Many companies distributing products classified as hazardous materials under DOT regulations at 49 C.F.R. struggle with the tension between providing qualify customer service by accepting returns of product with the difficulty in ensuring DOT compliance during transportation of the returned product. Some distributors use their own vehicles to pick-up returns; others rely on the customer to figure it out. The complexity of the DOT hazmat regulations makes these transactions tricky, but they are occurring with great frequency as distributors strive to be service oriented and develop customer loyalty.
DOT recognizes that returned hazmat products may justify a more relaxed approach because they pose less of threat to commerce and the environment, and because encouraging product returns discourages their improper handling and disposal. On July 5, 2012, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this subject. 77 Fed.Reg. 39662. Distributors of any product that is classified as DOT hazmat should take note of this opportunity to comment on the benefits derived by encouraging returns of hazmat products without imposing regulatory constraints that have the ultimate effect of discouraging environmental protection and increasing the costs of doing business.