The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has adopted, retroactively, amendments to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) to maintain alignment with international standards by incorporating changes to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements. 80 Fed. Reg. ___ (January __, 2015).

PHMSA proposed the rule last summer (79 Fed. Reg. 50742) (August 25, 2014), indicating that the revisions were necessary to harmonize the HMRs with changes to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods—Model Regulations (UN Model Regulations).

The Agency indicates that “these changes ensure the domestic hazard classification, hazard communication and packaging requirements are consistent with those employed throughout the world.” To stress the importance of these amendments, PHMSA notes that “foreign trade of chemicals is a large segment of the United States economy. In 2000, U.S. foreign trade in chemicals totaled $154 billion and generated a $6 billion positive trade balance.”

The new rules were adopted effective January 1, 2015, with a “voluntary compliance date” beginning January 1, 2015, and a “delayed compliance date” of January 1, 2016. The “voluntary compliance date” provides the regulated community with the opportunity to use up old stock, such as shipping labels that refer to the wrong shipping names, prior to implementation of the required compliance in 2016.