oversight

Aviation Safety: Undeclared Air Shipments of Dangerous Goods and DOT's Enforcement Approach

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-01-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            Report to the Ranking Minority
               Member, Subcommittee on Aviation,
               Committee on Transportation and
               Infrastructure, House of
               Representatives
January 2003
               AVIATION SAFETY

               Undeclared Air
               Shipments of
               Dangerous Goods and
               DOT’s Enforcement
               Approach




GAO-03-22
                                               January 2003


                                               AVIATION SAFETY

                                               Undeclared Air Shipments of Dangerous
Highlights of GAO-03-22, a report to the       Goods and DOT’s Enforcement Approach
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee
on Aviation, Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure, House of
Representatives




                                               Little is known about the nature and frequency of undeclared shipments of
When shipments of dangerous
                                               dangerous goods. While major carriers and the Postal Service believe such
goods (hazardous chemical
                                               shipments are rare, their belief is based mainly on inspections of problem
substances that could endanger
                                               shipments, such as those that leak. Statistically valid, generalizable data are
public safety or the environment,
                                               not available and would be difficult to obtain, not only because more
such as flammable liquids or
                                               inspections would entail costly delays for carriers but also because
radioactive materials) are not
                                               Constitutional protections limit DOT’s and the Postal Service’s inspection
properly packaged and labeled for
                                               authority. DOT is seeking greater authority to open potentially problematic
air transport, they can pose
                                               shipments for inspection, but its efforts are not limited to air transport and
significant threats because there is
little room for error when                     would not enable DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to obtain
something goes wrong in flight. To             statistically valid, generalizable data on the nature and frequency of
better understand the risks posed              undeclared air shipments. A change in the law requiring that shippers
by improper (“undeclared”) air                 consent to the opening of packages for inspection might be appropriate for
shipments, we assessed what is                 air transport and would enable FAA to obtain such data. FAA could then
known about their nature and                   identify the resources and actions needed to address the problem.
frequency, what key mechanisms
are in place to prevent their                  Federal regulations create a framework for transporting dangerous goods
occurrence, and what the                       safely, and outreach to shippers and carriers helps to prevent undeclared
Department of Transportation                   shipments. Private industry does business primarily with “known
(DOT) and the Postal Service do to             shippers” (those that have shown they comply with the regulations). The
enforce federal regulations for                Postal Service cannot restrict its business to known shippers, but it
shipping dangerous goods by air.               requires customers to bring packages weighing 16 ounces or more to a
                                               post office for screening. Carriers and the Postal Service both train their
Figure 1 shows how DOT regulates               employees to screen for undeclared shipments.
the air transport of dangerous
goods in the United States.                    The Postal Service and FAA monitor and enforce compliance with federal
                                               regulations for transporting dangerous goods by air. However, the Postal
                                               Service cannot fine violators and seldom takes criminal action, since most
                                               violations are inadvertent. FAA’s enforcement guidance calls for
GAO recommends that DOT                        documenting the reasons for any changes in the fines its inspectors initially
improve its enforcement approach               propose. GAO’s review of enforcement case files indicates that the reasons
by (1) determining whether the                 for changes were not always documented. FAA attributes some changes to
unique characteristics of air                  the results of penalty negotiations. Because FAA is not always following its
transport warrant the development              guidance, it cannot ensure that its fines are appropriate or consistent.
of a legislative proposal that would
enhance DOT’s authority to inspect             Figure 1: Air Transport of Dangerous Goods Authorized by DOT
packages shipped by air and (2)
requiring FAA to strengthen its
                                                                    20% •                    May not travel by either passenger or cargo aircraft
policy on documenting the reasons
for changes to the amounts of the                     •   50%
recommended fines.                                                   30% •                   May travel by cargo, but
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-22.                                                        not by passenger, aircraft

To view the full report, including the scope                                                 May travel by either passenger or
and methodology, click on the link above.                                                    cargo aircraft
For more information, contact Gerald
Dillingham at (202)-512-2384 or                 Sources: Research and Special Programs Administration, Department of Transportation, and © 1998 Nova Development Corporation.

dillinghamg@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                  1
               Results in Brief                                                         2
               Background                                                               5
               Shipments of Undeclared Dangerous Goods Can Have Serious
                 Consequences, but Their Nature and Frequency Are Difficult to
                 Estimate                                                             11
               Government and Industry Rely on Several Mechanisms to Prevent
                 Dangerous Goods Shipments from Compromising Safety                   20
               For DOT, Inadequate Documentation, and for the Postal Service,
                 Lack of Civil Penalty Authority Hamper Enforcement of
                 Dangerous Goods Regulations                                          27
               Conclusions                                                            32
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                   33
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                     33
               Scope and Methodology                                                  34

Appendix I     FAA’s Dangerous Goods Informational Brochure
               for Passengers                                                         37



Appendix II    Mailability of Dangerous Goods, by DOT Class                           38



Appendix III   Data Collected by DOT Agencies on Dangerous
               Goods Incidents and Enforcement Actions                                39



Appendix IV    GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                 41
               GAO Contacts                                                           41
               Acknowledgments                                                        41


Tables
               Table 1: Dangerous Goods Classes and Descriptions                        8
               Table 2: DOT Databases Tracking Information on the Air
                        Transportation of Dangerous Goods                             39




               Page i                                           GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Figures
          Figure 1: Air Transport of Dangerous Goods Authorized by DOT             6
          Figure 2: Dangerous Goods Cargo Containers                               7
          Figure 3. FAA’s Dangerous Goods Enforcement Process (for Civil
                   Penalty Cases)                                                30




          Abbreviations

          AAIRS         Airport and Air Carrier Information Reporting System
          C.F.R.        Code of Federal Regulations
          DOT           Department of Transportation
          EIS           Enforcement Information System
          FAA           Federal Aviation Administration
          GAO           General Accounting Office
          HMIRS         Hazardous Materials Information Reporting System
          HMR           Hazardous Materials Regulations
          RSPA          Research and Special Programs Administration
          TSA           Transportation Security Administration
          UNISHIP       Unified Shipper Enforcement Data System


          Page ii                                          GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   January 10, 2003

                                   The Honorable William O. Lipinski
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Aviation
                                   Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Dear Mr. Lipinski:

                                   Each day, businesses, individuals, and government agencies package and
                                   ship dangerous goods on ships, trains, trucks, and airplanes.1 Dangerous
                                   goods are by definition chemical, including infectious, substances (or
                                   anything containing such substances) that pose a threat to public safety or
                                   the environment during transportation. When these goods are properly
                                   packaged, labeled, and stowed onboard, they can be transported safely,
                                   but when they are not, they can pose significant threats to people and
                                   property. Improper, or “undeclared,”2 shipments of dangerous goods are
                                   particularly dangerous in air transport because there is little room for
                                   error or time to take corrective action if a problem occurs in flight—a
                                   lesson learned tragically in 1996 when a ValuJet plane crashed in Florida
                                   after oxygen generators caught fire in the plane’s cargo compartment.

                                   To better understand the overall risks that undeclared shipments of
                                   dangerous goods can pose to aviation safety, we examined the Department
                                   of Transportation’s (DOT) and the U.S. Postal Service’s monitoring of the
                                   transportation of dangerous goods by commercial cargo and passenger
                                   aircraft, although we focused primarily on cargo aircraft. As agreed with
                                   your office, we addressed three researchable questions:




                                   1
                                    The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, as amended, principally governs the
                                   transportation of dangerous goods. It is codified at title 49, chapter 51, of the United States
                                   Code.
                                   2
                                    We use the term “undeclared” to describe two types of improper shipments of dangerous
                                   goods: (1) those that a shipper has explicitly denied are hazardous or has not identified as
                                   hazardous and (2) those that a shipper has identified as hazardous but has otherwise
                                   misrepresented (for example, the shipper has understated the quantity so that the materials
                                   can be shipped by passenger aircraft rather than by cargo aircraft).



                                   Page 1                                                            GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                   •   What do DOT, the Postal Service, and others involved in the commercial
                       air transport of dangerous goods know about the nature and frequency of
                       undeclared shipments?

                   •   What are the key mechanisms the federal government and private industry
                       have in place to prevent dangerous goods shipments from compromising
                       aviation safety?

                   •   What do DOT and the Postal Service do to enforce federal regulations for
                       shipping dangerous goods by air?

                       We focused our review primarily on the shipments of dangerous goods
                       onboard cargo aircraft, in part, because more types and quantities of
                       dangerous goods are permitted on cargo aircraft than on passenger
                       aircraft. To address these questions, we analyzed recent reports by DOT
                       on its dangerous goods programs and on the threat that carrying such
                       goods can pose, particularly when the shipments are undeclared. We
                       reviewed research on methods that might be used to estimate the
                       frequency of undeclared shipments, and we consulted with both GAO and
                       academic experts in these methods. To determine the extent to which
                       undeclared shipments may occur, we interviewed officials of four major
                       carriers that handle over 60 percent of annual air freight traffic in the
                       United States, and we visited the premises of three of these carriers to
                       review their procedures for identifying and preventing undeclared
                       dangerous goods shipments. We also reviewed the results of a joint effort
                       by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Customs
                       Service, which has the authority to inspect and search international
                       shipments, to detect, among other things, undeclared dangerous goods
                       shipments. We interviewed Postal Service, FAA, and other DOT officials
                       with various oversight responsibilities for dangerous goods transportation.
                       To evaluate FAA’s enforcement strategy, we examined the agency’s
                       assessments in 30 cases. These cases were randomly selected to fairly
                       represent the full range of over 2,000 cases in the database. While the
                       number of cases we tested was too small for us to estimate the extent to
                       which FAA’s enforcement strategy was followed in the entire database,
                       our examination allowed us to describe the types of practices that occur at
                       critical points in the penalty assessment process. Our detailed scope and
                       methodology appears at the end of this report.


