Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
Attorneys at Law
In this issue we’ll address some concerns and problems that many drivers have had with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and violations for failing to register as a hazardous materials carrier.
QUESTION: I picked up a hazmat load and complied with all of the required documentation and placarding. But when I was stopped and inspected in Ohio, I was given a violation for failure to file a uniform hazmat application. I have a Hazardous Materials Certificate of Registration from the USDOT, so what’s the deal?
ANSWER: Ohio is a member of the Alliance of Uniform Hazardous Materials Transportation Procedures. This alliance among seven states (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia) operates under a uniform program, much like the International Registration Plan. Under the program, a hazmat carrier must register with one of the participating states and receive a permit. Once the permit is approved, it is valid in all seven states.
You were cited by PUCO under the Ohio Administrative Code, which requires motor carriers transporting placard-required hazmat loads through Ohio to register with PUCO or with one of the other states in the alliance. In these particular states, just having the USDOT Certificate of Registration does not satisfy this requirement.
QUESTION: What can PUCO do to me for non-compliance?
ANSWER: PUCO is authorized to assess a civil forfeiture of up to $10,000 per day of violation for failure to register as a hazmat carrier. However, the amount varies on a laundry list of factors, including the type of violation and number of citations. Generally, first-time offenders are assessed $500 to $1,000 for failing to register.
If apparent violations are discovered, you will receive a letter from PUCO regarding “notice of apparent violation and intent to assess forfeiture.” The notice also will include the particular code sections you allegedly have violated. You either can pay the forfeiture amount, or ask for an administrative hearing to contest the matter. You also will be given additional time to file for the uniform hazmat registration.
QUESTION: So how do I get into compliance with PUCO?
ANSWER: You need to register with PUCO as a hazardous materials carrier, or through your base state if it participates in the uniform program. If your state does not participate in the uniform program, then you need to file in the state where you record the most miles traveled that is a signatory of the uniform program and requires the national permit.
Since the majority of enforcement action has been coming from Ohio, you might want to contact PUCO for further information and a registration form at the following:
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
180 East Broad Street, 5th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3793
Or you can download the Ohio application atwww.puc.state.oh.us/trans/HazMat/HazMatforms/hazmatforms.html. If you want additional information about the Uniform Hazardous Materials Program, visit www.subnet.nga.org/alliance/. For those who want to delve into the history of the whole affair, visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetyprogs/hm/uppp.htm.
We hope you can use the information in this column to help with everyday, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to Road Law, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK, 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558; contact us through our Web site at www.roadlaw.net; or call us at (405) 272-0555. We look forward to hearing from you.