On Wednesday, April 17, 2013, PHMSA issued a final rule increasing civil penalties for certain knowing violations of the Federal Hazardous Material Transportation Laws and Regulations. The penalties were increased to reflect changes mandated by Congress in 2012 amending 49 U.S.C. § 5123(a). The increased maximum penalties apply to violations occurring on or after August 1, 2012.

Maximum penalties for a knowing violation of federal hazardous material transportation requirements increased to $75,000 (or $175,000 if the violation results in death, serious personal injury or substantial destruction of property).  Similarly, a knowing violation of hazardous material transportation requirements applicable to the design, manufacturer, fabrication inspection, marking, etc., of a package or container which is represented to be qualified for use for the transportation of hazardous materials was similarly increased to a maximum of $75,000 for each violation and $175,000 if the violation results in death, serious personal injury or substantial destruction of property.  Consistent with current law, each day of violation is subject to the maximum penalty (except for violation related to packaging or manufacturer qualifications).  Accordingly, multi-day violations can result in substantial penalties.

The PHMSA rulemaking also eliminated a required minimum penalty for most violations except for a $450 minimum penalty for violation of training requirements.  Nevertheless, the preamble to the rule clearly indicates that PHMSA intends to demand penalties in most circumstances.