HazMat Transportation

Hazmat Transporters: Can You Use a Smartphone for Your Emergency Response Information?

For the past 5 years, violations of emergency response (ER) information requirements have been among the top 10 violations uncovered by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) roadside inspectors. Yesterday we looked at the requirements and some scenarios that would or would not satisfy the ER information requirements. In this electronic age, one would think that you could use a mobile device to display any information. Let’s check to see if this applies to your ER information.

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Scenario 1: Mobile Phone on Dashboard

A motor carrier displays the required ER information in an unlocked mobile telephone attached to the motor vehicle’s dashboard. Does this satisfy the requirements for displaying hazardous materials (hazmat) transportation ER information?

Answer: Look at Shipping Paper Requirements

According to DOT officials, although many smartphones and other handheld devices have applications available that are capable of quickly retrieving the required ER information, the presence of a device equipped with such applications alone does not fulfill the requirement for displaying the information. The requirement, found at 49 CFR 172.602, states that the ER information must be:

  • Printed legibly in English;
  • Available for use away from the package containing the hazmat; and
  • Presented either:
    • On the shipping paper;
    • In a document, other than the shipping paper, that includes both the basic description and technical name of the hazmat; or
    • Related to the information on the shipping paper, in a separate document such as an ER document, in a manner that cross-references the description of the hazmat on the shipping paper with the ER information contained in the document.

In addition, motor carriers that transport hazmat must maintain the ER information in the same manner as shipping papers are required to be maintained. Shipping paper requirements for hazmat motor vehicle carriers require that the carriers ensure that the shipping paper is readily available to, and recognizable by, authorities in the event of an accident or inspection. The driver and the carrier must clearly distinguish the shipping paper, if it is carried with other shipping papers or other papers of any kind, by either distinctively tabbing it or by having it appear first.

In addition, there are requirements for storing shipping papers, depending on if the driver is at the controls:

  • When the driver is at the vehicle’s controls, the shipping paper must be within his or her immediate reach while restrained by the seat belt and either readily visible to a person entering the driver’s compartment or in a holder that is mounted to the inside of the door on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
  • When the driver is not at the vehicle’s controls, the shipping paper must be in a holder that is mounted to the inside of the door on the driver’s side of the vehicle or on the driver’s seat in the vehicle.

Scenario 2: At the Warehouse

A hazmat shipment is in the warehouse awaiting transport. Can the ER information be electronically based and printed when needed.

Answer: Need the Hard Copy

According to DOT officials, a printed hard copy of the ER information must be present at the facility where hazmat is received, stored, or handled during transportation.

Is There a Way Out of Hard Copies?

DOT has developed a free, mobile Web app of its Emergency Response Guidebook 2016 as a tool for emergency responders to provide fast, easily accessible information to help them manage hazardous material incidents. This software is available from the Apple® iTunes store for iPhone® and from the Google Play website for Android. However, currently, electronic files, including the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) App, cannot be substituted for hard copy documents to comply with the requirements of the ER information requirements.

DOT officials have pointed out, though, that one way to possibly obtain permission to display the ER information in another way, such as using a phone or other handheld device, would be to apply for a special permit.