Friday, April 1, 2016

PHMSA Publishes Reverse Logistics Final Rule

Yesterday the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule in the Federal Register (81 FR 18527-18541) that provides a definition of ‘reverse logistics’ (essentially - returning shipments from retail stores to a product's manufacturer, supplier, or distribution facility) to the hazardous material regulations (HMR) and expands a previously existing exception for return shipments of used automobile batteries transported between a retail facility and a recycling center.

Reverse Logistics

PHMSA has made a number of changes to the definition of the term ‘reverse logistics’ from the definition offered in the NPRM. Those changes were based upon suggestions received in the public comments to the NPRM. Those changes include:

Removing the words ‘final destination’;
Modifying the definition to include both the process of offering hazmat for transport and the transport of hazmat;
Clarifying the concept of ‘capturing value’;
Removing the phrase ‘proper disposal’;
Clarifying that the term only applies to the return of hazardous materials from a retail store to the product's manufacturer, supplier, or distribution facility.

Covered Hazard Classes

PHMSA made a number of changes to the hazard classes affected by this rulemaking. In general the rule is consistent with existing limited quantity provisions of the HMR. One exception is that the final rule authorizes the transportation by private carrier of certain Division 2.1 and 2.2 cylinders without the cylinders being tested for pressure. Other exceptions that would be allowed when shipped by private carrier include:

• For the shipment of 1.4G (fireworks and flares);
• Division 2.1 and 2.2 cylinders (that do not qualify as limited quantity shipments) sold as retail products; and
• The return of equipment powered by flammable liquids or flammable gases.

The preamble to the rule includes a discussion of the changes that have been made concerning the reverse logistic shipment of Division 1.4 materials including fireworks, flares and ammunition.

In this final rule PHMSA is excluding the following classes from coverage under the reverse logistics rule:

• Division 4.1;
• Division 5.2;
• Division 6.1 (except consumer products in PG II and PG III, not including TIH material); and
• Division 6.2

Additionally, PHMSA is excluding any materials found in Table 1 of the §172.504 and is only including a portion of the materials found in Table II. PHMSA is also limiting Class 5 and Class 8 materials to only those in PG II or PG III. Return shipment of lithium batteries is not included in this rulemaking since this is already addressed in §173.185.


A number of the commenters proposed changes to the NPRM language on packaging. Based upon those comments PHMSA is making some changes to the packaging language. First it is adding language clarifying that packages should be in the original packaging or a package of similar strength and integrity. Next, they are setting a 30 kg (66 pound) limit for each package shipped under the reverse logistics section. Additionally, PHMSA is removing language that would have included provisions for shipping leaking containers under the reverse logistics rule.

In response to comments about reverse logistics shipments of powered equipment PHMSA is taking two actions. First it is allowing the return of internal combustion powered equipment by motor vehicle provided the fuel tank remains securely closed. Secondly it is limiting such shipments to transportation by private carrier.

Hazard Communication

After receiving a number of comments on the proposed hazard communication language in the NPRM, PHMSA made a substantial change in marking requirements. For shipments by private carrier PHMSA is requiring packages shipped under the reverse logistics provisions to be marked: “REVERSE LOGISTICS—HIGHWAY TRANSPORT ONLY—UNDER 49 CFR 173.157”. For any shipments not made by private carrier packages would be marked under the limited quantity provisions of the HMR.

Effective Dates

The effective date for this rule is the publication date; March 31st, 2016.

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