Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rail Transportation Security – Reporting Railcar Locations

This is another in a series of blogs that will look at the requirements of the recently released final rule on Rail Transportation Security. While the main focus of this regulation is directed at railroads, there are significant provisions (49 CFR part 1580, Subpart B) that will apply to a wide variety of chemical facilities that use railroad to ship or receive ‘specified quantities and types of hazardous materials’ {§1580.100(b)}.

This blog deals with the provisions requiring facilities to be able to report locations of hazmat railcars. Earlier blogs in this series were:
Rail Transportation Security – RSC Requirement
Rail Transportation Security – Reporting Security Concerns
Rail Transportation Security – Rail Car Chain of Custody
Rail Transportation Security – Inspection Authority

Railroads, hazmat receiving facilities located in high threat urban areas (HTUA) and all hazmat shippers must be prepared to report to TSA the location and status of covered railcars in their physical possession when requested by TSA. While railroads have different time standards depending on the size of the railroad, all covered chemical facilities must be able to report this information within 30 minutes of it being requested {§ 1580.103}.

Provide TSA with 24-hour Contact Number 

To allow TSA to initiate the request for information, every covered facility is required to provide TSA with a contact telephone number that is manned 24-hours a day {§1580.103(g)}. This is a separate requirement from the RSC contact information (though the RSC might serve this purpose if they have timely access to the required information). There must be a live person answering the phone, no answering machines or beepers.

The person answering the phone must be able to act on the information request. Answering services that just notify someone to contact TSA will not fulfill the requirement {§1580.103(g)(2)}. The preamble notes that as long as “the individual who answers TSA's telephone call can provide accurate information within the specified timeframe, paragraph (f) {there is an apparent typo in the Federal Register, this should read ‘(g)’} permits the regulated party to use a designated third party or agent to meet this performance standard” (page 72155).

Information Required

Section 1580.103(c) lists the information that must be provided to TSA. The information includes:
Facility Location (City, county and state) Whether it is a shipper or receiver facility Each rail car’s initial and number A list of the total number of railcars containing covered materials broken down by proper shipping name, hazard class and UN number
Since ‘residue quantities’ of PIH materials are excluded from the covered material definition {§ 1580.100(b)(2)}, emptied railcars do not need to be reported. For shipping facilities, once any amount of the covered material has been loaded onto an empty or ‘residue’ car, it would be reportable.

Method of Transmitting Information

Section 1580.103(f) lists a number of different methods that may be used to transmit the information back to TSA. These include:
Electronic transmission in spread sheet, HTML or XML format Fax of a hard copy spread sheet Posting to a secure website approved by TSA
There is a listing for “Another format approved by TSA” {§ 1580.103(f)(6)}. The preamble makes it clear that “TSA anticipates that a railroad carrier or rail hazardous materials facility may use this provision when they receive a request for information on only one rail car and can provide the answer easily by telephone” (page 72155). In other words, for a report on one or two railcars, TSA is willing to take the information verbally over the phone.

There is an interesting omission in this section. The description of the fax format reads “a hard copy spreadsheet in tabular format” (emphasis added) {§ 1580.103(f)(4)}. None of the descriptions of electronic formats includes the phrase ‘in tabular format’. The requirement for tabular format cannot even be assumed to be required because the electronic format descriptions come before the fax description. This is an extremely odd omission.

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