[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 56 (Thursday, March 22, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 12529-12531]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-05785]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

49 CFR Parts 107, 171, 172, 173, 174, 177, 178, 179, and 180

[Docket No. PHMSA-2018-0001; Notice No. 2018-01]


Request for Information on Regulatory Challenges to Safely 
Transporting Hazardous Materials by Surface Modes in an Automated 
Vehicle Environment

AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Request for information.

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SUMMARY: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration 
(PHMSA) requests information on matters related to the development and 
potential use of automated technologies for surface modes (i.e., 
highway and rail) in hazardous materials transportation. In 
anticipation of the development, testing, and integration of Automated 
Driving Systems in surface transportation, PHMSA is issuing this 
request for information on the factors the Agency should consider to 
ensure continued safe transportation of hazardous materials without 
impeding emerging surface transportation technologies.

DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before 
May 7, 2018. Comments received after that date will be considered to 
the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by Docket Number PHMSA-
2018-0001 via any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments.
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Mail: Docket Operations, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Routing 
Symbol M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: To Docket Operations, Room W12-140 on the 
ground floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, 
Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.
    Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and 
docket number for this notice. Internet users

[[Page 12530]]

may access comments received by DOT at: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Please note that comments received will be posted without change to: 
http://www.regulations.gov including any personal information provided.
    Privacy Act: In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), the DOT solicits 
comments from the public. The DOT posts these comments, without edit, 
including any personal information the commenter provides, to http://www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice (DOT/
ALL-14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at http://www.dot.gov/privacy.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matthew Nickels, Senior Regulations 
Officer (PHH-10), U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and 
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
East Building, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001, Telephone 202-366-
0464, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Overview

    The transportation sector is undergoing a potentially revolutionary 
period, as tasks traditionally performed by humans only are 
increasingly being done, whether in testing or in actual integration, 
by automated technologies. Most prominently, ``Automated Driving 
Systems'' (ADS) have shown the capacity to drive and operate motor 
vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles, as safely and 
efficiently as humans, if not more so. Similar technological 
developments are also occurring in rail.
    DOT, including PHMSA, strongly encourages the safe development, 
testing, and integration of these automated technologies, including the 
potential for these technologies to be used in hazardous materials 
transportation. Although an exciting and important innovation in 
transportation history, the emergence of surface automated vehicles and 
the technologies that support them may create unique and unforeseen 
challenges for hazardous materials transportation. The safe 
transportation of hazardous materials remains PHMSA's top priority, and 
as the development, testing, and integration of surface automated 
vehicles into our transportation system continues, PHMSA must ensure 
the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) 
framework sufficiently takes into account these new technological 
innovations.
    The purpose of this request for information is to obtain public 
comment on how the development of automated technologies may impact the 
HMR, and on the information PHMSA should consider when determining how 
to best ensure the HMR adequately account for surface automated 
vehicles.\1\ In anticipation of the role surface automated vehicles and 
the technologies that support them may play on transportation, the 
movement of freight, and commerce, PHMSA requests comments from the 
public and interested stakeholders--including entities engaged in the 
development, testing, and integration of these technologies--on the 
potential future incompatibilities between the hazardous materials 
transportation requirements in the HMR and a surface transportation 
system that incorporates automated vehicles.
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    \1\ In this notice, PHMSA is not seeking comment on how advances 
in aviation or maritime technology could affect the transportation 
of hazardous materials, though the Agency is considering future 
notices on those issues.
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II. PHMSA's Safety Mission and Regulatory Objectives

    PHMSA is an operating administration within DOT established in 2004 
by the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act 
(Pub. L. 108-426). PHMSA's mission is to protect people and the 
environment by advancing the safe transportation of energy and other 
hazardous materials that are essential to our daily lives. To achieve 
this mission, PHMSA establishes national policy, sets and enforces 
standards, educates, and conducts research to prevent hazardous 
materials incidents--often collaborating closely with other Federal 
agencies, operating administrations, and transportation modes.
    Federal hazardous materials law authorizes the Secretary to 
``prescribe regulations for the safe transportation, including 
security, of hazardous materials in intrastate, interstate, and foreign 
commerce.'' 49 U.S.C. 5103(b)(1). The Secretary has delegated this 
authority to PHMSA in 49 CFR 1.97(b). The HMR are designed to achieve 
three primary goals: (1) Help ensure that hazardous materials are 
packaged and handled safely and securely during transportation; (2) 
provide effective communication to transportation workers and emergency 
responders of the hazards of the materials being transported; and (3) 
minimize the consequences of an accident or incident should one occur. 
The hazardous materials regulatory system is a risk management system 
that is prevention-oriented and focused on identifying safety or 
security hazards and reducing the probability and consequences of a 
hazardous material release.
    Under the HMR, hazardous materials are categorized into hazard 
classes and packing groups based on analysis of and experience with the 
risks they present during transportation. The HMR: (1) Specify 
appropriate packaging and handling requirements for hazardous materials 
based on this classification and require a shipper to communicate the 
material's hazards through the use of shipping papers, package marking 
and labeling, and vehicle placarding; (2) require shippers to provide 
emergency response information applicable to the specific hazard or 
hazards of the material being transported; and (3) mandate training 
requirements for persons who prepare hazardous materials for shipment 
or transport hazardous materials in commerce. The HMR also include 
operational requirements applicable to each mode of transportation.
    As such, PHMSA--in continued collaboration with the Federal Motor 
Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration--
seeks information regarding the design, development, and potential use 
of automated transportation systems to safely transport hazardous 
materials by surface mode in compliance with the HMR, and to identify 
requirements within the HMR which may impede the integration of this 
technology.

III. Special Permit Program Allows Regulatory Flexibility To Foster 
Innovation

    PHMSA safely incorporates technological innovation through its 
special permit (SP) program. SPs set forth alternative requirements--or 
a variance--to the requirements in the HMR in a manner that achieves an 
equivalent level of safety to that required under the regulations, or 
if a required safety level does not exist, that is consistent with the 
public interest. PHMSA's Approvals and Permits Division is responsible 
for the issuance of DOT SPs. Specifically, SPs are issued by PHMSA 
under 49 CFR part 107, subpart B.
    The HMR often provide performance-based standards and, as such, 
provide the regulated community with some flexibility in meeting safety 
requirements. Even so, not every transportation situation can be 
anticipated and covered under the regulations. The hazardous materials 
community is at the cutting edge of development of new materials, 
technologies, and innovative ways of moving hazardous materials. 
Innovation

[[Page 12531]]

strengthens our economy, and new technologies and operational 
techniques may enhance safety. Thus, SPs provide a mechanism for 
testing and using new technologies, promoting increased transportation 
efficiency and productivity, and ensuring global competitiveness 
without compromising safety. SPs enable the hazardous materials 
industry to safely, quickly, and effectively integrate new products and 
technologies into production and the transportation stream.

IV. Additional DOT Guidance

    PHMSA requests information related to the development and potential 
use of surface automated vehicles and the technologies that support 
them in hazardous materials transportation by highway or rail. For 
additional background on ADS for motor vehicles, PHMSA notes that DOT 
and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released 
guidance in the Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety,\2\ 
on September 12, 2017. Further, NHTSA issued a notice [September 15, 
2017; 82 FR 43321] making the public aware of the guidance and seeking 
comment. This voluntary guidance, among other things, describes the 
levels of ``Automated Driving Systems'' for on-road motor vehicles 
developed by SAE International (see SAE J3016, September 2016) and 
adopted by DOT.
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    \2\ See https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/13069a-ads2.0_090617_v9a_tag.pdf
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    The SAE definitions divide vehicles into levels based on ``who does 
what, when.'' Generally:
     At SAE Level 0, the driver does everything.
     At SAE Level 1, an automated system on the vehicle can 
sometimes assist the driver conduct some parts of the driving task.
     At SAE Level 2, an automated system on the vehicle can 
actually conduct some parts of the driving task, while the driver 
continues to monitor the driving environment and performs the rest of 
the driving task.
     At SAE Level 3, an automated system can both actually 
conduct some parts of the driving task and monitor the driving 
environment in some instances, but the driver must be ready to take 
back control when the automated system requests.
     At SAE Level 4, an automated system can conduct the 
driving task and monitor the driving environment, and the driver need 
not take back control, but the automated system can operate only in 
certain environments and under certain conditions.
     At SAE Level 5, the automated system can perform all 
driving tasks, under all conditions that a driver could perform them.

V. Questions

    PHMSA requests comments on the implications of the development, 
testing, and integration of automated technologies for surface modes 
(i.e., highway and rail) on both the HMR and the general transport of 
hazardous materials.
    Specifically, PHMSA asks:
    1. What are the safety, regulatory, and policy implications of the 
design, testing, and integration of surface automated vehicles on the 
requirements in the HMR? Please include any potential solutions PHMSA 
should consider.
    2. What are potential regulatory incompatibilities between the HMR 
and a future surface transportation system that incorporates automated 
vehicles? Specific HMR areas could include but are not limited to:

(a) Emergency response information and hazard communication
(b) Packaging and handling requirements, including pre-transportation 
functions
(c) Incident response and reporting
(d) Safety and security plans (e.g., en route security)
(e) Modal requirements (e.g., highway and rail)

    3. Are there specific HMR requirements that would need 
modifications to become performance-based standards that can 
accommodate an automated vehicle operating in a surface transportation 
system?
    4. What automated surface transportation technologies are under 
development that are expected to be relevant to the safe transport of 
hazardous materials, and how might they be used in a surface 
transportation system?
    5. Under what circumstances do freight operators envision the 
transportation of hazardous materials in commerce using surface 
automated vehicles within the next 10 years?
    (a) To what extent do the HMR restrict the use of surface automated 
vehicles in the transportation of hazardous materials in non-bulk 
packaging in parcel delivery and less-than-truckload freight shipments 
by commercial motor vehicles?
    (b) To what extent do the HMR restrict the use of surface automated 
vehicles in the transportation of hazardous materials in bulk packaging 
by rail and commercial motor vehicles?
    6. What issues do automated technologies raise in hazardous 
materials surface transportation that are not present for human drivers 
or operators that PHMSA should address?
    7. Do HMR requirements that relate to the operation of surface 
automated vehicles carrying hazardous materials present different 
challenges than those that relate to ancillary tasks, such as 
inspections and packaging requirements?
    8. What solutions could PHMSA consider to address potential future 
regulatory incompatibilities between the HMR and surface automated 
vehicle technologies?
    9. What should PHMSA consider when reviewing applications for 
special permits seeking regulatory flexibility to allow for the 
transport of hazardous materials using automated technologies for 
surface modes?
    10. When considering long-term solutions to challenges the HMR may 
present to the development, testing, and integration of surface 
automated vehicles, what information and other factors should PHMSA 
consider?
    11. What should PHMSA consider when developing future policy, 
guidance, and regulations for the safe transportation of hazardous 
materials in surface transportation systems?

    Signed in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2018.
Drue Pearce,
Deputy Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety 
Administration.
[FR Doc. 2018-05785 Filed 3-21-18; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-60-P