief from the packaging requirements for products containing ethyl alcohol, used in hand sanitizer, and will not take enforcement action against highway carriers for three months, or when the public health emergency is over, whichever is sooner. On April 10, 2020, PHMSA updated its guidance, and on June 24, 2020 PHMSA extended the expiration date through October 31, 2020.
- On March 23, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration gave notice that it would not take enforcement action against any carrier or offeror who is experiencing difficult in obtaining or providing recurrent training. The agency updated its guidance to extend through October 31, 2020.
- On July 9, 2020, PHMSA extended additional enforcement action waivers through October 31, 2020 for packaging retesting, for relief of tests and inspections of cargo tanks and portable tanks in Alaska, and for the transportation of certain hand sanitizing and disinfecting materials.
Hours of Service Reminder During COVID-19
The Hours of Service statutory requirements, which limit the service hours of specified railroad employees, are contained in Chapter 211, Title 49 of the U.S. Code. Included in the statute is a non-application provision, at 49 U.S. Code § 21102, commonly referred to as the “emergency provision,” and FRA policy concerning the emergency provision is found at Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 228, Appendix A. The policy statement stresses that even in an emergency situation the carrier must make reasonable efforts to relieve the employee.
Pursuant to FRA Hours of Service Record keeping regulations at 49 C.F.R. 228.19, each instance of excess service must be reported to FRA within 30 days after the calendar month in which the instance occurred. FRA requires use of its FRA Form 6180.3–Hours of Service Report.
The Small Business Administration
The SBA is open for business and has the ability to quickly process low-interest loans for small businesses that may need a short-term bridge. Click here to learn more from the SBA directly. Click here for a summary of SBA activities most relevant to short line railroads, produced by our friends at CC&H and the Seneca Group.
The Railroad Retirement Board
On April 7, 2020, an interim final rule amended the definition of “available for work,” due to COVID-19. §327.5 Meaning of ‘‘available for work” is revised as: (d) Deemed available for work. During the period extending from March 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020, a claimant will be deemed to be available for work during any period for which he or she is subject to a state or local order related to the public health emergency declared effective March 1, 2020 preventing him or her from reporting to work. The rule is effective as of April 3, 2020. Please direct any RRB-specific concerns to Sarah Yurasko.
The Surface Transportation Board
Starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all filings and other submissions should be made electronically. All Board decisions will continue to be available on the Board’s website during this time; however, the Board’s mail room will not be accepting paper filings or providing paper copies of decisions or other materials until further notice.
On April 22, the Board issued a letter urging state and local authorities, even as they begin to phase-out certain restrictions, to continue to recognize the importance of railroad operations and to support the ability of railroads and their supply chain partners to contribute to the national welfare. As we move from containment into recovery, the Board encourages anyone with questions regarding its authority to contact its Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program, available at (866) 254-1792 (toll-free) or 202-245-0238, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All reports we have heard so far indicate that the freight railroad network is operating normally. However, there are valid concerns among short lines about the ability to continue operations under a variety of scenarios: for instance, a large group of employees take sick or FMLA leave at the same time, a large group of employees are forced into self-quarantine after a confirmed case in the immediate community, etc.
Have something to add? We welcome your suggestions! Please share your COVID-19 resources with ASLRRA by emailing email@example.com