U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta sent proposed legislation to Congress yesterday that would strengthen security and safety for hazardous-materials transportation. According to the proposal, Mineta wants to strengthen DOT inspectors’ authority to inspect packages in transportation, increase the enforcement authority of DOT’s state enforcement officers and provide those inspectors with authority to stop seriously unsafe transportation.

"We are proposing tough actions to address the serious problem of undeclared or hidden shipments of hazardous materials," said Mineta. "We are also asking for more authority to stop and inspect shipments, important to both security and safety."

Mineta’s proposal would also expand requirements for training persons involved in the transportation of hazardous materials, and specifically allow participation by states in a coordinated program of hazardous-material carrier registrations and permits.

Also, it would increase the maximum civil penalty for hazardous-materials violations from $27,500 to $100,000, provide the U.S. Postal Service with civil penalty authority to effectively enforce its regulations on mail shipments of hazardous materials and address the current overlap of hazardous-materials transportation regulations between DOT and OSHA, except in certain areas.

“There are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous material daily in the United States,” said Ellen Engleman, administrator of DOT’s research and special programs administration, which regulates hazmat transportation safety. “What we are proposing today would strengthen the safety and security of these shipments, while preserving the mobility vital to our economy.”