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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 1 Introduction Shipments of hazardous materials come in many sizes and forms, pose many kinds and degrees of hazard, and are moved by nearly all modes of transportation through all parts of the country. Ensuring the safe, secure, and efficient movement of these cargoes requires the concerted efforts of both industry and government. The actions of private companies that produce and ship hazardous materials, which range from household paints and motor fuel to explosives and radioactive wastes, are especially important. They must be sure that shipments are properly packaged, labeled, and accompanied by accurate information on contents, quantities, and emergency contacts. In turn, the carriers of these shipments must provide a safe and secure operating environment, both in terminal areas and en route. Shippers and carriers must be sure that all hazard information is properly displayed, accurate, and available for emergency personnel. The public sector’s role is equally important. With the exception of railroads, state and local governments own and operate much of the fixed transportation infrastructure on which these shipments pass, such as airports, seaports, rural farm roads, and Interstate highways. They are responsible for enforcing traffic safety laws and regulations, and their police and fire officials are often the first to arrive on the scene of a hazardous materials incident. These officials must know how to react in the event of an incident, when circumstances can be chaotic, confusing, and dangerous to the public. The federal government’s role is largely to ensure that safe and secure practices are uniformly applied and followed by shippers and carriers. Having a national perspective, the federal government is in the best position to ensure safety and security on a systemwide basis. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Office
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 of Hazardous Materials Safety promulgates safety regulations that cover all modes of transportation. International bodies, such as the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods,1 assist in the development of standards for uniformity in packaging, labeling, and hazard communication for shipments in world trade. The many entities responsible for the safety and security of hazardous materials shipments are by no means homogeneous. The tens of thousands of individual shippers, carriers, and receivers span nearly all industries. Thousands of state and local agencies have relevant responsibilities ranging from public safety and security to public health and environmental protection. Even at the federal level, more than a dozen agencies have important roles in the transportation of hazardous materials. In light of the many entities responsible for hazardous materials transportation, the consistently good safety record of this enterprise is impressive. Major incidents involving fatalities, injuries, and public evacuations are rare, and they have become rarer over time, even as the volume of shipments has grown. Nevertheless, maintaining this safety record is becoming increasingly challenging as hazardous materials traffic grows and becomes more intermodal and international in nature. Movements of hazardous commodities, like those of many other kinds of freight in highly competitive markets, are dictated by world prices and just-in-time inventorying and manufacturing practices. The volumes, routes, and modes of shipment are not fixed, and liberalization and growth in international trade mean that more and more shipments arrive from and head to markets abroad. This dynamic environment is sure to present many new challenges and concerns. SOLUTIONS THROUGH COOPERATIVE RESEARCH Ensuring safety in a changing transportation environment requires vigilance in detecting emerging problems and finding and implementing solutions. The fragmentation of the hazardous materials transportation sector, however, can mean that problems shared by many entities are 1 The full committee name is the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 not readily understood to have significance collectively. Individual organizations, public and private, may not have the incentive or resources to search for solutions to a problem, especially when it is viewed in isolation rather than from multiple perspectives. The concept of a formal and ongoing means of cooperation in the search for solutions to shared problems is not new. There are many examples of organizations cooperating in the funding, programming, and conduct of research. Many industry associations support cooperative research projects on a periodic basis, and some, such as the Electric Power Research Institute started by the nation’s electric utilities more than 30 years ago, have created large and lasting cooperative research organizations. A long-standing research program in the transportation field is the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which was initiated more than 40 years ago by state highway and transportation departments seeking solutions to shared problems encountered in building, operating, and maintaining the nation’s network of highways. There are also research programs jointly funded and administered by industry and government, such as the Health Effects Institute, which has been cosponsored for more than two decades by the automotive industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to understand better the effects of automobile emissions on air quality and human health. All of these programs seek solutions to problems and concerns shared by multiple parties, who cooperate in defining, coordinating, and overseeing the research. The main indication of the success of such programs is that they have been able to sustain funding for such a long period on a voluntary basis. Apparently, the organizations cooperating in the sponsorship of these research programs have found the research products to be useful and cost-effective; otherwise, they would not continue to volunteer the program funding. GENESIS OF THE STUDY In many ways, interest in a cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation stems from the same basic concern that led Congress to create a single DOT agency to oversee hazardous materials transportation safety during the 1970s. The concern was that industry
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 and institutional fragmentation was impeding the systemwide management of the risks of hazardous materials transportation. By the 1990s, when the idea of a cooperative research program was first being raised, the environmental and human health effects of hazardous materials releases had become more prominent concerns, along with the traditional concern about public safety. Long before, it had become apparent that a mode-by-mode approach to regulating hazardous materials in transportation was obsolete and potentially counterproductive. “Intermodalism” became the popular term to describe the interconnectivity of the transportation modes and the traffic moving through them. The fostering of intermodalism had become a national policy goal with passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Intermodal movements are common in freight transportation today. However, the main regulatory and enforcement agencies in DOT remain mode based. Meanwhile, concern over the safety and environmental risks of hazardous materials has been joined by intensified concern over security. Public safety, security, and environmental protection are now all important goals of hazardous materials regulation. Several new federal agencies have been created and others have been reorganized to deal with security risks. In particular, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a strong interest in hazardous materials transportation because of concerns that hazardous cargoes will be targeted by terrorists. The Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), both previously housed within DOT, are now part of DHS, which creates an additional set of regulatory and institutional challenges. In this changing landscape, four of the federal agencies responsible for managing the risks associated with hazardous materials transportation— the Research and Special Programs Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and USCG—decided to sponsor this study to examine the idea of a cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation. In doing so, they asked the National Academies, under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board, to convene a study committee with members drawn from industry, government, and academia who would consider the value of such a program and have an understanding of how similar programs have worked elsewhere.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 STUDY APPROACH AND REPORT ORGANIZATION The committee approached the study with an intention to Determine whether there is a need for a national cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation—that is, whether research needs are shared by many entities and have limited prospects of being met by existing research programs; Examine possible ways of structuring a cooperative research program, in part by drawing on the experience of other programs in financing, governing, and managing cooperative research; Identify options for program finance, governance, and management that are commensurate with furthering the kinds of research needed and compatible with the structure and characteristics of the hazardous materials transportation sector; and Offer practical advice on whether and how best to pursue a cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation. To inform the study, the committee examined previous proposals for hazardous materials cooperative research programs, including examples of candidate research projects developed as part of these earlier efforts. It drew on its members’ expertise and experience in the hazardous materials field to assess research needs and consider models for organizing a cooperative research program. It convened a workshop with participants from industry and government to discuss research needs, options for financing and structuring a cooperative program to meet these needs, and the prospects for generating sufficient interest and support for such a program. The information and insights obtained from the workshop are reflected in the committee’s proposal for proceeding. The following five chapters mirror the study approach. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the industry, describes the safety and other risks associated with hazardous materials transportation, and outlines the many roles and responsibilities of industry and government in managing these risks. Chapter 3 describes the array of federal research programs related to hazardous materials transportation. Chapter 4 reviews the kinds of problems that are candidates for cooperative research and offers example projects for illustration purposes. Chapter 5 examines several
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 existing cooperative research programs, both within and outside the transportation sector, the kinds of research they emphasize, and how they are financed, governed, and managed. Chapter 6 examines options for structuring a hazardous materials transportation cooperative research program on the basis of insights gained from examining other cooperative research programs. Finally, Chapter 7 presents the committee’s conclusions about the need for cooperative research on hazardous materials transportation, its vision for how a national cooperative research program might be organized to help address this need, and recommended next steps in bringing about such a program.
Representative terms from entire chapter: