Hazardous Materials Transportation: Better Guidance and Planning Could Enhance DOT's Explosives Classification Oversight

Explosives accounted for 4 million of the total 2.6 billion tons of hazardous materials transported in the U.S. in 2012. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) is responsible for regulating the transport of explosives, which includes classifying new explosives prior to transportation. The classification denotes the risk level and requirements, such as which transportation modes can be used to transport the explosive. To be classified, an explosive must be examined by a PHMSA-approved third-party test lab. PHMSA must then approve the test lab’s classification recommendation. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act includes a provision for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review DOT’s oversight of this process. This report addresses: (1) PHMSA’s oversight of the classification of new explosives and related stakeholder views and (2) PHMSA’s efforts to improve the oversight process and any associated challenges. GAO collected PHMSA data on applications processed (2006- 2015) and explosives incidents (2005- 2015) and interviewed officials from PHMSA, all six approved test labs, carrier and explosive manufacturer associations, and five explosives manufacturers selected in part to represent a range of industries. To improve oversight of the classification of new explosives, PHMSA should (1) develop and implement a systematic approach for improving PHMSA’s guidance for test labs; and (2) develop a written plan describing information requirements for its new data system. DOT concurred with the recommendations.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures;
  • Pagination: 26p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01608567
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-16-715
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 28 2016 3:49PM