Beveridge & Diamond
 

U.S. Postal Service Proposes Phase-Out of Parcel Marking Standards for ORM-D and Consumer Commodities

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., October 11, 2012

On October 3, 2012, the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) proposed adopting new mandatory marking standards for hazardous materials sent through the mail, effective January 1, 2013, to align its mailing requirements with those of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) within the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”).[1]

Long-standing rules have allowed limited quantities of hazardous materials that are consumer commodities to be re-classed as “Other Regulated Materials” (“ORM-D”) and to be eligible for significantly reduced transportation requirements. However, in early 2011, PHMSA amended its Hazardous Materials Regulations to phase out the ORM-D classification for all modes of shipment, as well as the “consumer commodity” category for products in hazard classes 4, 5, 8, and some Class 9 materials for air shipment, in order to harmonize its regulations with the corresponding international dangerous goods regulations, particularly the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) Technical Instructions.[2] The phase-out by PHMSA for air transport of ORM-D and of the consumer commodity category for materials is scheduled to be completed on January 1, 2013. The phase-out of ORM-D by other modes (i.e., truck, rail, or vessel) is scheduled to be completed on January 1, 2015.[3] The proposed USPS rules would align with the substance and schedule of PHMSA’s rules. The proposed marking standards have been an optional alternative to USPS’s current standards as a transitional measure since August 6, 2012.[4]

For air transport, starting January 1, 2013, USPS proposes to categorize hazardous materials currently defined as mailable ORM-D materials within hazard classes 4, 5, or 8, and some Class 9 materials, using the description “mailable limited quantity.” For other mailable hazard classes, USPS will retain the description “consumer commodity.” Mail parcels containing currently authorized air-eligible consumer commodities (ORM-D-AIR) within DOT Classes 2.2, 3, 6.1, or 9, or air-eligible materials within DOT Class 5.1, 5.2, or 8, will be reclassified as hazard class 9 and subject to applicable marking, labeling, and declaration requirements. Parcels containing mailable air-authorized limited quantity class 9 materials within UN3077 or UN3082 (environmentally hazardous substances), UN3175 (solids containing flammable liquid), or UN3334 or UN3335 (aviation regulated substances), will also be required to bear the proper shipping name “Consumer Commodity,” Identification Number “ID8000,” and DOT marking and labeling.[5]

Starting January 1, 2015, the ORM-D category will be phased out for materials tendered for surface transport by USPS as well. All mailable limited quantity and consumer commodity materials must bear an approved DOT square-on-point marking when given to USPS for shipping; the use of additional DOT hazardous material warning labels will not be required or permitted on parcels intended for transportation in USPS ground networks.

This USPS proposal continues the process of harmonizing the United States’ rules for transport of consumer commodities of hazardous materials with new international rules. This harmonization is imposing major changes in logistics for all links in product supply chains. Federal agencies are continuing to coordinate to try to manage the implications of these changes. For example, pursuant to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by PHMSA, comments closed on October 3, 2012 on whether there is a need for PHMSA to simplify the existing Hazardous Materials Regulations (“HMR”) as they apply to “reverse logistics” (e.g., customers returning products to retailers or manufacturers for credit, recall, or recycling) for products that qualify as hazardous materials.[6]

While the USPS is not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act notice and comment requirements, it has established a 20-day comment period for this proposed rule. Comments are due by October 23, 2012.


[1] 77 Fed. Reg. 60334 (Oct. 3, 2012), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-10-03/pdf/2012-24296.pdf.

[2] 76 Fed. Reg. 3308 (January 19, 2011). 

[3] 77 Fed. Reg. 31,274 (May 25, 2012); Beveridge & Diamond PC, “DOT Proposes to Extend Transitional Period for New Rules for Transporting Consumer Commodities (ORM-D) That Are Hazardous Materials” (May 30, 2012), http://www.bdlaw.com/news-1370.html.

[4] See USPS, “Publication 52 Revision: Alternative Marking Options for Parcels Containing Hazardous Materials” (July 12, 2012), http://about.usps.com/postal-bulletin/2012/pb22341/html/updt_007.htm.

[5] No other Class 9 materials are authorized by DOT to be shipped under the limited quantity classification by domestic air transportation. On May 14, 2012, the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) also published a final rule prohibiting, at least for the time being, all outbound international shipment of lithium batteries via USPS as of May 16, 2012. See Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., “U.S. Postal Service Bans International Mailing of Lithium Batteries” (May 16, 2012), http://www.bdlaw.com/news-1366.html.

[6] Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., “DOT Asks for Comments on Potential Streamlining of Transport Rules for “Reverse Logistics” Involving Products That Are Hazardous Materials” (July 9, 2012), http://www.bdlaw.com/news-1388.html.