HazMat Transportation

DOT’s New Hazmat Reverse Logistics Rule—What Retailers Need to Know

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently finalized efforts to make reverse logistics easier for retailers that have to ship hazardous materials. Yesterday we provided an overview of the new reverse logistics rule. Today we review some specific requirements for those retailers who choose to avail themselves of this new rule’s regulatory flexibility.

Three Caveats

It is critical to note that the new regulation applies only to highway transportation and does not apply to hazardous waste. It also does not apply to hazardous materials that are transported according to the provisions of a special permit.

Rule Is Optional

Since the new rule is less strict than the applicable hazardous materials regulations (HMRs), it is optional. Retailers can choose to continue to operate under the full requirements of the HMRs. The new rule, found at 49 CFR 173.157, provides a definition of reverse logistics and sets out requirements for packaging, hazard communication, employee training, segregation of hazardous materials, and incident reporting. It also provides relaxed requirements for the transportation of lead-acid batteries intended for recycling.

A New Definition

The final rule defines “reverse logistics” as “the process of offering for transport or transporting by motor vehicle goods from a retail store for return to its manufacturer, supplier, or distribution facility for the purpose of capturing value, recall, replacement, recycling, or similar reason.”

Which Hazardous Materials Are Covered?

The new rule applies only to highway shipments of hazardous materials that meet the definition of reverse logistics. In addition, except for alternative training provisions, the shipments must meet the HMRs limited quantity requirements.

The reverse logistics rule is not applicable to the following hazardous materials:

  • Most Class 1 materials (explosives) except for Division 1.4G materials and Division 1.4S flares and fireworks under certain conditions;
  • Class 2 materials (gases), including all Division 2.3 (poisonous by inhalation) but excepting Division 2.1 and 2.2 gases under certain conditions;
  • Class 4, Division 4.2 (spontaneously combustible materials) and self-reactive materials;
  • Class 5, Division 5.2 (organic peroxides);
  • Class 6, Division 6.2 (infectious substances);
  • Class 7 (radioactive materials); and
  • Lithium batteries under Class 9 (miscellaneous hazardous materials).

Certain hazardous materials that are offered for transport or that are transported by private carriers are subject to other limitations, including that they must comply with the HMR segregation requirements at 49 CFR 177.848 and the incident reporting requirements at 49 CFR 171.15. These are:

  • Division 1.4G ammunition, Division 1.4G and 1.4S fireworks, and flares, when sold in retail stores, are limited to 66 pounds (lb) per package.
  • Equipment powered by flammable liquids or flammable gases:
    • For flammable, liquid-powered equipment powered an internal combustion engine, the fuel tank and fuel lines must be closed, and the fuel tank caps or closures must be securely in place.
    • For flammable, gas-powered equipment, e.g., a combustion engine or devices such as camping equipment, lighting devices, or torch kits, the flammable gas source must be disconnected, and all shut-off devices must be closed.
  • Division 2.1 or 2.2 compressed gases must weigh less than 66 lb and must be sold as retail products. Cylinders and aerosol containers may be assumed to meet the definition of 2.1 (cylinders) or 2.2 (aerosols) materials even if the exact pressure is not.

Hazard Communication

Instead of the surface limited quantity marking, retailers transporting hazardous material by private carrier may use the marking “REVERSE LOGISTICS—HIGHWAY TRANSPORT ONLY—UNDER 49 CFR 173.157.”

Training Eased a Bit

Retail employers who choose not to train under the full-blown HMRs at 49 CFR 172.700 to172.704 are required to:

  • Identify the hazardous materials at the facility that are subject to the reverse logistics rule;
  • Verify compliance with any conditions and limitations;
  • Ensure that there are clear instructions from the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor and that the instructions are known and accessible to the employees who are preparing the shipment;
  • Document that the employees are familiar with the reverse logistics rule as well as the specific return instructions for the products; and
  • Keep the training documentation as long as the person is employed plus 60 days after employment ended.

What about batteries?

The reverse logistics rule allows for the pickup of used lead-acid batteries (for retailers, these are mostly automotive batteries) from multiple retail locations for the purposes of recycling as long as the pallets are built so that they will not cause damage to another pallet during transportation. Any batteries loaded in the same vehicle must be secured to prevent contact with or damage to other batteries. Shipments of these batteries are subject to the incident reporting requirements at 49 CFR 171.15.

Need some tips and tools for compliance with DOT’s hazardous materials transportation requirements? Be sure to check Enviro.BLR.com® to round out your compliance program.