                       DOT, the Postal Service, and major carriers know that undeclared air
Results in Brief       shipments of dangerous goods occur and can have serious consequences,
                       but they lack statistically valid, generalizable data to reliably estimate the


                       Page 2                                                 GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
nature and frequency of such shipments, assess their risks, profile
potential violators, and allocate resources optimally for prevention,
detection, and correction. DOT researchers have concluded that data are
not available to reliably estimate the nature and frequency of dangerous
goods shipments or assess their risks. Carriers maintain that such
shipments are rare, but their views are based almost entirely on the
occurrence of incidents—shipments that were opened after a leak, spill,
odor, or other anomaly suggested a potential problem—rather than on
information about shipments that gave no cause for opening.
Technological, economic, and legal hurdles combine to make estimates of
undeclared dangerous goods shipments difficult. The current less intrusive
screening equipment is not designed to detect many types of dangerous
goods, and therefore opening packages is the only reliable means of
obtaining information on undeclared shipments. While carriers generally
obtain the consent of shippers to open packages that they accept for
shipment, they seldom open packages because doing so is too slow and
costly to be practicable except when incidents occur. Under the Fourth
Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches
and seizures, DOT may generally not open and inspect packages without a
search warrant or the shipper’s consent. The Postal Service treats First
Class or Express mail packages traveling by air as being sealed against
inspection and protected by the Fourth Amendment. Without the authority
to open packages for inspection, neither DOT nor the Postal Service is in a
position to gather data on undeclared shipments of dangerous goods.

To prevent dangerous goods shipments from compromising safety, the
federal government relies on regulation, research, and outreach, and
private industry relies on policies for dealing with “known shippers” (a
DOT term for shippers that have demonstrated their previous business
history), other restrictions on customers or the materials they carry,
training, and sanctions. Federal regulations create a framework for
transporting dangerous goods safely. If DOT finds that these regulations
are insufficient to ensure safety, it can sponsor and has sponsored
research to determine how it should modify the regulations. DOT and the
Postal Service also provide information to the public on materials that may
not be shipped by air. Carriers try to prevent dangerous goods shipments
from compromising safety by dealing preferentially with known shippers.
In addition, some carriers accept fewer types of dangerous goods for
shipment than the law allows. While the Postal Service cannot limit its
business to known shippers, it restricts the materials it accepts for
shipment and requires shippers to bring packages weighing 16 ounces or
more to a post office, where employees can ask questions about the
contents. Carriers, including the Postal Service, also train their employees


Page 3                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
to be a first line of defense against undeclared shipments. Finally, carriers
may require shippers to take remedial training or may refuse to do
business with them if they repeatedly violate the dangerous goods
regulations.

To evaluate the effectiveness of and enforce federal regulations for
shipping dangerous goods by air, DOT collects data on incidents involving
dangerous goods, monitors shippers’ and carriers’ performance, and
assesses civil penalties. DOT has the authority to either assess civil
penalties or seek criminal enforcement action against violators. Within
DOT, FAA is responsible for enforcing compliance with the regulations for
shipping dangerous goods by air, while the Transportation Security
Administration, which is scheduled to be transferred to the new
Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the security of cargo
shipments. To ensure that appropriate civil penalties are assessed, FAA’s
enforcement guidance requires the agency to consider the compliance
history of violators across all modes of transportation. This guidance was
difficult for FAA to follow because most operating administrations were
not submitting current enforcement data to DOT. DOT has directed its
operating administrations to submit current enforcement data to a
centralized database, so that the administrations can obtain current
information on the compliance history of violators across the modes. To
ensure that similar cases are treated consistently and fairly, FAA’s
enforcement guidance also requires the agency to document the reasons
for any reduction in a recommended civil penalty. Our analysis of FAA’s
case files indicates that the agency is not always following this policy. We
are recommending that FAA document its penalty assessments, as
required, so that it can demonstrate that it is handling similar cases
consistently.

The Postal Service also collects data on actual releases of dangerous
goods being transported, monitors the compliance of shippers and
carriers, and can seek criminal penalties for violations of its regulations;
however, it cannot impose civil penalties for such violations. According to
industry officials, many dangerous goods violations result from ignorance.
Under such circumstances, the Postal Service maintains, civil penalties
may be appropriate and would make it easier to recover the sometimes
substantial costs of cleanup and damages. DOT’s hazardous materials
reauthorization proposal includes a provision that would allow the Postal
Service to impose civil penalties.

This report contains recommendations to DOT that FAA evaluate the need
for additional inspection authority to obtain statistically valid data on


Page 4                                                GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
             undeclared air shipments of dangerous goods and document its penalty
             assessments, as required, so that it can demonstrate that it is handling
             similar cases consistently. DOT agreed with our recommendations, and
             DOT and the Postal Service generally agreed with the facts in our report.
             Both DOT and the Postal Service provided clarifying and technical
             comments, which we incorporated as appropriate.


             DOT regulates tens of thousands of dangerous goods, which can include
Background   poisons, pesticides, radioactive materials, and explosives.3 About 20
             percent of these goods may not travel by air at all. As shown in figure 1,
             the remainder may travel on passenger or cargo aircraft, or both.




             3
              Each time someone ships dangerous goods, the contents of the shipment must be
             identified by using 1 of over 3,400 different shipping names. A shipping name can refer to a
             specific material that DOT has identified as dangerous; it can also be a generic description
             for a material that meets the overall criteria for a dangerous goods class, but for which
             there is not a division (within that class) to more precisely identify it. According to DOT,
             because many materials are identified using the generic descriptions within each class, the
             actual number of dangerous goods is much greater than the 3,400 shipping names that DOT
             spells out.




             Page 5                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
    Figure 1: Air Transport of Dangerous Goods Authorized by DOT




                                         20% •                            May not travel
                                                                          by either
                                                                          passenger or
                                                                          cargo aircraft
             • 50%

                                            30% •                         May travel by
                                                                          cargo, but not
                                                                          by passenger,
                                                                          aircraft




                                                                          May travel
                                                                          by either
                                                                          passenger or
                                                                          cargo aircraft

    Sources: Research and Special Programs Administration, Department of Transportation, and © 1998 Nova Development Corporation.



    Using a United Nations classification system, DOT divides all dangerous
    goods into nine general classes according to their physical, chemical,
    biological, and nuclear properties. Most of the dangerous goods that may
    not travel by air at all are the most highly explosive, toxic, oxidizing, self-
    reactive, or flammable chemical substances or articles in their class. In
    addition to prohibiting some types of dangerous goods from being carried
    by air at all, DOT restricts the types and amounts of other dangerous
    goods that any individual passenger or cargo aircraft may carry. For both
    passenger and cargo aircraft, DOT spells out these restrictions in four
    ways:

•   By name—dangerous goods that represent an unacceptable hazard on
    aircraft or are known to have caused an aircraft fire or explosion, such as
    chemical oxygen generators, are specifically forbidden by name.

•   By hazard class and subdivision—certain subdivisions of the classes of
    dangerous goods are known to be highly reactive or toxic (for example,
    most explosives and all spontaneously combustible materials), so DOT
    excludes them from passenger flights.




    Page 6                                                                                 GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
•   By quantities contained per outer package—DOT restricts on passenger
    aircraft the quantity of certain substances or the number of articles that
    may be present in the outermost shipping containers in the cargo hold. For
    example, DOT allows the carriage of up to 30 liters of certain highly
    flammable liquids per outer package on cargo aircraft, but imposes limits
    of 1 liter or less on passenger aircraft.

•   By packaging integrity—dangerous goods must be packaged so as to
    protect the integrity of the shipment and safeguard against accidental
    leaks or spills.

    For passenger aircraft, whose cargo areas are divided into multiple
    compartments, DOT also restricts the aggregate quantities of dangerous
    goods that may be carried per cargo compartment. Figure 2 shows the
    kinds of containers in which dangerous goods typically travel in these
    cargo compartments.

    Figure 2: Dangerous Goods Cargo Containers




    Page 7                                             GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                                         Dangerous goods permitted onboard passenger aircraft include dry ice and
                                         solvents; cargo aircraft may also carry materials such as paint or medical
                                         waste. Table 1 provides a complete listing of the nine classes of dangerous
                                         goods, their descriptions, an example for each class, and some of the
                                         restrictions DOT places on the carriage of each by type of aircraft.

Table 1: Dangerous Goods Classes and Descriptions

                                                                                                            Passenger aircraft
Class    Description               Example(s)                   Cargo aircraft restrictions                 restrictions
1        Explosives                Fireworks                    Most are forbidden                          Most are forbidden
2        Gases                     Propane                      Most are permitted within                   Most are forbidden
                                                                quantity limitations
3        Flammable liquids       Acetone, lighter fluid, paints Most are permitted, except                  Most are permitted within
                                                                those that are toxic by                     quantity limitations
                                                                inhalation
4        Flammable solids        Safety matches                 Most are permitted within                   Most are permitted within
                                                                quantity limitations; others are            quantity limitations
                                                                forbidden (for example,
                                                                spontaneously combustible
                                                                materials)
5        Oxidizers and organic   Swimming pool chemicals        Most are permitted within                   Most are permitted within
         peroxides                                              quantity limitations; others are            quantity limitations
                                                                forbidden (for example,
                                                                temperature-controlled organic
                                                                peroxides)
6        Toxic materials and     Regulated medical waste,       Most are permitted within                   Most are permitted within
         infectious substances   motor fuel anti-knock mixtures quantity limitations, exceptions            quantity limitations
                                                                for subsidiary risksa or those
                                                                that are toxic by inhalation
                                                                b                                           b
7        Radioactive materials   Uranium hexafloride
8        Corrosive materials     Batteries, cleaning            Most are permitted within                   Most are permitted within
                                 compounds                      quantity limitations                        quantity limitations
9        Miscellaneous dangerous Asbestos                       Most are permitted within                   Most are permitted within
         goods                                                  quantity limitations                        quantity limitations
                                         Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, RSPA.
                                         a
                                          “Subsidiary risk” means that the dangerous good also meets the definition of one or more other
                                         classes.
                                         b
                                          For nearly all radioactive materials, the Department of Transportation’s Research and Special
                                         Programs Administration (RSPA) spells out restrictions in terms of the radiological reading that comes
                                         from the package rather than a quantity limit (as it does for other classes of dangerous goods).


                                         According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent survey on the
                                         movement of hazardous goods in the United States, class 3 dangerous
                                         goods (flammable liquids, such as paint) account for the greatest portion
                                         (by weight) of the nine classes of dangerous goods shipped by air.
                                         However, the vast majority of flammable liquids travel by other modes.
                                         The percentage of total shipments made by air was greatest for radioactive



                                         Page 8                                                                 GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
    materials (class 7)—just over 8 percent of the total radioactive tonnage
    shipped in 1997 was shipped by air. According to FAA, cargo aircraft, such
    as those operated by the major delivery services FedEx and United Parcel
    Service, Inc. (UPS), carry about 75 percent of the nation’s dangerous
    goods air shipments. The remaining 25 percent travel onboard passenger
    aircraft in cargo compartments.

    Ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods by air is a shared
    responsibility of federal agencies, shippers, and airlines—the success of
    which ultimately depends on the efforts of thousands of individuals every
    day. Within DOT, the following have responsibility for dangerous goods:

•   The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) regulates the
    transportation of dangerous goods by truck, train, ship, pipeline, and
    plane. It decides which materials to define as hazardous; writes the rules
    for packaging, handling, and carrying them; and prescribes training
    requirements for shippers’ and carriers’ dangerous goods employees.
    RSPA, along with the other DOT operating administrations that operate
    and manage dangerous goods programs,4 conducts inspections and
    investigations to determine compliance with dangerous goods laws and
    regulations for all modes of transportation and, where appropriate,
    initiates enforcement actions against those it finds not to be in
    compliance. RSPA maintains a database for closed dangerous goods
    enforcement actions from these operating administrations, and another
    database that tracks dangerous goods incidents from these operating
    administrations.

•   The Office of Intermodalism, reporting to the Secretary of Transportation,
    is responsible for implementing recommendations from a March 2000
    evaluation of DOT’s dangerous goods program,5 coordinating intermodal
    and cross-modal dangerous goods activities, and coordinating DOT-wide
    outreach activities. For example, in 2001, to improve awareness of
    dangerous goods incidents occurring during shipments, this office sent out
    letters to shippers most frequently identified in RSPA’s dangerous goods
    incident database.


    4
     The DOT operating administrations that operate and manage dangerous goods programs
    include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
    Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Research and Special Programs
    Administration, and the United States Coast Guard.
    5
    U.S. Department of Transportation, Departmentwide Program Evaluation of the
    Hazardous Materials Transportation Program, Final Report (March 2000).




    Page 9                                                       GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
•   FAA carries out responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the rules for
    transporting dangerous goods by air. In addition, FAA assesses carriers’
    operations and investigates dangerous goods incidents or accidents. FAA
    also has other responsibilities, including those relating to the prosecution
    and adjudication of enforcement actions against those found to have
    violated the dangerous goods rules.

    The Postal Service is both a carrier and a shipper of dangerous goods
    because it not only carries shipments on aircraft that it leases, but it also
    sends U.S. mail onboard commercial passenger and cargo airlines. As a
    result, the airlines carrying U.S. mail rely on the Postal Service as a first
    line of defense in ensuring the safety of the packages they accept for
    transport and in preventing the shipment of anything that should not travel
    by air.

    Shippers—whether they are businesses or individuals—have the primary
    responsibility for ensuring the safety of their dangerous goods shipments.
    They are required to train their employees to package their shipments
    safely and to tell the carriers to whom they deliver these shipments that
    they contain dangerous goods. Carriers share some of the responsibility
    for the safe transportation of dangerous goods. They do so by training
    their employees to handle these shipments properly, to identify likely
    instances of improper shipments (such as those containing undeclared
    dangerous goods), and to verify that the indirect air carriers from whom
    they accept consolidated cargo shipments have FAA-approved security
    programs in place to prevent explosive or incendiary devices from being
    placed onboard.6 Carriers are also responsible for reporting to DOT any
    instance of noncompliance they discover.




    6
     An indirect air carrier accepts and delivers cargo to commercial airlines for transport. An
    example of an indirect air carrier would be a freight forwarder that consolidates shipments
    from a large number of shippers and then transports them via the cargo compartments of
    commercial aircraft. Because the U.S. Postal Service uses commercial aircraft to ship the
    mail, the FAA also considers it an indirect air carrier.




    Page 10                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                               From tragic accidents over the years and day-to-day experience in
Shipments of                   handling cargo traffic, DOT and major carriers know that shipments of
Undeclared                     undeclared dangerous goods can have disastrous consequences. The
                               nature and frequency of such shipments—and, by extension, the amount
Dangerous Goods Can            of effort that should be put into stopping them—are difficult to estimate
Have Serious                   because of data limitations. However, the inability of commercially
                               available screening equipment to detect many types of dangerous goods,
Consequences, but              the costs of delaying shipments to inspect them, and restrictions against
Their Nature and               opening certain packages may preclude the collection of data.
Frequency Are
Difficult to Estimate
Consequences of Carrying       Undeclared and other improper shipments of dangerous goods can pose a
Undeclared Dangerous           high risk because of the nature of air transportation. In recent years, both
Goods Have Been Serious        RSPA and FAA have expressed concern about undeclared dangerous
                               goods shipments. In its departmentwide March 2000 evaluation of the
and Remain a Concern           dangerous goods program, DOT reported that the United States has a
                               relatively good safety record, given the amounts of dangerous goods that
                               are shipped by all modes of transportation each year. However, DOT
                               added that the potential still remains for dangerous goods incidents with
                               catastrophic consequences, and, even though relatively small amounts of
                               dangerous goods travel by air (compared with other modes of
                               transportation), a single mishap can have serious consequences. For
                               example, FAA has reported the following incidents:

                           •   In 1996, a major passenger airline carried undeclared dangerous goods—
                               calcium hypochlorite and liquid bleach—on a flight from California to
                               Jamaica. Upon arrival, airport personnel discovered smoke coming from
                               the aircraft’s cargo doors and encountered toxic fumes when they opened
                               the cargo compartment. The box of undeclared dangerous goods was
                               leaking and burst into flames shortly after the airport personnel removed it
                               from the cargo hold.

                           •   In 1998, an undeclared shipment of electric storage batteries (considered
                               “wet” because they contain either electrolyte acid or alkaline corrosive
                               battery fluid) burst into flames while en route by truck to an airport,
                               where it had been scheduled to be placed aboard a major passenger
                               carrier’s aircraft.

                           •   In 1999, a major cargo carrier transported an undeclared shipment of
                               liquefied petroleum gas from Portland, Oregon, to New York on a regularly



                               Page 11                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                          scheduled cargo flight. One day after arriving in New York, the package
                          burst into flames at the carrier’s sorting facility.

                          Three of the four major carriers we interviewed and DOT expressed
                          concern about the safety of carrying dangerous goods. According to these
                          three carriers, even though they discover relatively few undeclared
                          shipments, their greatest safety concern in the air transportation of these
                          goods is prompted by the undeclared shipments—particularly those they
                          do not detect before accepting them. They expressed this concern over
                          not knowing how much of the volume of undeclared dangerous goods they
                          do not find, because these shipments present a greater risk than do those
                          that shippers properly declare.

                          The major cargo carriers we interviewed and the Postal Service agreed
                          that ignorance or misunderstanding of the rules for transporting
                          dangerous goods is by far the most common reason why shippers fail to
                          properly declare their dangerous goods shipments. According to one
                          carrier, in very limited instances, shippers will deliberately not declare
                          their shipments even when they know they are breaking the rules.
                          However, no carrier cited cost as a reason why shippers fail to declare
                          their shipments, even though shipping costs are usually higher for
                          dangerous goods than for nondangerous goods. An official from one
                          carrier stated that he had never seen a case of a shipper willfully failing to
                          properly declare a dangerous goods shipment because of cost concerns.
                          Furthermore, at the Postal Service, it is doubtful that cost is a cause of
                          undeclared shipments, because the Postal Service does not charge more
                          for carrying these shipments than it does for carrying those that are not
                          hazardous; all of the Postal Service’s charges are based on weight and
                          class, regardless of the contents.


Data Limitations Make     According to a 1999 threat assessment published by DOT’s Volpe Center,7
Estimates of Undeclared   three types of data that are needed to thoroughly assess the risks of
Dangerous Goods           carrying declared and undeclared dangerous goods by air were
                          unavailable. These were
Shipments Difficult



                          7
                           The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is part of RSPA. It provides
                          policy support, strategic planning, and analysis to customers within as well as outside DOT
                          in areas such as strategic investment and resource allocation. Its work addresses issues in
                          air and other modes of transportation.




                          Page 12                                                        GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
•   what amounts of dangerous goods are shipped by class and division (for
    all modes of transportation),

•   how often incidents related to dangerous goods involve undeclared
    shipments, and

•   what amounts and what types of undeclared dangerous goods are shipped
    by air.

    Without these data, the Volpe Center was limited to assessing the threat
    from dangerous goods instead of the risk. The danger associated with a
    specific item is its “threat,” while the likelihood that the threat will actually
    result in harm is its “risk.” Assessing risk, according to the Volpe Center,
    requires some indication of the likelihood that dangerous goods will be
    present on an aircraft—and the data to determine this likelihood were not
    available.

    Volpe Center officials attempted to find or compile data sources that
    would allow them to estimate the total amount of various dangerous goods
    that might be shipped (for example, over the course of a year), but they
    were unsuccessful. They found no single source of such data and were not
    able to piece together data sources. For example, Volpe Center staff
    attempted to compile data from chemical manufacturers to identify the
    total amounts of their products that move by air and the related
    distribution chain (that is, the amounts that move by other modes); this
    information would enable them to identify aggregate amounts of certain
    dangerous goods that shippers should be declaring, which would be a first
    step in working toward an estimate of undeclared shipments. However,
    the industry sources the Volpe Center consulted considered such
    information proprietary and would not share it. Volpe Center staff also
    considered assembling cargo manifest information from the airlines,
    because these records indicate for each flight the amounts and types of
    dangerous goods the aircraft is carrying. However, Volpe Center staff said
    the airlines informed them that these data are not in a form usable for such
    an analysis. Even if the manifest information were available, data on the
    overall amounts of dangerous goods shipments (such as the Volpe Center
    sought from the chemical industry) would still be necessary before this
    manifest information could be useful for estimating undeclared dangerous
    goods shipments.

