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Per FMCSA rule, hazmat hauler rail crossings now more limited

| September 26, 2013

Drivers hauling hazmat may no longer cross a highway-rail grade crossing unless there is sufficient space to drive completely through without stopping, per a rule made final this week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 

Compliance with the new regulation must begin Oct. 25. The rule applies to haulers of certain hazardous materials, agents and toxins.

The regulation will yield just shy of $1 million in benefits annually, says FMCSA, via avoided crashes at highway-rail crossings. 

The rule was first proposed in 2011, and the rule made final this addresses requirements in the MAP-21 highway funding law. 

The American Trucking Associations and the National Tank Truck Carriers said signs should be mandated at the 21,208 crossings that truckers cannot drive completely through without stopping. The FMCSA and the PHMSA said they lacked statutory authority for this mandate.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association commented the rule erroneously assumes drivers are aware of inadequate crossings. OOIDA and the Nebraska Department of Roads pointed out rural and industrial areas have many crossings lacking reasonable detour routes.

The officials acknowledged a hazmat driver in this situation could be forced to stop unexpectedly before clearing the track. “The agencies encourage enforcement discretion in those circumstances,” they wrote.

Carriers are mandated to provide route plans to hazmat drivers and this should include preparation for grade crossings “to the extent practicable.”

The agencies advocated planning to include discussions train schedules with railroad companies, a practice of the specialized equipment hauling industry and a recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rule acknowledges a NTSB finding that shippers and receivers sometimes are aware of logistical problems that they do not share with carriers. “Therefore, motor carriers and brokers should ask shippers and receivers about any logistical or physical challenges that might exist near, or on the roads leading to, loading and delivery locations,” the agencies responded.

Last June, the Federal Railroad Administration released a mobile phone application for Apple brand iPhone TM and iPad TM users. “Although this app will not provide complete information to ensure compliance with the rule, it will assist drivers in more strategically planning their routes,” they stated.

Click here to see the Final Rule.

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