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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 7 Envisioned Program and Next Steps This chapter presents the committee’s conclusions about the need for cooperative research in the field of hazardous materials transportation, its vision for structuring a national program to help meet this need, and its recommendations for bringing about such a program. MOUNTING NEED FOR COOPERATIVE RESEARCH The committee concludes that cooperative research for hazardous materials transportation is more than a good idea in principle. It has become essential to managing the complex risks associated with hazardous materials transportation on a systemwide basis. Prompting this conclusion are the following findings: Safety, security, and environmental concerns associated with the transportation of hazardous materials are growing in number and complexity. Hazardous materials are substances that are flammable, explosive, or toxic or have other properties that would threaten humans if released. The threat stems not only from accidental releases but from a concern that terrorists will target these materials to cause harm to public health and safety and to the economy. More than 15 percent of the freight tonnage moved in the United States is regulated as hazardous by the Department of Transportation. The challenge of ensuring the safety and security of hazardous materials is complicated by the large volume and ubiquity of these shipments, which are found in nearly all modes of transportation, all regions of the country, and all segments of the economy. Ensuring safety and security is necessary because many of these materials are vital to commerce and the daily lives of Americans.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 Federal involvement in the regulation of hazardous materials transportation began nearly a century ago. The original purpose was to protect the public from the dangers of catastrophic accidents, mainly from fires and explosions involving a small range of volatile materials transported in large quantities by rail. The range of concern gradually expanded to include materials whose main risk is to transportation workers and emergency personnel responding to a crash or accidental release. During the past three decades the scope of concern has expanded to include materials whose release may harm the environment or present long-term risks to human health. Of particular concern today is the potential for hazardous materials to be used as an instrument for terrorist attack. Managing the risks associated with the transportation of hazardous materials is necessarily a joint effort involving many entities from industry and government. Ensuring the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials requires the efforts of carriers in nearly all modes of transportation, shippers of a wide range of products, and government agencies at all jurisdictional levels. The main responsibility is that of shippers and carriers, which follow their own good practices and long-standing rules and standards put in place by industry, the federal government, and international bodies. Because releases in transportation occur on occasion, this responsibility extends to state and local police and fire officials, who are often first to arrive on the scene of a release and who must act quickly to minimize harm. Moreover, state and local authorities must work with industry and federal agencies to ensure the security of those shipments passing through critical infrastructure and population centers. Even within the federal government, more than a dozen agencies have regulatory, enforcement, operational, and other responsibilities pertaining to hazardous materials transportation. All of these entities have much at stake in providing a safe and secure system for transporting hazardous materials. Few means are available for the parties responsible for hazardous materials transportation to work together in seeking solutions to shared and related problems. All parties responsible for the transportation of hazardous materials require information to support their decisions. Which routes and modes
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 of transportation are safest, most secure, and pose the least risk to the environment? Which materials are suited for which type of packaging? Which emergency preparations are most prudent given the nature of the materials passing through the transportation system? Which shipments merit extra security attention? These are examples of the kinds of decisions that industry and government must make on a regular basis. Such decisions are often made independently by thousands of public and private entities, but their ramifications can be far-reaching. Decisions to move hazardous materials in one mode versus another, for example, can affect the emergency preparations needed in various parts of the transportation system and in the communities in which the transportation facilities are located. Changes in material packaging requirements can lead to the diversion of hazardous cargoes to different transportation vehicles, modes, and routes, which may have safety and security implications. Good decisions demand good information. They require data and analytic tools for weighing options and understanding causal relationships and systemwide effects. The promise of a cooperative research program is that it will allow such problems to be addressed from a wider range of perspectives. It will allow the consolidation of resources to seek solutions more efficiently, as opposed to piecemeal and duplicative efforts. It will lead to greater acceptance of research results by the many entities involved because each will participate in the process. And it will lead to more widespread dissemination of the results and their use in the field. By cooperating in the setting of the research agenda and in guiding individual research projects, the diverse parties responsible for hazardous materials safety and security will have a dependable way to work together in finding solutions to their problems. GUIDEPOSTS IN STRUCTURING A COOPERATIVE PROGRAM The experience of cooperative research programs in other fields suggests that for such a program to be successful for hazardous materials transportation, it should involve a broad array of likely users of the research to guide and govern the program, set the research agenda, oversee individual research projects, and disseminate the end products of research.