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Regulatory Flexibility Act Section 610 and Plain Language Reviews

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Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), DOT.


Notice of regulatory review; request for comments.


RSPA requests comments on the economic impact of its regulations on small entities. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act and as published in DOT's Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda, we are analyzing the rules on Carriage by Vessel to identify rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. We also request comments on ways to make these regulations easier to read and understand.


Comments must be received by April 25, 2002.


Address written comments to the Dockets Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001. Identify the docket number RSPA-2002-11270 at the beginning of your comments and submit two copies. If you want to receive confirmation of receipt of your comments, include a self-addressed, stamped postcard. You can also submit comments by e-mail by accessing the Dockets Management System on the Internet at or by fax to (202) 366-3753.

The Dockets Management System is located on the Plaza Level of the Nassif Building at the Department of Transportation at the above address. You can review public dockets there between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. In addition, you can review comments by accessing the Dockets Management System at

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Susan Gorsky, Office of Hazardous Materials Standards, Research and Special Programs Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, telephone (202) 366-8553; or Donna O'Berry, Office of Chief Counsel, Research and Special Programs Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, telephone (202) 366-4400.

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I. Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act

A. Background and Purpose

Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-354), as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-121), requires agencies to conduct periodic reviews of rules that have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small business entities. The purpose of the review is to determine whether such rules should be continued without change, amended, or rescinded, consistent with the objectives of applicable statutes, to minimize any significant economic impact of the rules on a substantial number of such small entities.

B. Review Schedule

The Department of Transportation (DOT) published its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda on December 3, 2001, listing in Appendix D (66 FR 61900) those regulations that each operating administration will review under section 610 during the next 12 months. Appendix D also contains DOT's 10-year review plan for all of its existing regulations.

The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA, we) has divided its Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) into 10 groups by subject area. Each group will be reviewed once every 10 years, undergoing a two-stage process—an Analysis Year and Section 610 Review Year. For purposes of these reviews, a year will coincide with the fall-to-fall publication schedule of the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. Thus, Year 1 began in the fall of 1998 and ended in the fall of 1999; Year 2 began in the fall of 1999 and ended in the fall of 2000; and so on.

During the Analysis Year, we will analyze each of the rules in a given year's group to determine whether any rule has a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities and, thus, requires review in accordance with section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. In each fall's Regulatory Agenda, we will publish the results of the analyses we completed during the previous year. For rules that have a negative finding, we will provide a short explanation. For parts, subparts, or other discrete sections of rules that do have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities, we will announce that we will be conducting a formal section 610 review during the following 12 months.

The section 610 review will determine whether a specific rule should be revised or revoked to lessen its impact on small entities. We will consider: (1) The continued need for the rule; (2) the nature of complaints or comments received from the public; (3) the complexity of the rule; (4) the extent to which the rule overlaps, duplicates, or conflicts with other federal rules or with state or local government rules; and (5) the length of time since the rule has been evaluated or the degree to which technology, economic conditions, or other factors have changed in the area affected by the rule. At the end of the Review Year, we will publish the results of our review.

The following table shows the 10-year analysis and review schedule:

RSPA Section 610 Review Plan 1999-2009

TitleRegulationAnalysis yearReview year
Incident reports§§ 171.15 and 171.161998N/A
Hazmat safety procedures General Information, Regulations, and DefinitionsParts 106 and 107 Part 1711999N/A
Carriage by Rail and HighwayParts 174 and 17720002001
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Carriage by VesselPart 17620012002
Radioactive MaterialsParts 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 17820022003
Explosives CylindersParts 172, 173, 174, 176, 178 Parts 172, 173, 178, 18020032004
Shippers—General Requirements for Shipments and PackagingsPart 17320042005
Specifications for Non-bulk PackagingsPart 17820052006
Specifications for Bulk PackagingsParts 178, 179, 18020062007
Hazardous Materials Table, Special Provisions, Hazardous Materials Communications, Emergency Response Information, and Training RequirementsPart 17220072008
Carriage by AircraftPart 175.

C. Regulations Under Analysis

During Year 4 (2001-2002), the Analysis Year, we will conduct a preliminary assessment of the rules in 49 CFR Part 176, Carriage by Vessel. It includes the following subparts:

Subpart AGeneral.
Subpart BGeneral Operating Requirements.
Subpart CGeneral Handling and Stowage.
Subpart DGeneral Segregation Requirements.
Subpart ESpecial Requirements for Transport Vehicles Loaded with Hazardous Materials and Transported on Board Ferry Vessels.
Subpart FSpecial Requirements for Barges.
Subpart GDetailed Requirements for Class 1 (Explosive) Materials.
Subpart HDetailed Requirements for Class 2 (Compressed Gas) Materials.
Subpart IDetailed Requirements for Class 3 (Flammable) and Combustible Liquid Materials.
Subpart JDetailed Requirements for Class 4 (Flammable Solid), Class 5 (Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides), and Division 1.5 (Blasting Agents) Materials.
Subpart LDetailed Requirements for Division 2.3 (Poisonous Gas) and Division 6.1 (Poisonous) Materials.
Subpart MDetailed Requirements for Radioactive Materials.
Subpart NDetailed Requirements for Class 8 (Corrosive) Materials.
Subpart ODetailed Requirements for Cotton and Vegetable Fibers, Motor Vehicles, and Asbestos.

We are seeking comments on whether any requirements in part 176 have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. “Small entities” include small businesses, not-for-profit organizations that are independently owned and operated and are not dominant in their fields, and governmental jurisdictions with populations under 50,000. If your business or organization is a small entity and if any of the requirements in part 176 has a significant economic impact on your business or organization, please submit a comment explaining how and to what degree these rules affect you, the extent of the economic impact on your business or organization, and why you believe the economic impact is significant.

II. Plain Language

A. Background and Purpose

Plain language helps readers find requirements quickly and understand them easily. Examples of plain language techniques include:

(1) Undesignated center headings to cluster related sections within subparts.

(2) Short words, sentences, paragraphs, and sections to speed up reading and enhance understanding.

(3) Sections as questions and answers to provide focus.

(4) Personal pronouns to reduce passive voice and draw readers into the writing.

(5) Tables to display complex information in a simple, easy-to-read format.

For an example of a rule drafted in plain language, you can refer to RSPA's notice of proposed rulemaking entitled “Revised and Clarified Hazardous Materials Safety Rulemaking and Program Procedures,” which was published December 11, 1998 (63 FR 68624). This NPRM proposed to rewrite 49 CFR part 106 and subpart A of part 107 in plain language and to create a new part 105 that would contain definitions and general procedures. We are currently evaluating comments received in response to the NPRM.

B. Review Schedule

In conjunction with our section 610 reviews, we will be performing plain language reviews of the HMR over a ten-year period on a schedule consistent with the section 610 review schedule. Thus, our review of part 176 will also include a plain language review to determine if the regulations can be reorganized and/or rewritten to make them easier to read, understand, and use. We encourage interested persons to submit draft regulatory language that clearly and simply communicates regulatory requirements, and other recommendations, such as for putting information in tables or consolidating regulatory requirements, that may make the regulations easier to use.

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Issued in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2002 under authority delegated in 49 CFR part 106.

Robert A. McGuire,

Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Research and Special Programs Administration.

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[FR Doc. 02-1862 Filed 1-24-02; 8:45 am]