    According to Volpe Center staff, the limitations in the amount and quality
    of data on dangerous goods shipments make estimating how many
    shipments contain undeclared dangerous goods more difficult. Our


    Page 13                                                 GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
experts in applied research and methodology agreed, noting that certain
“hidden populations” methods might be useful for estimating the amount
of undeclared dangerous goods shipments,8 but only if data limitations
such as those the Volpe Center identified were overcome. A Massachusetts
Institute of Technology expert in transportation research with whom we
met agreed that none of the known methods for estimating hidden
populations would be feasible for undeclared dangerous goods.

The major carriers we interviewed said they most commonly identify
undeclared dangerous goods (after accepting them for shipment) when
some occurrence prompts them to open a package or, in the case of the
Postal Service, to set the package aside for further investigation (because
the Postal Service generally cannot open such a package without a search
warrant). Most often, this happens when a package leaks, spills, breaks
open, or emits an odor, and the carrier or Postal Service employees
identify the occurrence as potentially a dangerous goods incident.9 One
carrier also indicated that occasionally packages open as a result of
handling or must be opened when they lose their address labels. In some
of these instances, the company has discovered undeclared dangerous
goods. This same company also noted that, on rare occasions, it learns of
undeclared dangerous goods from informants—employees of either the
company that shipped the package or competitors of that company.

The carriers we interviewed reported that, although they have the consent
of shippers to open packages that have been accepted for shipment, they
seldom discover undeclared dangerous goods. Although they did not cite a
specific percentage, they described shipments of undeclared dangerous
goods as “very rare” and “a handful.” The numbers are believed to be
similarly small for the Postal Service—officials estimated that declared
dangerous goods represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of their
shipments, and the percentage of these shipments that is undeclared is


8
 The term “hidden populations” refers to those that are difficult to count by traditional
means because, for example, they involve illegal or undesirable conditions that people are
unlikely to self-report. For example, illegal aliens or intravenous drug users would be
considered “hidden populations,” as would persons deliberately shipping undeclared
dangerous goods.
9
 A dangerous goods incident is an event that results in a release, including an unanticipated
or unintentional release, of hazardous material during the course of transportation. RSPA
requires carriers to report incidents as soon as possible when they involve certain serious
consequences, such as deaths or a change in the operational flight pattern of an aircraft.
RSPA requires carriers to report all other incidents to the agency within 30 days of their
occurrence.




Page 14                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
“very small.” The Volpe Center reported in a 1999 threat assessment that
undeclared dangerous goods shipments made up about 0.05 percent of the
shipments of several large cargo carriers, but this estimate was based on
the recollections of the carriers of how many incidents they typically
report to RSPA.

Because estimates by the Volpe Center, major carriers, and the Postal
Service are based on reported incidents or memory, they are incomplete.
Moreover, these estimates refer only to those undeclared shipments that
resulted in dangerous goods incidents—they do not include undeclared
shipments that never gave carriers cause to open them. As a result,
according to the Volpe Center, there are no valid figures for the numbers
of dangerous goods shipments that do not comply with regulations for
transportation by air.10

Additionally, when a carrier reports an incident to DOT, RSPA does not
currently require the carrier to report whether the shipper properly
declared the dangerous goods. Consequently, the estimates of undeclared
shipments reported by the Volpe Center and by carriers to us may not
include all of the incidents carriers discovered, because the estimates are
based on memory and are therefore subject to error. RSPA plans to
remedy this limitation by requiring carriers to report whether dangerous
goods shipments involved in incidents were declared or undeclared. To do
so, RSPA is modifying its incident-reporting paperwork (Form 5800.1) to
more systematically collect and analyze information on undeclared
shipments. RSPA expects to complete this and other ongoing revisions to
its incident-reporting form by spring 2003.




10
 Recently, RSPA received comments on the frequency of undeclared shipments in
response to an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. RSPA received these comments
under Docket HM-228, which considers changes to the regulations on the transportation of
hazardous materials. According to an RSPA official, the agency is analyzing these
comments and expects to complete its analysis by the end of October 2003.




Page 15                                                      GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Technological, Economic,    Technological limitations complicate efforts to estimate the incidence of
and Legal Hurdles Also      undeclared dangerous goods shipments. Ideally, technologies generally
Make Estimates of           considered to be less intrusive, such as X-ray or explosives-detection
                            equipment, could be used to identify and characterize undeclared
Undeclared Dangerous        shipments. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)11 is
Goods Shipments Difficult   currently using this equipment to screen passenger carry-on and checked
                            baggage for weapons and explosives, and, under the Aviation and
                            Transportation Security Act,12 TSA must ensure that a system is in
                            operation to screen, inspect, or otherwise provide for the security of all air
                            cargo to be transported in all cargo aircraft as soon as practicable.
                            However, X-ray and explosives-detection equipment is not designed to
                            detect many types of dangerous goods.13 In the future, technology may
                            enable the rapid, less intrusive screening of packages, but in the near term,
                            opening packages remains the best way to obtain information on the
                            nature and frequency of undeclared shipments.

                            Economic obstacles—particularly the costs of opening packages after
                            accepting them—also make it difficult to estimate the nature and
                            frequency of undeclared dangerous goods shipments. According to each of
                            the major carriers we interviewed, the volume of cargo that these airlines
                            carry each day is tremendous. For example, the carriers stated that they
                            carry from at least 1.3 million to more than 2 million shipments each night,
                            a small fraction of which contain dangerous goods. Because the carriers
                            typically guarantee delivery on nearly all of the shipments they carry (such
                            as within 24 hours or 2 business days), anything that slows their ability to
                            move shipments could compromise their ability to meet their guarantees
                            to their customers and, as a result, hurt their competitive position in their
                            industry.

                            Although the carriers we interviewed told us that they obtain the consent
                            of shippers to open packages, they also said they seldom do open
                            packages. Carriers and an association representing cargo and passenger
                            airlines stressed that they are not in the business of opening packages,
                            particularly when shippers are primarily responsible for ensuring the


                            11
                             The Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107-296, provides that TSA be transferred to the
                            Department of Homeland Security. The Under Secretary for Border Transportation and
                            Security has responsibility for TSA.
                            12
                             P.L. 107-71, November 19, 2001.
                            13
                             We do not describe how this technology works because TSA considers this to be sensitive
                            security information.




                            Page 16                                                       GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
integrity and proper declaration of those packages. The carriers indicated
that they have confidence in and place a great, ongoing emphasis on their
up-front screening to prevent shippers from offering them undeclared
dangerous goods in the first place. Opening packages without probable
cause to do so would also be costly to the carriers because they would be
responsible for repackaging anything they found to be properly declared—
and dangerous goods require special, more expensive packaging than
other shipments. Although carriers remain concerned about the possibility
of undeclared shipments they may miss, to date the frequency with which
they discover shipments of undeclared dangerous goods does not, in their
view, justify a step as disruptive and costly as systematically opening a
random or targeted selection of shipments.

Because the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits
unreasonable searches and seizures and neither DOT nor the Postal
Service has obtained the consent of owners to have their packages opened
for inspection, neither agency may conduct or require random or targeted
intrusive inspections of domestic cargo shipments to look for undeclared
dangerous goods. Although FAA may remove a package from an aircraft
and take such emergency actions if it reasonably believes that the package
presents an immediate threat, it has no authority, generally, to open and
inspect a package without a warrant or without the owner’s consent.

The Postal Service may inspect Parcel Post packages. However, packages
sent as First Class or Express mail traveling by air may not be inspected.14
The mail classification schedule recommended by the Postal Rate
Commission and adopted by the Postal Service does not distinguish
between letters and packages, treating both as “sealed against inspection”
and protected by the Fourth Amendment. Thus, these packages are
protected to the same extent as letters, and all First Class and Express
mail is treated as protected by the Fourth Amendment.




14
  The Postal Reorganization Act, 39 U.S.C. § 3623(d), addresses the issue of letters sealed
against inspection. It states, “The Postal Service shall maintain one or more classes of mail
for the transmission of letters sealed against inspection… No letter of such a class of
domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by
law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining
an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the
addressee.”




Page 17                                                          GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
DOT Has Teamed with the       To obtain more information on the nature and frequency of undeclared
U.S. Customs Service to       dangerous goods in air transport, FAA has teamed with the U.S. Customs
Obtain Information on         Service, which has the authority to inspect and search international cargo
                              (imports and exports). Specifically, the Customs Service can and does
Undeclared Dangerous          randomly open and inspect international cargo for purposes such as
Goods in International        ensuring that shippers have paid the proper tariffs. Most recently, in June
Shipments                     and July 2000, the U.S. Customs Service and FAA together conducted
                              inspections of passenger carry-on and checked bags and cargo aboard
                              flights that were entering or departing from the United States at 19
                              domestic airports.15 This series of inspections found that

                          •   8 percent of targeted cargo shipments (those whose tariff codes indicated
                              that their contents might be hazardous) contained undeclared dangerous
                              goods,

                          •   1 percent of passenger carry-on bags contained undeclared dangerous
                              goods, and

                          •   just under 0.5 percent of passenger checked baggage contained
                              undeclared dangerous goods.

                              The undeclared dangerous goods in the cargo shipments included
                              flammable liquids, fuel control units, aerosols, fire extinguishers, and
                              devices powered by flammable liquid. In the passengers’ checked and
                              carry-on bags, the Customs-FAA teams found aerosols, lighters, flammable
                              liquids, safety matches, compressed flammable gases, and automotive
                              batteries. The Customs-FAA team randomly selected the passenger
                              baggage it inspected, but for the cargo, the team matched tariff codes for
                              commodity imports and exports with a dangerous goods trigger list to
                              determine which shipments to inspect.16




                              15
                               Final Report of Operation Clear Sky, Joint Inspection Activity, United States Customs
                              Service/Federal Aviation Administration, June 26–July 21, 2000.
                              16
                               The Customs-FAA inspections focused on international cargo and passenger baggage
                              because the Customs Service has the authority to open and inspect shipments coming into
                              or leaving the United States. Beyond the border, neither agency has the authority to open
                              and inspect domestic cargo or passenger baggage without a search warrant.