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 Users of the research must have a sense of ownership of the program. Carriers, shippers, and emergency responders are important end users of the research. They must be convinced that their problems and research needs are being addressed by the program and that their expertise and perspectives are being brought to bear. The results of the research are not only more likely to be accepted under these circumstances but more likely to meet actual needs. Existing cooperative research programs indicate that a sense of ownership cannot be conveyed by simply offering stakeholders an advisory capacity or other indirect role in program development and guidance. It must be instilled in a more comprehensive manner, from the way the program is financed and governed to how it is managed. Finance Direct financing of the program by stakeholders is desirable because it establishes program ownership in the most straightforward and tangible way. Those who sponsor the program are most likely to participate in it and remain engaged. In helping pay for the research, they will have a strong incentive to ensure that projects are targeted to meet their needs, practical to implement, and widely disseminated within their respective communities. Therefore, it is important that sponsors not be drawn from a single industry group or segment. In that case the program could gravitate to a narrow set of interests and lose the perspectives of many parties. Experience suggests that some form of federal involvement in program financing may be needed to ensure broad-based participation by stakeholders, especially those without the means to contribute to the program. The nature of federal involvement may range from the collection of revenues from stakeholder groups to pay for part of the program to an appropriation of general funds to pay for all or part of the program. At least some government involvement in program financing can be justified because research can lead to improvements in the efficiency and overall performance of government regulatory, planning, and operating activities pertaining to hazardous materials transportation, including the performance of emergency response. Another rationale is that the public as a whole will benefit from safety and security improvements gained through cooperative research. Still, there are equity grounds for deriving
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 at least some of the funds from industry stakeholders, since they cause the transport of hazardous materials in the first place and thus create the underlying risks that cooperative research will seek to alleviate. Coupling funding of the program with its governance creates the sense of ownership and commitment that has proved to be so important to making cooperative research programs work. Governance Those who finance the program will have much to say about how the program is governed. Indeed, the sponsors can be expected to demand a prominent role in setting the annual research agenda, overseeing performance, and guiding the overall direction of the program. Most cooperative research programs have established governing boards that serve in this capacity. A governing board made up largely of program sponsors can be expected to pay close attention to program performance. In this regard, such an approach is ideal. However, where there is a diverse set of stakeholders with important perspectives but varying financial resources, it may be advantageous to involve nonsponsors in program governance. Such is likely to be the case for hazardous materials transportation. In particular, state and local emergency planning and response organizations may not have the means to help finance the program, but they would need to participate in its governance. Management How the program is managed on a day-to-day basis, as well as the design and functioning of the research process itself, is integral to the success of the program. The experience of other cooperative programs indicates that research that is conducted and managed in an independent manner will engender the confidence of the stakeholders who will be expected to use the results. Competition in the awarding of research contracts and peer reviews of completed work are common features of successful cooperative programs. The organization managing the program must therefore be able to coordinate the involvement of many stakeholders. At the same time it must be perceived as fair and as not having an inherent bias toward one
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 group or industry segment. It must be able to draw technical expertise from a range of stakeholder groups and disciplines to define, oversee, and ensure quality control for research projects covering many problem areas. And it must be able to disseminate research results widely. ENVISIONING A FULL-SCALE PROGRAM The committee finds that a cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation is warranted. The principles for program financing, governance, and management outlined above set the basic parameters for designing a program. The following represents the committee’s vision of how a full-scale hazardous materials transportation cooperative research program could be financed, governed, and managed. Federal and Stakeholder Financing The diversity of stakeholders in hazardous materials transportation means that no single industry segment is likely to have the incentive to fund cooperative research, and some will not have the financial means to do so. The federal government regulates hazardous materials transportation because of the broad public interest in ensuring its safety and security. A federal appropriation of funds to help pay for a hazardous materials transportation cooperative research program can be rationalized on the same public interest grounds. Federally appropriated funds would provide core financing of the overall program of research, perhaps coupled with supplemental funds contributed on a discretionary basis by stakeholders for individual projects. In the committee’s view, the problems and research needs associated with hazardous materials transportation are at least as complex and numerous as those associated with public transit, which receives federal appropriations for cooperative research on the order of $8 million per year. The committee believes that a cooperative research program comparable in magnitude with that of the cooperative research program for public transit, on the order of $5 million to $10 million per year, can be justified to ensure the safety and security of hazardous materials in transportation.