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DOT Evaluating New HazMat Regulations for Reverse Logistics of Retail and Consumer Products

Companies involved in the shipment, transportation, distribution, and logistics of consumer products and retail items that contain “hazardous materials” (HazMat) – as regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – may soon face new requirements from the DOT governing the reverse logistics process. In particular, businesses involved in the distribution and reverse distribution of electronic goods, batteries, medical, pharmaceutical, and consumer chemical products need to be aware of the pending changes.

Reverse logistics is the process associated with the return of goods and consumer products from retail locations back through the distribution chain to the original supplier or manufacturer. In an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued on July 5, 2012, 77 Fed. Reg. 39662, the DOT explained the need for a new rulemaking because of concerns that shippers were not complying with the HazMat requirements. According to the DOT, “enforcement efforts have shown that hazardous materials that are returned to the distribution centers or retail outlets are shipped in ways that are inconsistent with the requirements of the [HazMat regulations]. Very often, the employees at the retail outlets responsible for packing and shipping these materials have little or no hazardous materials training.” 77 Fed. Reg. at 39664.

DOT’s proposed rulemaking would create a new section in the HazMat regulations to: (1) address the classification of materials under a new “reverse logistics” definition; (2) establish mandatory training requirements for those in reverse logistics; and (3) develop minimum standards for the necessary packaging of HazMat shipments involved in reverse logistics.

Businesses seeking to comment on the proposed rulemaking must do so no later than October 3, 2012, (i.e., the date comments must be received by the DOT).

DOT’s focus on consumer products distribution and reverse logistics is part of a larger national focus on warehousing and consumer products enforcement that members of Spencer Fane’s Environmental Practice Group presented as part of a national webinar entitled “EPA’s Warehouse and Consumer Products Enforcement Initiative.” An audio recording of the presentation and copies of the handouts may be downloaded here.