                              Page 18                                                       GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Increased Inspection          DOT has tried several times to clarify and expand its authority to inspect
Authority That DOT Is         and open certain packages when its inspectors suspect a violation of the
Seeking Would Not             dangerous goods regulations. In its 1997, 1999, and 2001 reauthorization
                              proposal, DOT sought the authority to access, open, examine, and, if need
Produce Statistically Valid   be, remove a package from transportation if it had an objectively
Data and Does Not             reasonable and articulable belief that the package might contain
Distinguish between Air       undeclared dangerous goods.17 According to DOT, this authority, which is
and Other Modes of            specific to all modes, would require its officers or inspectors to have a
Transportation                “particularized and objective basis” for suspecting a violation, such as a
                              pattern of shipping undeclared dangerous goods, in order to open an
                              unmarked package. DOT further stated that this enhanced authority would
                              enable it to more effectively detect potential violations and to ensure that
                              it took the appropriate remedial actions. According to DOT officials, its
                              reauthorization proposal has not been enacted for reasons unrelated to the
                              merits of its request for additional inspection authority.

                              Because DOT’s reauthorization proposal applies equally to all modes of
                              transportation, it would, if approved, allow DOT to follow up on problem
                              shippers across the modes. However, the proposal would also extend the
                              government’s inspection authority without regard to the differences
                              inherent in transporting dangerous goods by different modes. The same
                              distinctions between air and the other modes that justify more stringent
                              regulations for transporting dangerous goods by air might also justify
                              greater inspection authority for packages shipped by air.

                              A primary objective of DOT’s reauthorization proposal has been to
                              improve the ability of its inspectors to monitor and enforce the dangerous
                              goods regulations. The proposal has not been designed to obtain better
                              information about the nature and frequency of undeclared air shipments.
                              Because it would require a “particularized and objective basis” for opening
                              packages, it would not allow DOT to identify a random sample of packages
                              and conduct inspections whose results could be generalized to all
                              packages in air transport. Thus, its usefulness as a tool for gathering data
                              to estimate the nature and frequency of undeclared air shipments and to
                              profile and target violators would be limited. DOT officials agree that their
                              proposal would not generate statistically valid data, and they have
                              indicated their willingness to modify the proposal so that it would yield
                              more useful information.



                              17
                                In this report, we are not expressing an opinion on potential constitutional issues related
                              to DOT’s proposal.




                              Page 19                                                          GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                            An alternative to DOT’s proposal, based on the premise that additional and
                            perhaps unique measures are needed to protect air commerce, would
                            require that shippers consent to DOT’s opening packages shipped by air
                            for inspection. This would allow the department to select and open a
                            random sample of packages in order to gather statistically valid data on
                            undeclared air shipments.


                            To prevent dangerous goods shipments from compromising aviation
Government and              safety, the federal government relies on regulation, research, and
Industry Rely on            outreach, while private industry depends on policies for dealing with
                            known shippers, other restrictions, training, and sanctions.
Several Mechanisms
to Prevent Dangerous
Goods Shipments
from Compromising
Safety

The Federal Government      Federal regulations provide a framework for transporting dangerous
Depends on Regulations,     goods safely by air. As discussed in the background section of this report,
Research, and Outreach to   these regulations define dangerous goods, identify those that may and may
                            not travel by air, and specify how the materials are to be packaged,
Prevent Problems            handled, and carried. In addition, the regulations prescribe initial and
                            recurrent training for shippers’ and carriers’ employees, and require
                            shippers and carriers to test their employees’ understanding of the
                            material covered in the training. The training, which is designed to
                            increase dangerous goods employees’ safety awareness and to reduce the
                            frequency of dangerous goods incidents, is important because insufficient
                            understanding of the rules is often a factor contributing to such incidents.
                            For example, in 17 of 25 dangerous goods enforcement cases we reviewed
                            involving businesses, FAA identified employees’ lack of training as a
                            contributing factor.18

                            To monitor the effectiveness of its regulations in promoting safety, RSPA
                            collects information on dangerous goods incidents occurring in the air,



                            18
                             The remaining 5 cases of the 30 we reviewed involved individuals not engaged as
                            HAZMAT employees, to whom the rules regarding initial and recurrent training do not
                            apply.




                            Page 20                                                      GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
water, rail, and truck modes through its Form 5800.1. Nonetheless, the
form is not designed to collect all the information that would be useful in
monitoring the effectiveness of DOT’s dangerous goods regulations. As
previously noted, the form does not ask whether a problem shipment was
declared or undeclared—a key question in assessing effectiveness. 19 In
addition, the form does not include data fields that precisely identify the
different types of packaging deficiencies. While the form has space for
written comments, there is no mechanism for standardizing and entering
the information from the comments into DOT’s databases. RSPA is
revising the form to overcome these limitations. Once carriers begin
collecting information on dangerous goods incidents using this revised
form, better information on the incidence of undeclared shipments and
reasons for packaging deficiencies should be available to FAA and the
other operating administrations.

In the course of such monitoring, DOT sometimes identifies safety issues
that require further research. For example, DOT is currently evaluating
ways in which it will strengthen the regulations for shipping batteries,
because its analysis indicated that the existing dangerous goods
regulations for these shipments may not be sufficient. Beginning in the
early 1990s, FAA identified a number of incidents associated with
batteries, particularly lithium batteries, aboard aircraft in which the
batteries caused fires, smoke, or extreme heat—precisely the kind of
effects that make dangerous goods dangerous. In response to these and
other concerns, RSPA has taken a number of actions designed to improve
the regulations for the transportation of lithium batteries.20

FAA’s monitoring of reports on incidents involving dangerous goods also
led to further work on packaging standards. In examining nearly 3,000
reports from 1998 and 1999, FAA found that 60 percent of the incidents
involved properly declared shipments, indicating that the shipments



19
 Two DOT initiatives—the Flagship Initiative on Hazardous Materials Handling/Incidents
and the DOT-wide program evaluation—cited a better understanding of the frequency and
impact of undeclared shipments as essential.
20
  In response to an incident at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, the National
Transportation Safety Board issued five safety recommendations to RSPA for improving
the transportation of lithium batteries. In response to these concerns, RSPA published
safety advisories in the Federal Register, worked with the lithium battery industry to adopt
voluntary safety standards, undertook a study on the transportation of lithium batteries,
and initiated changes to domestic and international regulations on the transport of lithium
batteries.




Page 21                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
complied with the existing packaging standards. Yet just over half (873) of
these properly declared shipments had problems because their packaging
failed—that is, their closures or seals leaked. These data prompted FAA to
attempt to determine the adequacy of packaging standards for air
transportation and the likely causes of leaking closures and seals.
Observing an increase in the number of package failures in the past 3
years, FAA questioned whether the existing test methods simulate the
realistic combined effects of pressure, temperature, and vibration. As a
result, FAA contracted with Michigan State University to study packaging
in air transportation. The results of that study, which FAA recently
received, indicate that closures are continuing to leak in packages marked
as complying with existing packaging standards. Subjecting packages to
both high altitude and vibration resulted in a package failure rate of 50
percent. RSPA is reviewing these results.

To help prevent dangerous goods incidents aboard passenger aircraft, FAA
and RSPA conduct outreach to the public. For example, FAA worked with
RSPA to develop for air travelers a brochure that lists items prohibited in
passenger baggage (see app. I). The brochure also explains that in-flight
variations in temperature and pressure can cause seemingly harmless
items to leak or generate toxic fumes during air travel. RSPA requires that
signs be posted in airport terminals and at check-in counters listing items
prohibited in air travel, some of which passengers may not recognize as
hazardous in air transportation. In addition, FAA has placed kiosks with
information on dangerous goods at 24 major airports to better inform the
general public about items that are considered hazardous onboard aircraft.

The Postal Service also does consumer outreach to better inform the
public about the materials that may and may not be sent through the mail.
According to Postal Service officials, there are posters in all of its facilities
that warn customers about shipping restricted dangerous goods. In
addition, for any customer who ships or requests information about
shipping dangerous goods, Postal Service retail employees provide an
informational brochure summarizing the applicable rules as well as the
shipper’s responsibilities.




Page 22                                                 GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Major Carriers Rely on       To prevent undeclared dangerous goods shipments, major carriers limit
Known Shipper Policies,      their business to known shippers and may impose other restrictions. They
Other Restrictions,          also train their employees to be a first line of defense against undeclared
                             shipments, and may apply sanctions to shippers who have violated
Training, and Sanctions to   dangerous goods regulations.
Prevent Undeclared
Shipments

Carriers Deal with Known     To ensure that they are dealing with legitimate businesses that are more
Shippers and Impose Other    likely to properly train their employees to comply with dangerous goods
Restrictions                 rules, the major carriers we interviewed rely on TSA’s “known shipper”
                             requirements or establish formal, contractual relationships with their
                             shippers that mirror the known shipper requirements.21 According to
                             officials of one of the carriers, the steps involved in becoming a known
                             shipper reduce to an acceptable level the risk that the shipper presents to
                             the carrier.22 By contrast, the carriers have found, casual or one-time
                             shippers are more likely to offer undeclared dangerous goods for
                             shipment. Three of the four carriers said they try to limit their business
                             with casual or one-time shippers and do not advertise to them. Rather, two
                             of the carriers said, they target business-to-business shippers that typically
                             have experience with shipping high volumes of dangerous goods and may
                             have long-standing relationships with the carriers. The fourth carrier said
                             that it does not accept dangerous goods from casual shippers at all and,
                             for other shippers, requires the establishment of a dangerous goods–
                             shipping agreement, or contract, that spells out obligations for shippers,
                             such as recurring employee-training requirements. Officials of this carrier
                             believe that these contractual obligations reduce the incidence of
                             undeclared shipments.




                             21
                               We have not included a detailed description of the criteria that shippers must meet for
                             carriers to consider them “known” because TSA considers this to be sensitive-security
                             information.
                             22
                               Recent media reports as well as work by the DOT Inspector General have raised concerns
                             about the extent to which (1) the known shipper procedures are a reliable deterrent to
                             criminal attacks and (2) selected carriers were adequately complying with regulations
                             requiring them to, among other things, properly screen packages from unknown shippers.
                             Most recently, virtually all of the cargo carriers the Inspector General tested were
                             complying with the requirement, put in place after September 11, 2001, to take no packages
                             from unknown shippers. However, the Inspector General raised additional serious
                             concerns about weaknesses in FAA’s procedures for individuals or businesses to become
                             approved indirect air carriers. (A carrier using the known shipper requirements must verify
                             that shippers have such approval from FAA.)




