Congress orders DOT to get tough: Mineta proposes stringent new hazmat regs

| Friday, October 12, 2001

Oct. 11 -- Following a Senate hearing yesterday regarding the tightening of security in hazardous material shipments by truck, transportation secretary Norman Mineta answered with proposed legislation that would beef up the authority of DOT.

If passed, the legislation would: Strengthen DOT inspectors' authority to inspect packages in transportation; provide those inspectors with authority to stop seriously unsafe transportation; increase the maximum civil penalty for hazardous materials violations from $27,500 to $100,000; expand requirements for training those involved in the transportation of hazardous materials;strengthen the enforcement authority of DOT's state enforcement partners;provide the U.S. Postal Service with civil penalty authority to enforce its regulations on mail shipments of hazardous materials; address the current overlap of hazardous materials transportation regulations between DOT and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and allow participation by states in a coordinated program of hazardous material carrier registrations andpermits.

"We are proposing tough actions to address the serious problem of undeclared or hidden shipments of hazardous materials," said Mineta. "We are also asking for more authority to stop and inspect shipments,important to both security and safety."

At Senate committee hearing earlier in the day, DOT officials testified on safety issues. After hearing of some of the problems that have made trucking vulnerable, lawmakers asked DOT officials why longstanding recommendations have not been implemented. One suggestion was made that Congress should consider stripping the agency of its powers unless swift action is taken.

Yesterday afternoon, DOT vowed to develop tougher security measures and regulations. Among the federal regulations being considered include an English proficiency requirement for all hazmat drivers, fingerprinting or other identification technology to validate hazmat haulers and eliminating third-party assistance for obtaining CDLs and endorsements.

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