Appendix B - Appendix B to Part 209 - Federal Railroad Administration Guidelines for Initial Hazardous Materials Assessments

These guidelines establish benchmarks to be used in determining initial civil penalty assessments for violations of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). The guideline penalty amounts reflect the best judgment of the FRA Office of Railroad Safety (RRS) and of the Safety Law Division of the Office of Chief Counsel (RCC) on the relative severity of the various violations routinely encountered by FRA inspectors on a scale of amounts up to the maximum $83,439 penalty, except the maximum civil penalty is $194,691 if the violation results in death, serious illness or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property, and a minimum $502 penalty applies to a violation related to training. (49 U.S.C. 5123) Unless otherwise specified, the guideline amounts refer to average violations, that is, violations involving a hazardous material with a medium level of hazard, and a violator with an average compliance history. In an “average violation,” the respondent has committed the acts due to a failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances (“knowingly”). For some sections, the guidelines contain a breakdown according to relative severity of the violation, for example, the guidelines for shipping paper violations at 49 CFR 172.200 through 172.203. All penalties in these guidelines are subject to change depending upon the circumstances of the particular case. The general duty sections, for example §§ 173.1 and 174.7, are not ordinarily cited as separate violations; they are primarily used as explanatory citations to demonstrate applicability of a more specific section where applicability is otherwise unclear.

FRA believes that infractions of the regulations that lead to personal injury are especially serious; this is directly in line with Department of Transportation policy that hazardous materials are only safe for transportation when they are securely sealed in a proper package. (Some few containers, such as tank cars of carbon dioxide, are designed to vent off excess internal pressure. They are exceptions to the “securely sealed” rule.) “Personal injury” has become somewhat of a term of art, especially in the fields of occupational safety and of accident reporting. To avoid confusion, these penalty guidelines use the notion of “human contact” to trigger penalty aggravation. In essence, any contact by a hazardous material on a person during transportation is a per se injury and proof will not be required regarding the extent of the physical contact or its consequences. When a violation of the Federal hazardous material transportation law, an order issued thereunder, the Hazardous Materials Regulations or a special permit, approval, or order issued under those regulations results in death, serious illness or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property, a maximum penalty of at least $83,439 and up to and including $194,691 shall always be assessed initially.

These guidelines are a preliminary assessment tool for FRA's use. They create no rights in any party. FRA is free to vary from them when it deems appropriate and may amend them from time to time without prior notice. Moreover, FRA is not bound by any amount it initially proposes should litigation become necessary. In fact, FRA reserves the express authority to amend the NOPV to seek a penalty of up to $83,439 for each violation, and up to $194,691 for any violation resulting in death, serious illness or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property, at any time prior to issuance of an order. FRA periodically makes minor updates and revisions to these guidelines, and the most current version may be found on FRA's Web site at

[61 FR 38647, July 25, 1996, as amended at 69 FR 30591, May 28, 2004; 71 FR 77295, Dec. 26, 2006; 73 FR 72200, Nov. 26, 2008; 73 FR 79701, Dec. 30, 2008; 75 FR 43842, July 27, 2010; 77 FR 24419, Apr. 24, 2012; 78 FR 9847, Feb. 12, 2013; 81 FR 43104, 43109, July 1, 2016; 81 FR 16131, June 10, 2016; 83 FR 60745, Nov. 27, 2018; 84 FR 23734, May 23, 2019; 84 FR 37072, July 31, 2019; 86 FR 1757, Jan. 11, 2021]