                             Page 23                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                                 Besides limiting their business primarily to known shippers, the major
                                 carriers we interviewed may try to prevent undeclared shipments by
                                 limiting the types of materials they will carry and the places where they
                                 will accept dangerous goods shipments. Three of the four carriers said
                                 they accept fewer types of dangerous goods for shipment than DOT
                                 authorizes to travel by air. For example, the carriers said they refuse to
                                 carry materials such as toxic or infectious substances, certain explosives,
                                 and organic peroxides. In addition, one of the carriers said it would not
                                 accept dangerous goods shipments at its retail establishments. This carrier
                                 said it would accept such shipments only when its own drivers picked
                                 them up from established customers. This carrier’s policy is designed to
                                 screen out the casual shippers that might use its retail establishments.
                                 According to the carrier, this policy also allows it to rely on its drivers’
                                 experience with dangerous goods shipments, their training, and their long-
                                 standing relationships with established customers as a first line of
                                 screening against undeclared shipments of dangerous goods.

                                 While the Postal Service cannot limit its business to known shippers, it
                                 accepts fewer dangerous goods for shipment than DOT authorizes to
                                 travel by air. In general, the Postal Service limits the dangerous goods it
                                 will accept for shipment to certain quantities of consumer commodities
                                 that typically present a limited hazard in transportation because of their
                                 form, quantity, or packaging.

                                 In addition to limiting what dangerous goods it will carry, the Postal
                                 Service, as part of its aviation mail security program, requires customers
                                 to bring any package weighing 16 ounces or more to a post office for
                                 shipment. The intent of this program is to prevent explosives in the mail,
                                 but Postal Service officials indicated it has a residual benefit in helping to
                                 prevent undeclared shipments of dangerous goods. Specifically, by
                                 requiring customers to bring packages that weigh 16 ounces or more to a
                                 post office for shipment, Postal Service employees can inspect packages,
                                 ask questions about their contents to determine whether they contain
                                 anything prohibited, and ensure proper handling for packages containing
                                 dangerous goods that may be mailed.

Carriers Train Their Employees   The major carriers we interviewed emphasized that the training they
to Monitor Compliance with       provide for their employees is a key component in their efforts to prevent
Dangerous Goods                  shippers from offering undeclared dangerous goods, supplementing their
Requirements                     use of restrictions or the known shipper requirements to guard against
                                 such shipments. This training provides information on dangerous goods
                                 requirements and procedures for drivers and employees who handle, sort,
                                 and load shipments. Through this training, the carriers expect that


                                 Page 24                                                GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
employees throughout their distribution chain will be able to identify
problems such as declaration paperwork that is missing information about
the contents of a package labeled as dangerous.

Carriers rely particularly on their drivers to draw on their training to, in
effect, extend the known shipper concept to their day-to-day interactions
with shippers. Training, plus a working knowledge of a company’s
established customers, helps the drivers detect inadvertent failures to
properly declare a shipment. For example, a driver picking up a shipment
from a customer who typically sends some dangerous goods would be
expected to raise questions if the customer did not label or declare any of
the packages as dangerous. In such an instance, the shipper may have
made a mistake or forgotten to declare the dangerous goods.

The Postal Service trains its retail employees, who accept packages from
the public, to screen packages and prevent those with undeclared or
improperly packaged dangerous goods from entering the mail system.
According to Postal Service officials, as of August 2002, the agency had
trained all 131,000 of its retail employees in procedures for preventing the
acceptance of any package containing prohibited materials. These
procedures include (1) asking shippers a series of questions about the
contents of their packages, including whether the packages contain
anything hazardous; (2) visually inspecting packages to look for signs of
problems, such as leaks, the lack of a return address, or markings
indicating that a package contains something a shipper may not know is
hazardous; and (3) referring to a reference guide for assistance in
answering shippers’ questions about items that may or may not be
permissible in the U.S. mail. (See app. II for a summary of DOT’s
dangerous goods classes and the materials or quantities from each that are
allowed in the U.S. mail.) While the retail employees may be the first to
deal with shipments entering the mail system, the Postal Service also
provides dangerous goods training to its non-retail employees (such as
postal inspectors or employees at business mail entry units), who also
handle or carry dangerous goods or respond to incidents involving them.

According to the official responsible for the Postal Service’s dangerous
goods program, the agency has to rely on its retail employees to screen out
unacceptable items because it has limited authority to open mail that has
been accepted for shipment. These officials believe that face-to-face
questioning reduces the anonymity associated with depositing a letter in a
mailbox. And reducing anonymity, this official says, improves their
confidence in shippers’ statements about the contents of packages. To test
its retail employees’ performance in specific aspects of customer service,


Page 25                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                                the Postal Service has an ongoing “mystery shopper” program in which its
                                employees pose as customers. In late 2001, the Postal Service began
                                including in the mystery shopper tests a determination of whether the
                                retail employees were following requirements for asking the question
                                about dangerous goods. To date, the Postal Service’s tests indicate that the
                                retail employees asked the required screening question 69 percent of the
                                time. When the retail employees failed to ask the dangerous goods
                                question, Postal Service officials said they provided feedback and
                                retrained the employees. These officials also told us that they provided
                                this feedback to each postal office manager and have incorporated targets
                                for improved performance on the mystery shopper tests into the managers’
                                performance goals. Officials say these results are slowly and steadily
                                improving.

Carriers May Impose Sanctions   A shipper who fails to properly declare a dangerous goods shipment can
for Shipping Undeclared         face serious consequences from a major carrier, particularly if the shipper
Dangerous Goods                 is a business or other operation with an ongoing need for the carrier’s
                                services. Two of the major carriers we interviewed may, depending on the
                                seriousness of the violation, require a shipper to provide additional
                                remedial training in shipping dangerous goods; apply more stringent terms
                                for accepting shipments from the shipper; or, in more serious instances,
                                permanently terminate the business relationship with the shipper. Officials
                                from one of the carriers stated that their company’s requirements for
                                remedial training in these instances exceed DOT’s requirements for
                                shippers. Similarly, officials from another carrier told us that an
                                inadvertent violation of the rules governing the declaration of dangerous
                                goods would, in most cases, result in a minimum suspension of 60 days,
                                pending the shipper’s completion of training or any other steps the carrier
                                chose to require before again accepting packages from that shipper. This
                                same carrier’s officials said that when they suspect that a shipper may
                                have sent undeclared dangerous goods through their system, they will
                                begin an investigation to determine whether the shipper knew or should
                                have known that it was doing so. Until the carrier completes that
                                investigation, the shipper must agree to let the carrier’s staff open and
                                inspect every shipment before accepting it. If this carrier determines that
                                the shipper knowingly offered undeclared dangerous goods, it terminates
                                its business with that shipper.




                                Page 26                                             GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                          To evaluate the effectiveness of and to enforce federal regulations for
For DOT, Inadequate       shipping dangerous goods by air, DOT collects data on dangerous goods
Documentation, and        incidents, monitors shippers’ and carriers’ performance, and assesses civil
                          penalties. Within DOT, FAA is primarily responsible for enforcing the
for the Postal Service,   regulations for transporting dangerous goods by air. To ensure that the
Lack of Civil Penalty     penalties it imposes for violations of dangerous goods regulations are
                          appropriate to shippers’ and carriers’ complete compliance histories, FAA,
Authority Hamper          together with DOT’s other affected operating administrations, is required
Enforcement of            to consider the compliance history of violators in all modes of
Dangerous Goods           transportation when assessing penalties against them. This guidance was
                          difficult for FAA and others to follow because, until very recently, with the
Regulations               exception of RSPA, DOT’s operating administrations were not submitting
                          their enforcement data in a timely manner to DOT’s centralized
                          enforcement database. Finally, to further ensure that appropriate civil
                          penalties are assessed and that similar cases are treated consistently and
                          fairly, FAA requires that the reasons for any reduction to a recommended
                          civil penalty be documented. Our analysis of FAA’s enforcement case files
                          found that FAA is not always documenting its assessments.

                          Like DOT, the Postal Service collects data on dangerous goods incidents,
                          but it lacks DOT’s authority to assess civil penalties for violations and
                          therefore takes few enforcement actions. Legislation proposed by DOT
                          would allow the Postal Service to assess civil penalties.


FAA Collects Data to      To monitor and enforce compliance with DOT’s dangerous goods
Monitor and Enforce       regulations, FAA collects data on dangerous goods air incidents and
Compliance                discrepancies through its Airport and Air Carrier Information Reporting
                          System (AAIRS). RSPA’s regulations define incidents as reportable
                          releases of hazardous materials, including those that are unintended and
                          unanticipated. “Discrepancies” are defined in the Hazardous Materials
                          Regulations (HMR) as instances in which dangerous goods are found to be
                          undeclared, misdeclared, or improperly packaged.23 In addition, FAA
                          collects data on closed dangerous goods enforcement cases through its




                          23
                           An incident is defined in RSPA’s regulations as an event that results in a reportable
                          release of a hazardous material, including unintended and unanticipated releases that
                          otherwise require reporting under 49 C.F.R. §171.15 or §171.16. As used in the Hazardous
                          Materials Regulations, the term “discrepancies” describes instances of undeclared
                          dangerous goods (material found in transportation that was not identified as dangerous
                          goods) and instances of misdeclared or improperly packaged dangerous goods.




                          Page 27                                                       GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                              Enforcement Information System. (See app. III for more information about
                              FAA’s and DOT’s incident and enforcement databases.)


FAA Could Not Readily         To ensure that appropriate civil penalties are assessed, FAA’s enforcement
Consider Complete             guidance requires the agency to consider the compliance history of
Compliance Histories          violators across all modes of transportation. Until recently, FAA had
                              difficulty complying with this guidance because, with the exception of
When Assessing Penalties      RSPA, DOT’s operating administrations were not submitting their closed
                              enforcement action data in a timely manner to a central database—the
                              Unified Shipper Enforcement Data System (UNISHIP), maintained by
                              RSPA. DOT developed this database in response to a 1991 GAO report.

                              RSPA is working with DOT’s affected operating administrations to ensure
                              the timely submission of enforcement data. On July 17, 2002, the Office of
                              the Secretary of Transportation issued a memorandum calling for the
                              implementation of required procedures for entering data on dangerous
                              goods enforcement actions into UNISHIP. If the database is kept up to
                              date, FAA inspectors can obtain compliance information by querying the
                              central database.


FAA Is Not Documenting        Our analysis of FAA’s case files indicates that FAA is not always
Changes to Recommended        documenting the reasons for reductions to recommended civil penalties,
Civil Penalties as Required   as its guidance requires. We found cases in which the proposed civil
                              penalty was changed, but either no documentation or incomplete
                              documentation was provided to explain the reasons for the reduction. An
                              FAA official stated that it was FAA’s policy to include documentation for
                              civil penalty changes in the case files. To help ensure that appropriate civil
                              penalties are assessed and that similar cases are treated consistently and
                              fairly, it is important that FAA document the reasons for any reduction to a
                              recommended civil penalty.

                              The enforcement process begins when FAA inspectors obtain indication of
                              a violation (see fig. 4.). The inspector then determines whether the
                              violation warrants administrative action (such as a warning notice or letter
                              of correction), legal enforcement action (such as the imposition of a civil
                              penalty), or referral for criminal prosecution. When the inspector finds
                              that a civil penalty is appropriate, he or she must determine the amount of
                              the civil penalty by consulting FAA’s sanction guidance policy. Legal staff
                              in the regional office or headquarters then review the strength of the
                              evidence, the type of enforcement action, and the amount of the civil
                              penalty, if any. Next, a notice of proposed civil penalty is issued that is


                              Page 28                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
consistent with the inspector’s report and the review. The alleged violator
then has an opportunity to reply to the civil penalty assessed. If the alleged
violator provides convincing evidence that it did not commit the violation,
FAA dismisses the case. If FAA and the alleged violator agree on an
appropriate fine, FAA issues an order assessing a civil penalty that binds
the violator to pay the agreed-upon amount. If no agreement is reached,
the case is litigated.




Page 29                                               GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Figure 3. FAA’s Dangerous Goods Enforcement Process (for Civil Penalty Cases)


                          FAA inspectors obtain evidence of a
                          violation.




                          The inspector then determines whether the
                          violation calls for a civil penalty or some other
                          enforcement action.



                          When the inspector finds that a civil penalty is
                          appropriate, he or she must determine the amount
                          of the civil penalty by consulting FAA's sanction
                          guidance policy.



                          Legal staff in the regional office or headquarters
                          then review the case.




                          A notice of proposed civil penalty is issued.




  If the alleged violator                  If FAA and the alleged         If no agreement is
  provides convincing                      violator agree on an           reached, the case is
  evidence that it did                     appropriate fine, FAA          litigated.
  not commit these                         issues an order
  violations, FAA                          assessing a civil
  dismisses the case.                      penalty that binds the
                                           violator to pay the
                                           agreed-upon amount.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration.



In 15 of the cases we reviewed, the assessed civil penalty differed from the
proposed civil penalty, but FAA included either no documentation or
incomplete documentation in the case files to account for the changes. For
example:




Page 30                                                                   GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                            •   In 2000, the assessed civil penalty on a chemical company for not properly
                                shipping flammable paint was reduced from $75,000 to $15,000, but no
                                reason was provided in the file for the change.

                            •   In 2000, the assessed civil penalty on a paint company for not properly
                                shipping flammable paint was reduced from $59,500 to $37,500, but no
                                reason was provided in the file for the change.

                                In addition, in one case involving the shipment of an oxygen generator by
                                an air carrier in 1997, the recommended civil penalty was reduced by 20
                                percent, even though oxygen generators were responsible for the ValuJet
                                aircraft crash in 1996. This penalty was reduced for reasons that were not
                                documented. The reduction was not consistent with the known risks of
                                oxygen generators.


Postal Service Lacks            The Postal Service’s standards for mailing dangerous goods are similar to
Authority to Impose Civil       DOT’s detailed specifications for packaging, marking, and labeling
Penalties for Violations        dangerous goods, although the mail is subject to many additional
                                limitations and prohibitions, which are imposed by provisions of criminal
                                statutes.24 Yet in contrast with DOT, which can assess civil or pursue
                                criminal penalties for violations of its standards, the Postal Service can
                                only pursue criminal penalties. This leads to little enforcement, because
                                many violations are unintentional and involve situations that are
                                inappropriate for criminal sanctions. At the same time, the high cleanup
                                and damage costs associated with dangerous goods violations are time-
                                consuming, and damages may be difficult to recover absent authority to
                                assess civil penalties. For example, in a 1998 incident, the Postal Service
                                incurred costs of $87,000 and the carrier incurred damages of $1.4 million
                                when a Priority mail shipment containing four bottles of mercury was
                                found to be leaking upon removal from the aircraft. Another costly
                                incident occurred in 2000, when 3 gallons of gasoline were illegally
                                shipped in a motorcycle gas tank and the tank leaked during the flight,
                                requiring the plane to be taken out of service and cleaned. As part of its


                                24
                                  The mail is subject to the restrictions in title 18 that prohibit the mailing of any matter
                                that is outwardly or of its own force dangerous to life, health, or property, and to
                                restrictions defined in the Postal Service’s rules. However, the Postal Service is not subject
                                to the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act or to the HMR. We also note that while
                                commercial carriers are subject to the federal regulations set forth in title 49, C.F.R., the
                                Postal Service operates under title 39, C.F.R. The USPS hazardous material regulations are
                                set forth in the Domestic Mail Manual (39 C.F.R. Part 111) and further explained in
                                Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.




                                Page 31                                                          GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
              proposal to reauthorize the hazardous materials transportation program,
              DOT has included a provision that would allow the Postal Service to
              collect civil penalties and to recover costs and damages for dangerous
              goods violations.25 The Postal Service has been actively working with DOT,
              and it supports this provision. Yet others have raised concerns about
              possible conflicts between the Postal Service’s current law enforcement
              authority and its effect on fair competition between the Postal Service and
              other shippers. The question of whether changes should be made
              regarding the Postal Service’s law enforcement responsibilities continues
              to be discussed as the Congress and others revisit the Postal Service’s
              mission and roles as part of broader postal reform efforts.


              Without statistically valid, generalizable data on the nature and frequency
Conclusions   of undeclared dangerous goods in air transport, DOT does not know to
              what extent such goods pose a threat to aviation safety, or what resources
              should be allocated to address that threat. Eventually, affordable
              diagnostic screening technologies may enable carriers and DOT to monitor
              dangerous goods shipments efficiently and nonintrusively. Until then,
              greater inspection authority would enable DOT to randomly select and
              open packages; gather statistically valid, generalizable data; and profile
              and target potential violators, thereby possibly enhancing aviation safety.
              A change in the law requiring that shippers consent to the inspection of
              packages shipped by air might help to accomplish these objectives. The
              legislation that DOT has proposed seeking greater inspection authority has
              not to date been limited to the air mode and has not been designed to
              obtain statistically valid data. However, the distinctions between air and
              the other modes that justify more stringent regulations for transporting
              dangerous goods by air, along with the potential benefits to aviation safety
              that could accrue from better data on undeclared air shipments, might
              warrant the development of a proposal that would enable DOT to obtain
              such data.

              The Office of the Secretary’s recent memorandum to the operating
              administrations, calling for the timely submission of closed enforcement
              action data to DOT’s centralized enforcement database, should strengthen
              FAA’s ability to take appropriate enforcement action against violators of
              DOT’s dangerous goods regulations. Provided that the operating



              25
               S. 1669 and H.R. 3276, Hazardous Material Transportation Safety Reauthorization Act of
              2001.




              Page 32                                                      GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                      administrations continue to follow the memorandum, FAA should be able
                      to identify high-risk or problem entities, consider their compliance
                      histories in all modes of transportation as its enforcement policy guidance
                      requires, and ensure that the penalties it assesses against them are
                      appropriate to their histories. Yet FAA still needs to do more to
                      demonstrate that it has assessed appropriate civil penalties. Until it fully
                      documents the reasons for its assessments, or for changes to its initial
                      assessments, as its guidance requires, it cannot provide assurance that the
                      penalties are appropriate or that it has handled similar cases consistently.


                      In order to strengthen DOT’s enforcement of dangerous goods regulations,
Recommendations for   we recommend that the Secretary of Transportation determine whether
Executive Action      the unique characteristics of air transport warrant the development of a
                      legislative proposal that would enhance DOT’s authority to inspect
                      packages shipped by air.

                      Depending on the results of his determination, we further recommend that
                      the Secretary direct the FAA Administrator to develop a legislative
                      proposal that would require shippers to consent to the opening for
                      inspection of packages shipped by air. Such a proposal would not only
                      enhance FAA’s inspection authority but would also enable FAA to obtain
                      statistically valid, generalizable data on the nature and frequency of
                      undeclared air shipments of dangerous goods.

                      Finally, we recommend that the Secretary direct the Administrator to
                      ensure that FAA better communicate and enforce its requirement to
                      document the justification for any substantial changes to an initially
                      proposed penalty before issuing a final order assessing a penalty.


                      We provided DOT and the U.S. Postal Service with a draft of this report for
Agency Comments       their review and comment. We met with DOT officials, including the
and Our Evaluation    Director of RSPA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Enforcement and the
                      Manager of FAA’s Dangerous Goods and Cargo Security Enforcement
                      Program, to receive their comments. The U.S. Postal Service provided
                      comments via E-mail. DOT and the Postal Service generally agreed with
                      our report and provided clarifying and technical comments, which we
                      incorporated as appropriate.

                      In our draft report, we recommended that the Secretary of Transportation
                      direct the DOT administrations that operate and manage a dangerous
                      goods program to submit their enforcement data to RSPA’s centralized


                      Page 33                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
              database. According to our audit work, the administrations were not
              submitting the data and, therefore, FAA could not readily comply with its
              guidance requiring it to consider the compliance history of violators in all
              modes of transportation. However, when we discussed the draft report
              with DOT officials in October 2002, they provided a July 17, 2002,
              memorandum from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation directing
              the operating administrations to submit the data. In addition, in October
              2002, DOT furnished evidence that three of the five administrations
              subsequently provided current data. We therefore deleted this
              recommendation from the final report. DOT agreed with our other
              recommendations, acknowledging that its legislative proposals seeking
              greater inspection authority have not been designed to obtain statistically
              valid data on undeclared shipments of dangerous goods. DOT further
              noted that FAA’s upcoming reauthorization legislation could serve as a
              vehicle for a proposal to expand FAA’s inspection authority, so that the
              agency could obtain better data on undeclared air shipments. While
              indicating that changes to initially proposed civil penalties sometimes
              occur as a result of penalty negotiations, DOT agreed that documenting
              the justification for changes is important for providing assurance that final
              penalties are appropriate and consistent.


              To determine what DOT, the Postal Service, and others involved in the air
Scope and     transport of dangerous goods know about undeclared shipments, we
Methodology   identified relevant studies and interviewed DOT, Postal Service, industry,
              and industry association officials. We reviewed the documents and reports
              we obtained, visited DOT’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems
              Center and FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, and conducted
              additional interviews with the researchers who had carried out critical
              studies. We also interviewed officials at four of the major cargo carriers,
              and conducted site visits at three of their facilities.

              To determine the key mechanisms that the federal government and private
              industry have in place to prevent dangerous goods from compromising
              safety, we interviewed agency and industry officials and federal
              researchers. We also reviewed relevant reports and documents in order to
              identify recent developments in screening technology.

              To determine what DOT and the Postal Service do to foster compliance
              with federal regulations for shipping dangerous goods by air, we
              interviewed agency officials and reviewed reports and documents. We also
              examined FAA’s practices for assessing civil penalties by testing 30
              randomly selected cases from FAA’s Enforcement Information System,


              Page 34                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
which contains a database of over 2,000 cases.26 These cases were
randomly selected to fairly represent the full range of over 2,000 cases in
the database. While the number of cases we tested was too small to enable
us to estimate the extent to which FAA’s enforcement strategy was
followed in the entire database, these 30 cases permit us to describe the
types of practices that occur at critical points in the penalty assessment
process.

We performed our work from September 2001 through November 2002, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days after the
date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the Chairman and
the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Transportation
and Infrastructure, and the Chairman of its Subcommittee on Aviation;
other appropriate congressional committees; the Secretary of
Transportation; the Postmaster General, United States Postal Service; the
Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, Transportation Security
Administration; the Administrator, Research and Special Programs
Administration; and the Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration.
We will also make copies available to others upon request. In addition, the
report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at
http://www.gao.gov.




26
  The Enforcement Information System contains entries of violations found during
inspections or through other means (such as police inspections or public complaints) that
initiate enforcement cases. It contains detailed information on the status and resolution of
each enforcement case and allows field, regional, and headquarters staff to enter and
retrieve data.




Page 35                                                         GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Please call me at (202) 512-2384 if you or your staff have any questions
about the information in this report. Key contributors to this report are
listed in appendix IV.

Sincerely yours,




Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.
Director, Physical Infrastructure




Page 36                                              GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                                                                             Appendix I: FAA’s Dangerous Goods
Appendix I: FAA’s Dangerous Goods                                            Informational Brochure for Passengers



Informational Brochure for Passengers



  Hazardous materials are prohibited
  in luggage or carried on board.
  There are certain exceptions for personal care, medical
  needs, sporting equipment, and items to support
  physically challenged passengers. For example:

  Personal care items containing hazardous materials
  (e.g., flammable perfume, aerosols) totaling no more
  than 75 ounces may be carried on board. Contents
  of each container may not exceed 15 fluid ounces.

  Matches and lighters may only be carried on
  your person. However, "strike-anywhere" matches,
  lighters with flammable liquid reservoirs and
  lighter fluid are forbidden.

  Firearms and ammunition may not be carried by a
  passenger on an aircraft. However, unloaded firearms
  may be transported in checked luggage if declared to
  the agent at check in and packed in a suitable container.
  Handguns must be in a locked container. Boxed small
  arms ammunition for personal use may be transported
  in checked luggage. Amounts may vary depending on
  the airline.

  Dry ice (4 pounds or less) for packing perishables,
  may be carried on board an aircraft provided the
  package is vented.

  Electric wheelchairs must be transported in
  accordance with airline requirements. The battery
  may need to be dismounted.

    Further restrictions may apply to the above
   items. Some items may be shipped as air cargo.
    If you are unsure whether the item you wish
       to pack in your luggage or ship by air is
   hazardous, contact your airline representative.

                                                                         Signal
                                                              flares, sparklers or
                                                              other explosives

Brochure outside
                                                                       Fuel, paints, lighter
                                                              refills, matches                                                                                Many common items
                                                                                                                                                          used everyday in the home
                                                                             Drain                                                                   or workplace may seem harmless;
                                                              cleaners and solvents                                                              however, when transported by air, they
                                                                                                                                              can be very dangerous. In flight, variations
                                                                                   Spray cans, butane                                    in temperature and pressure can cause items
                                                              fuel, scuba tanks, propane tanks, CO2 cartridges,                       to leak, generate toxic fumes or start a fire.
                                                              self-inflating rafts

                                                                       Firearms, ammunition, gunpowder, mace,                You must declare your hazardous materials to the airline,
                                                              tear gas orpepper spray                                        air package carrier, or U.S. Postal Service. Violators of
                                                                                                                             Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR Parts
                                                                                       Dry ice, gasoline-powered tools,      171-180) may be subject to a civil penalty of up to
                                                              wet-cell batteries, camping equipment with fuel, radioactive   $25,000 for each violation and, in appropriate cases,
                        Brochure inside                       materials (except limited quantities), poisons, infectious     a criminal penalty of up to $500,000 and/or imprisonment
                                                              substances                                                     of up to 5 years.
                                                              The above list is not all inclusive. For exceptions, read

Source: Federal Aviation Administration and Research and Special Programs Administration.




                                                                             Page 37                                                                  GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                                                               Appendix II: Mailability of Dangerous Goods,
Appendix II: Mailability of Dangerous Goods,                   by DOT Class



by DOT Class




Source: United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), C023.




                                                               Page 38                                        GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
             Appendix III: Data Collected by DOT
Appendix III: Data Collected by DOT
             Agencies on Dangerous Goods Incidents and
             Enforcement Actions


Agencies on Dangerous Goods Incidents and
Enforcement Actions
             FAA collects data on dangerous goods air incidents, discrepancies, and
             enforcement actions through two databases. Its Airport and Air Carrier
             Information Reporting System (AAIRS) collects basic incident and
             discrepancy information such as the mode, date, and location of the
             incident or discrepancy, the carrier and shipper involved, the hazard class
             of the spilled material, and the consequences of the incident or
             discrepancy. (See table 1.) FAA’s Enforcement Information System (EIS)
             collects information on closed dangerous goods enforcement cases. It
             contains data such as the incident date, the regulations violated, the
             sanction initially recommended, and the final sanction. These enforcement
             data are used to monitor and enforce compliance with DOT’s dangerous
             goods regulations.

             Table 2: DOT Databases Tracking Information on the Air Transportation of
             Dangerous Goods

                                        Database
              Database name             custodian        Description
              Hazardous Material        RSPA             DOT’s HMIRS is the primary source of
              Incident Reporting                         national incident data for the federal, state,
              System (HMIRS)                             and local government agencies responsible
                                                         for the safety of dangerous goods
                                                         transportation. Carriers of dangerous goods
                                                         supply these data through their reporting of
                                                         dangerous goods incidents.
              Unified Shipper           RSPA             UNISHIP contains information on closed
              Enforcement System                         enforcement actions taken against shippers
              (UNISHIP)                                  and freight forwarders in all modes of
                                                         transportation, including air.
              Airport/Air Carrier       FAA              AAIRS has been used since 1996 to track
              Information Reporting                      inspections of airports and air carrier
              System (AAIRS)                             stations. It includes dangerous goods
                                                         incidents (which are also reported to
                                                         HMIRS) and discrepancies (dangerous
                                                         goods discoveries that occur through
                                                         avenues other than faulty packaging, such
                                                         as luggage inspection).
              Enforcement Information   FAA              The EIS contains entries of violations found
              System (EIS)                               during inspections or through other means
                                                         (such as police inspections or public
                                                         complaints) that initiate enforcement cases.
             Source: RSPA and FAA.


             RSPA collects dangerous goods incident and enforcement data through
             two databases. Its Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting System
             (HMIRS) collects dangerous goods incident information across all
             transportation modes, not just the air mode. This information is similar to
             that collected in FAA’s AAIRS database, but it does not include


             Page 39                                                      GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
Appendix III: Data Collected by DOT
Agencies on Dangerous Goods Incidents and
Enforcement Actions




discrepancies. RSPA tracks closed hazardous materials enforcement cases
through its Unified Shipper Enforcement System (UNISHIP). This
database tracks closed enforcement actions across all transportation
operating administrations, not simply air.

RSPA collects data on dangerous goods incidents from all transportation
modes through DOT Form F 5800.1, which captures basic information on
incidents such as the mode, date, and location of the incident; the carrier
and shipper involved; the hazard class and shipping name of the spilled
material; and the consequences of the incident (including deaths, injuries,
product loss, and damage). RSPA uses the data and the information it
collects on dangerous goods incidents to (1) evaluate the effectiveness of
existing regulations, (2) assist in determining the need for regulatory
changes to cover changing transportation safety problems, and (3)
determine major problem areas so that attention can be more suitably
directed to them. In addition, both the government and industry use this
dangerous goods incident information to chart trends and identify training
inadequacies and packaging deficiencies.

In addition to RSPA, UNISHIP serves the enforcement programs of the
Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and
the Inspector General by providing a history of compliance for the
companies contained in the system.




Page 40                                             GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
                  Appendix IV: GAO Contacts and Staff
Appendix IV: GAO Contacts and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., (202) 512-2834
GAO Contacts      Belva M. Martin, (202) 512-2834


                  In addition to those named above, Elizabeth R. Eisenstadt, Arthur L.
Acknowledgments   James, Bert Japikse, David Laverny-Rafter, Bill MacBlane, Kieran
                  McCarthy, Richard Scott, and Katherine Wulff made key contributions to
                  this report.




(540004)
                  Page 41                                          GAO-03-22 Aviation Safety
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To Report Fraud,
                         Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
Waste, and Abuse in      E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov
Federal Programs         Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470


                         Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs           U.S. General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                         Washington, D.C. 20548