Federal agencies you need to know if you are transporting fireworks
An overview of legally transporting fireworks in the U.S.
There is a laundry list of permits, approvals, federal and state laws, and even local ordinances you need to know to legally transport fireworks in the U.S. Several agencies in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, regulate the transportation of fireworks into and within U.S. borders.
While fireworks, in some form, are legal in 47 states, the legality of certain fireworks and their method of transportation vary according to state laws. It can be overwhelming for fireworks manufacturers to keep up with regulations.
Yet the demand is very real. Fireworks are popular for more than just the Fourth of July. Stadiums, even indoor stadiums, will have fireworks shows year round. Families now celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and reunions with fireworks. New Year's Eve has long been known to host a few impressive fireworks celebrations.
The tax revenue generated by fireworks sales provides incentive for states to continue to allow fireworks in their states. With the market providing the demand and state laws often lowering strict restrictions against fireworks, manufacturers and distributors must ensure that they transport fireworks safely - and legally - so that consumers can enjoy both personal fireworks and professional displays.
Federal agencies which regulate transportation of explosives
Federal law classifies fireworks as an explosive. As such, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the agency of the DOT responsible for granting permits for fireworks transportation, requires transporters to obtain "EX Approvals" in accordance with the procedural requirements in federal Hazmat laws.
In addition to its typical regulations on hours-of-service and cargo regulations, the FMCSA also requires fireworks transporters to have all necessary safety permits, shipping papers, placards, load securement, packaging, marking, labels, and other requirements. If a driver or transportation company is found in violation of the rules regarding the transportation of fireworks, the company or driver can face sanctions.
Alternate certification routes now available
In April, 2015, the PHMSA issued a new final rule that allows "regulatory flexibility" by creating a new DOT-approved certification agency, the Firework Certification Agency, which is an optional agency manufacturers can use to get approval to transport fireworks types.
Also, the PHMSA Associate Administrator can approve some fireworks types without prior examination if the fireworks meet the requirements of the American Pyrotechnic Association (APA).
Approval holders also must also comply with rules and regulations from:
- The U.S. Coast Guard
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission
Despite the myriad regulations associated with the transportation of fireworks, running a fireworks manufacturing or distribution business can be a worthwhile and financially successful enterprise.
If you have questions on meeting the regulations associated with the transportation of fireworks, contact the experienced fireworks regulation attorney John H. Brooke.