Keeping Up with Changes to the Dangerous Goods Transportation Regulations

Robert Smith | February 2, 2014 | Dangerous Goods/Hazmat, Export Compliance
Print this article:
Keeping Up with Changes to the Dangerous Goods Transportation Regulations | Shipping Solutions

Staying current with your training certification is only part of your responsibilities as a hazmat/dangerous goods shipper. It's equally important to keep well-informed about any changes to the regulations and how they might affect your business.

Imagine you received your initial compliance training for shipping dangerous goods by air and the following year the regulations have a new mandatory requirement that previously didn't exist and wasn't covered in your initial training. Since the international air regulations—the International Civil Aviation Organization's Technical Instructions (ICAO TI)—only requires recurrent training every 24 months, a shipper who isn't vigilant about monitoring regulatory changes might find out about these new requirements the hard way—from a third party after the goods have already shipped.

Sometime it's a relatively easy fix; your non-compliant consignment will be refused by cargo acceptance staff, and you will receive a report of non-compliance with the returned shipment—if it's legal to return by truck. The term frustrated consignment is applied here, although I'm not sure if it applies just to the shipment.

What if you ship by FedEx to Glasgow? The FedEx U.S. hub is in Memphis and their European hub is in Paris. That's three flight acceptance checkpoints to ensure your consignment is correct. Now what if the error does somehow get overlooked on initial acceptance and arrives at another airport for possible interlining overseas, and the cargo acceptance staff pick up the mistake there? In that case you'll have: 1) delayed delivery; 2) extra costs to correct the error and re-ship; 3) a possible non-compliance fine; and 4) a frustrated shipment and shipper.

I'm reminded of an air shipment involving a Division 6.1 toxic solid going to Brunei, interlining via Schiphol. The total package weight was within the acceptable quantity limits for cargo aircraft, but because of a recent change in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations' packing instructions, the shipper was unaware that the weight of one of the inner containers was over the new acceptable limit for inner packages. The error wasn't noticed until a Dutch Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) inspector questioned the package, had it opened, and discovered the mistake. The shipper then had to find a re-packer in Amsterdam qualified to handle dangerous goods, reschedule the shipment, and pay a fine of 3,500 Euros. We now review their product packaging with an annual audit to ensure all there packaging formats are in compliance.

For U.S. domestic transportation only, checking with the latest version of the federal regulations (CFR49) is relatively easy. Simply go online to the Government Printing Office (GPO) website and check the electronic version or go to the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrations (PHMSA) website and click on the Regulations hyperlink. I would strongly suggest saving this link to your web browser's favorites list.

Shipping by air is a little more complicated since ICAO and IATA don't have electronic versions. They do publish the changes on the web, but you need to know where to look. The ICAO's regulations are found in ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air. This publication is produced biennially and is now in its second year (2013/2014). These regulations are the basic legal requirements for shipping dangerous goods internationally by air. There have been three addenda and three corrigenda since it first published in January 2013. All six changes can be found online.

As most airlines (operators) are members of IATA, their regulations for carrying dangerous goods, called the DGR, incorporates the ICAO's TI as its basis. There is nothing in the DGR that is less restrictive than the Technical Instructions. If you have been trained using the IATA DGR you'll know that the pointing finger in the margins means that particular part referenced is in addition to the ICAO TI regulations. IATA publishes its DGR annually, and even though their regulations aren't used as a legal reference, the fact remains it's tricky to work in the industry without having them as a reference.

These days air transport is a fragile business with operators and their businesses changing frequently. Interlining would be a major headache without this common reference. The current price for the DGR ($275) is now getting critical, and I see this becoming a possible cause for non-compliance with shipper's pinching budgets. There is little change from the ICAO regulations as of last month other than what is mentioned above. However there are still changes that you need to verify and see if they affect your operation: IATA DGR 55th Edition addendum 1.

For transportation by vessel the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code has a unique sequence for compliance. The current edition, called the 2012 Edition incorporating amendment 12-36, actually became mandatory this year (2014). It was introduced last year and shippers could voluntary comply. There is always a one year overlap from the previous edition. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) had one change in December 2013: IMDG Code Errata & Corrigenda Amendment 12-36. This is another example of where your training probably did not cover these mandatory changes. The IMO requires shipper training to be that of the country of origin's competent authority. In the U.S., it's the Department of Transportation (DOT), and they require three years as the minimum. Again the regulations can change, and you must stay in compliance with the current regulations regardless of when your training occurred.

As you can see, regulatory compliance is not just about training. It also requires shippers staying vigilant about the regulatory changes that might affect them as well. Large corporations have regulatory departments. Having a regulatory specialist is a luxury for some companies and leaves the responsible small-business owner with more work keeping an eye out for possible changes that could be crucial. You can learn more about training and monitoring options at CARGOpak.