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 If the program proves successful over a period of 3 to 5 years, an increasing portion of program funding may be derived in a more direct manner from stakeholders and users of the research. The Hazardous Materials Registration Fee is one possible funding source already being collected from carriers, shippers, and others in the hazardous materials transportation industry. The fee now varies from $300 per year for small businesses to $2,000 per year for larger businesses. It generates about $13 million per year in federal revenues, most of which is appropriated to states and localities to strengthen their preparedness for hazardous materials emergencies. Raising the fee by about 8 percent, or $25 for small business and $150 for others, would generate about $1 million in annual revenues for cooperative research. Increasing stakeholder financing of the program over time, even if it is discretionary, is key to fostering a sense of ownership of the program by stakeholders and ultimately ensuring that the research products remain useful. Governance by a Broad Base of Stakeholders The program should be guided by a governing board that is largely independent and composed primarily of the end users of research, who will be responsible for soliciting research needs, prioritizing them, and setting the program’s research agenda. The governing board should ensure that the products of research are useful and well disseminated within the broad array of stakeholder communities. A majority of the board members should be shippers, carriers, suppliers, and state and local emergency managers and responders, because these are the significant end users of research. The board should also have representation from the federal agencies that have programmatic, operational, and regulatory responsibilities for hazardous materials transportation safety, security, and environmental protection. These agencies will likewise gain from cooperating in research with one another as well as with other segments of the industry. Management Modeled on Existing Cooperative Programs Without knowing how a hazardous materials transportation program would be financed and governed, it is premature to lay out precisely how
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 and by whom the program should be managed. However, experience with existing cooperative research programs indicates that certain key features of a research process will be integral to the success of the program. First, individual research projects should be conducted by contractors selected on a competitive basis. Contract research, as opposed to investment in specialized research facilities and the hiring of in-house staff, will allow for greater flexibility in the program. A competitive process for selecting contractors on the basis of both qualifications and cost will encourage quality and efficiency, build program credibility, and enable more research projects to be undertaken with a limited research budget. Second, technical panels should be responsible for defining the scope of individual research projects, developing requests for proposals from researchers, selecting the researchers to perform the work, overseeing and reviewing the work, and assisting with dissemination of the final product. The technical panels should include end users of the research as well as technical experts from academia, the private sector, and government. Third, the organization managing this process should be perceived as independent and focused on research as a main organizational mission—characteristics that are essential in building trust. As a corollary to this point, the host organization should be known for research products that meet scientific and professional standards of quality and should have the capability to disseminate these products widely. The experience of existing cooperative research programs suggests that 15 to 20 percent of the program budget will need to be set aside for these critical management and oversight functions. NEXT STEPS: PILOTING THE CONCEPT The program outlined above would require a dedicated effort not only from research advocates but also from the stakeholder communities. However, the benefits of research are not always apparent to those focused on day-to-day operations and concerns. The committee recognizes this practicality and the challenge of securing support for a cooperative research program absent tangible evidence of its utility. The building of support may require a smaller-scale effort that demonstrates the functioning of the program and yields some early and useful research results.
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 A pilot test of the hazardous materials transportation cooperative research program is needed. The committee therefore urges each of the four agencies that sponsored this study to contribute $250,000 in research funds to create a pooled fund of $1 million for cooperative research. The four agencies may seek additional contributions to enlarge the pool from other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Energy. A $1 million fund should be sufficient to pay for three or four research projects that are carefully selected to yield results that are timely and useful. A number of candidate research projects are identified in this report to illustrate research topics that may be suited to a full-scale program. A pilot program would need to focus on projects costing between $100,000 and $300,000 and capable of being completed in 12 to 18 months. Some of the projects may be precursors to larger research projects identified in this report, such as literature analyses and syntheses of practice in the field. The sponsoring agencies should ensure that a broad-based committee of stakeholders is formed to identify needed research and advise on how the pooled research funds should be programmed to meet these priority needs. The stakeholder committee, acting in a manner similar to a program governing body, should represent a cross section of the hazardous materials shipping and carrier communities as well as experts in emergency response, risk management, and hazardous materials transportation safety and security. This committee should identify and define a series of individual research projects and recommend funding for those with the greatest potential for yielding practical solutions to important problems in the field. The projects selected for the pilot program should be of interest to a large number of stakeholders and promise usable products to practitioners in a short period of time. Each research project should be guided by an oversight panel that includes both technical experts and practitioners from the stakeholder communities. The panels for the pilot program need not be large or elaborate. They may consist of four or five members of the larger stakeholder committee, supplemented by one or two outside experts as needed. The panels will select contractors to perform the work on the basis of merit. To the extent possible, the pilot program should take into account the
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Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions - Special Report 283 important guideposts for structuring a full-scale cooperative research program, as described earlier in the report. In the end, the value of the research should speak for itself. If the research results from the pilot program are useful, the cooperative research concept can be expected to generate stakeholder interest in pursuing a larger-scale program. A formal critique of the pilot program should be undertaken by the sponsoring agencies along with the stakeholder committee. The successful programs in other fields suggest that stakeholder involvement and interest in cooperative research must be present at inception. A pilot program can help establish stakeholder ownership from the start.
Representative terms from entire chapter: