Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program Overview
A pilot cooperative research program focused on hazardous materials transportation was authorized in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP) is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and managed by the National Academies, acting through its Transportation Research Board (TRB). A contract to begin work on the HMCRP pilot has been executed between PHMSA and the National Academies and became effective on September 1, 2006.
The safety, security, and environmental concerns associated with transportation of hazardous materials are growing in number and complexity. Hazardous materials are substances that are flammable, explosive, or toxic or that, if released, produce effects that would threaten human safety, health, the environment, or property. Hazardous materials are moved throughout the country by all modes of freight transportation, including ships, trucks, trains, airplanes, and pipelines.
Hazardous shipments vary in size and type, from small parcels containing a few ounces of infectious or radioactive substances to barges and railroad tank cars carrying tons of flammable, toxic, and corrosive materials. According to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates, if movements by pipeline and oceangoing tankers are excluded, about 800,000 hazardous materials shipments, totaling more than 5 million tons, are made daily in the United States--approximately 18 percent of the total freight shipped.
The private sector and a diverse mix of government agencies at all levels are responsible for controlling the transport of hazardous materials and for ensuring that hazardous cargoes move without incident. This shared goal has spurred the creation of several venues for organizations with related interests to work together in preventing and responding to hazardous materials incidents. The freight transportation and chemical industries; government regulatory and enforcement agencies at the federal and state levels; and local emergency planners and responders routinely share information, resources, and expertise. Nevertheless, there has been a long-standing gap in the system for conducting hazardous materials safety and security research. Industry organizations and government agencies have their own research programs to support their mission needs. Collaborative research to address shared problems takes place occasionally, but mostly occurs on an ad hoc basis.
Acknowledging this gap in 2004, the U.S. DOT Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard pooled their resources for a study. Under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the National Research Council of the National Academies appointed a committee to examine the feasibility of creating a cooperative research program for hazardous materials transportation, similar in concept to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) and the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). The committee concluded, in TRB Special Report 283: Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions
, that the need for cooperative research in this field is significant and growing, and the committee recommended establishing an ongoing program of cooperative research. In 2005, based in part on the findings of that report, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) authorized the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the pilot stage of a Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP), addressing research topics discussed in TRB Special Report 283
The HMCRP is intended to complement other U.S. DOT research programs as a stakeholder-driven, problem-solving program, researching real-world, day-to-day operational issues with near- to mid-term time frames. In the current pilot stage of the HMCRP, the TRB will carry out applied research projects to improve the information used in managing risk associated with the transportation of hazardous materials. The TRB will use procedures similar to those employed in the existing NCHRP, TCRP, and Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) to provide for competitive, merit-based selection of research institutions, research project oversight, and dissemination of research results. Using the funding provided by the U.S. DOT each year, this new program will conduct studies intended to advance current knowledge and practice relating to hazardous materials transportation.
The primary participants in the HMCRP are the TRB as program manager and PHMSA as program sponsor. The HMCRP will benefit from guidance provided by TRB panels composed of a representative cross section of technical experts and stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including hazardous materials shippers and carriers, first responders, government officials (federal, state, and local), nonprofit entities, and universities. Each of these participants has different interests and responsibilities, and each is an integral part of this cooperative research effort.
SELECTION OF RESEARCH
The HMCRP Technical Oversight Panel
will formulate the research program by identifying the highest-priority projects and defining funding levels and expected products. SAFETEA-LU, in authorizing the HMCRP, referred to nine examples of topics to be considered for HMCRP research. The Oversight Panel will prioritize studies within the scope of these nine examples.
The HMCRP will be managed using procedures modeled after those used by TRB in managing the NCHRP and other cooperative research programs. Day-to-day program management includes the following tasks:
- Assisting the Oversight Panel in identifying and prioritizing research needs,
- Appointing and coordinating expert technical panels to guide individual research projects,
- Developing and distributing requests for proposals (RFPs),
- Processing and evaluating proposals to select the best qualified research agencies,
- Executing contracts with the selected researchers,
- Guiding the research,
- Reviewing research reports,
- Publishing and disseminating research reports, and
- Promoting the application of research results.
Each HMCRP project is assigned to a panel, appointed by the TRB, that provides technical guidance and counsel throughout the life of the project. Panels include experienced practitioners and research specialists; heavy emphasis is placed on including members representing the intended users of the research products. The panels prepare RFPs and select contractors based on evaluation of the proposals received; they guide the projects and review the reports. As in other TRB activities, the HMCRP project panel members serve voluntarily without compensation.
SELECTION OF CONTRACTORS
The process for selecting HMCRP researchers has been used by the TRB in managing cooperative research programs for more than 40 years. This open process allows all potential research agencies to compete on the basis of technical merit and ensures that all proposers are treated fairly and that the program has access to the best talent available for each project. HMCRP RFPs will be available on the World Wide Web until the deadline for proposal submission.
Proposals, submitted by potential research contractors in response to HMCRP RFPs, are evaluated by the project panels. The evaluation considers the following: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related areas; (4) the plan for promoting application of results; (5) the proposer's plan for participation of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises—small firms owned and controlled by minorities or women; and (6) the adequacy of the facilities.
Selected agencies perform research under contract to the National Academies, guided by the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board's Cooperative Research Programs
. Guidance for the preparation of final reports for submission to the HMCRP can be found in Chapter 5 of the Procedural Manual
SAFETEA-LU authorized $1.25 million per year for the HMCRP in Fiscal Years 2006 through 2009. HMCRP funding is determined by the annual federal appropriation process. The total available in FY 2009 is about $920,000.
The HMCRP will produce a series of research reports and other products. Primary emphasis will be placed on disseminating HMCRP results to the intended end users of the research of hazardous materials, including manufacturers, shippers, and carriers of hazardous materials and public-sector officials with regulatory, enforcement, or emergency response jurisdiction. Relevant industry associations are expected to play key roles in making research findings available through their committee structures. The HMCRP may arrange for workshops, training aids, field visits, and other activities to ensure that results are implemented by practitioners.
The contract with PHMSA authorized the TRB to begin the HMCRP pilot program on September 1, 2006. The HMCRP Oversight Panel was appointed by the TRB and met in 2006 and 2007 to establish operating procedures for the HMCRP and to prioritize research needs. The Panel selected nine projects to be conducted using funds from fiscal years 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (See All HMCRP Projects
Problem statements, describing research needs, may be submitted to HMCRP by anyone at any time. If you have a research need that you would like to submit for consideration, we request that you describe it in accordance with the Problem Statement Outline
and submit it electronically by e-mail to HMCRP@NAS.EDU
If sent electronically, our preference is for you to include the statement in Microsoft Word format as an attachment to an e-mail message. The problem statement may also be submitted in the text of an e-mail message. Please note that problem statements need not be lengthy; 1-2 pages should be sufficient to describe the research topic in the requested format. Paper copies of problem statements also may be submitted by US Mail to Christopher Jenks at the address below or by facsimile to his attention at (202) 334-2006.
To make suggestions or to request further information on the HMCRP, write or call:
Christopher Jenks, Director, CRP
Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 334-2006 FAX