Federal agencies Pipeline Rail Transportation

PHMSA, FRA seeking input on different aspects of automated transport

railroad tracks
Photo: den-belitsky/iStockphoto

Washington — Developments in automation in the transportation industry have prompted a pair of Requests for Information from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration.

PHMSA is seeking public comment on the potential transport of hazardous materials by automated vehicles, while FRA is requesting input on the future of automation in the railroad industry, according to separate notices published in the March 29 Federal Register.

PHMSA’s objective is to “work with state and modal partners to ensure the Hazardous Materials Regulations framework takes into account these new technological innovations,” its notice states. In particular, the agency is interested in answers to a list of 13 questions included in the notice. Overall, it is seeking information on the factors it should consider to oversee the continued safe transport of hazardous materials while not impeding new developments.

“Although an exciting and important innovation in transportation history, the emergence of surface automated vehicles and the technologies that support them may create unique and unforeseen challenges,” PHMSA states.

FRA is attempting to understand “how the agency can best position itself to support the integration and implementation of new automated technologies to increase the safety, reliability and the capacity of the nation’s railroad system.”

The agency notes that U.S. railroads do not have fully autonomous operations in “revenue service,” but they do use automated systems for many other aspects of their work.

FRA also has provided a list of questions for stakeholders, and the docket number for comments is FRA-2018-0027. The docket number for PHMSA’s RFI is PHMSA-2018-0001.

Comments for both requests are due May 7.

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