Programs for Ensuring the Safe Transportation of Hazardous Materials Need Improvement

CED-81-5: Published: Nov 4, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 1980.

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GAO evaluated the Department of Transportation's (DOT) efforts to promote the safe transportation of hazardous materials and the emergency response mechanisms available to react to hazardous material disaster situations. DOT is responsible for ensuring the safety of the public from the inherent risks associated with transporting hazardous materials.

DOT has done much to upgrade the federal effort to better ensure public safety in transporting hazardous materials, but improvements are needed. More knowledge is needed of industry size and the risks associated in transporting hazardous materials. Without this information, DOT cannot effectively plan its inspection and emergency response activities. DOT has not developed an overall program to evaluate all risks associated with transporting hazardous materials. Federal and state inspection and enforcement efforts should be strengthened. The Department does not have a program to identify those companies which present the greatest risk to the public. Better coordination and training among federal, state, and local governments, as well as private industry, could enhance emergency response capabilities. DOT has not established an adequate program to inform or to educate personnel in emergency response organizations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require the Director of the Materials Transportation Bureau (MTB) and the modal administrators to develop risk profiles of hazardous materials carriers and shippers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require the Director, MTB, to assign specific responsibility within MTB for evaluating risks associated with transporting hazardous materials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by clarifying instructions and criteria for developing damage estimates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by better educating the industry on reporting requirements and current reporting deficiences.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to require that hazardous materials incident reports be submitted by all firms and for all areas subject to the regulation under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incidient reporting system by clarifying what costs should be included in the estimate of damages resulting from hazardous materials incidents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the modal administrators and the Director, MTB, to work with the states to develop and implement comprehensive plans to expand state roles in enforcement of hazardous materials regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by extending the current 15 day limit for submitting incident reports to allow more time to prepare accurate reports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  9. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by requiring that revised incident reports be submitted should data originally reported change significantly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  10. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director, MTB, should coordinate the DOT registration program with other federal agency programs having information on the hazardous materials transportation industry and gain access to that information which would be useful in developing a registration program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  11. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require the Director, MTB, to develop a plan to work with State and local officials in highly populated areas to study routes used to transport hazardous materials, as a basis for determining the risks associated with such routes and the desirability of altering these routes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  12. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the modal administrators and the Director, MTB, to develop systems for giving priority to inspecting companies presenting the greatest public risk while transporting hazardous materials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  13. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the modal administrators and the Director, MTB, to coordinate the formulation of uniform guidelines which can be used by field inspectors to determine when violations will be developed into enforcement cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  14. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the modal administrators and the Director, MTB, to adopt a systematic means of recording all violations found during inspections and analyze this information to assist in planning inspection activities and measuring program effectiveness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  15. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to develop a comprehensive list of available hazardous materials training courses and information and educational materials to be distributed through appropriate channels to emergency response organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  16. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by using other data sources, such as those noted above, to better ensure that all incidents are being reported as required and that, where not, appropriate enforcement actions are taken.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  17. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should emphasize to the MTB Director that the annual report on the DOT hazardous materials transportation program should accurately and completely indicate the extent of the problems associated with transporting hazardous materials and the level of effort DOT is expending on its hazardous materials program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  18. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, should establish provisions in the National Contingency Plan to provide for increased roles of city and county government organizations and industry associations by inviting representatives of these groups to participate as full members of the Regional Response Teams.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  19. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, should establish provisions in the National Contingency Plan to provide for increased roles of city and county government organizations and industry associations by inviting representatives of these groups to participate as full members of the Regional Response Teams.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Council on Environmental Quality

  20. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to improve the completeness and accuracy of the hazardous materials incident reporting system by following up on significant cases in which: (1) the reports do not contain required information; (2) other information in the report indicates the possiblity of inaccurate data; or (3) other data sources indicate significant discrepancies from data reported.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  21. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should emphasize to the MTB Director that the annual report on the DOT hazardous materials transportation program as required by law, should be provided to the President and the Congress by May 1 of each year for the preceding calendar year, and that it provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of enforcement activities and the degree of voluntary compliance with applicable regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  22. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should take appropriate steps to implement an awareness program to assure maximum benefits from the revised labeling and placarding identification system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  23. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to periodically update the list of hazardous materials information in the DOT bimonthly Hazardous Materials Newsletter, and assure that adequate distribution of the newsletter is made to emergency response organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  24. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Director, MTB, to develop a method to assure that adequate distribution is made of lists of available hazardous materials training courses and information and educational materials. Consideration should be given to developing a comprehensive mailing list of emergency response organizations, particularily volunteer fire departments, or seeking the assistance of the major fire service organizations to distribute the information through their periodic publications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  25. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require the Director, MTB, to establish a registration program to identify and develop risk profiles of all hazardous materials carriers, shippers, and container manufacturers, as authorized by section 106(b) of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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