Feds override DC hazmat ban

May 1, 2006
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced that federal hazardous-materials transportation laws preempt District of Columbia rules that ban hazmat transport within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building without a license. On April 10, the agency published an Administrative Determination of Preemption in the Federal Register that overturned the current ban. The controversy

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced that federal hazardous-materials transportation laws preempt District of Columbia rules that ban hazmat transport within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building without a license. On April 10, the agency published an “Administrative Determination of Preemption” in the Federal Register that overturned the current ban.

The controversy began when the Council of the District of Columbia enacted a temporary ban in February 2005, dubbed the Terrorism Prevention in Hazardous Materials Transportation Emergency Act of 2005.

Although that Act has since expired, the Council enacted new rules with similar language.

The District of Columbia Council's Act bans hazmat transport and vehicles capable of transporting such freight within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building without a license issued by the District of Columbia Dept. of Transportation (DCDOT).

The DCDOT was authorized to implement safety measures such as time-of-day restrictions as well as to levy a fee for permits. Yellow Roadway Corp. (recently renamed YRC Worldwide) said if the District of Columbia Act went unchallenged, other cities and local governments could enact their own rules.

The LTL carrier pointed out that the additional miles associated with rerouting hazardous materials would increase exposure, and that adhering to a patchwork of local hazmat laws would be confusing and costly.

In 1990, Congress enacted federal hazardous material transportation rules, underscoring that uniform regulations were vital to avoid “unreasonable hazards in other jurisdictions and confounding shippers and carriers which attempt to comply with multiple and conflicting…requirements.”

FMCSA published the Administration Determination of Preemption in response to a petition filed by ATA last year.

The notice wasn't the first time DOT weighed in against the district's restrictive hazmat measures. In March 2005, the Surface Transportation Board issued a comment that federal regs preempt the ban.

“We are very pleased DOT ruled the District's attempts to export risks are preempted,” Tom Lynch, vp & general counsel for the National Tank Truck Carriers told Fleet Owner.

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