The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration take transportation of hazardous materials by truck very seriously. FMCSA regulations require that all truckers who are transporting hazardous materials (HazMat) must first undergo training, acquire safety permits, and follow specific guidelines during transport to secure overall safety. However, because no one can predict that an accident will occur, safety protocols only go so far to prevent a tragic accident.
According to the DOT, nearly 100,000 truck accidents occur each year. Considering that there are thousands of trucks on the road carrying hazardous material, the odds that they could be compromised is higher than one might like to admit. This means that in the event of a HazMat truck being involved in a collision, depending on the type of material he’s carrying, the aftermath of the accident could be far worse than the initial impact.
Types of Hazardous Materials Transported Via Highways
To fully understand the seriousness of the potential for a catastrophe on the highway, you must be aware of the dangerous materials that can be transported by trucks. According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration’s Hazardous Materials Transportation Guide, these materials include:
- Explosives: any chemical compound, mixture, or device which is designed to explode or function as a result of an explosion; includes detonating devices, combustibles, ammunition, fireworks, etc.
- Gases: materials or mixtures that are in gaseous form or can easily be mixed to cause a gaseous reaction; including but not limited to non-flammable gases, compressed gases, liquefied gases, and flammable gases.
- Flammable liquids: any liquid that can ignite spontaneously in warm dry or moist air; includes gasoline and diesel fuel.
- Combustible liquids: any liquid that has a flash point above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Flammable solids: any solid material (other than an explosive) which under normal transportation conditions could potentially cause fires through friction or retained heat; including sludges and pastes which may undergo spontaneous ignition or reactions and water-reactive materials.
- Organic peroxides: any organic compound derived from hydrogen peroxide which could be toxic.
- Oxidizers: materials that produce oxygen (which can then become highly combustible) or poisonous gases; includes chlorates, permanganates, inorganic peroxides, and nitrates.
- Poisons: any material that can be considered toxic if inhaled, touched, or allowed to give off dangerous or irritating fumes.
- Etiologic agents: materials that contain living micro-organisms (or its toxins) which cause (or may cause) human disease, infection, or health problems; including viruses, bacteria, HazMat equipment, etc.
- Radioactive materials: any material, or combination of materials, that spontaneously gives radiation.
- Corrosive materials: materials that cause visible destruction or irreversible damage to metals or human tissue on contact.
- Multiple hazards: materials meeting the definition of more than one of the above hazards.
Your Thoughts on Hazardous Cargo
Given the potential risks involved, do you think trucks carrying hazardous material should be allowed on highways, expressways, and interstates? Should they be required to have physical indications of what they’re carrying? Should truck companies provide escorts to keep regular motorists at a safe distance?
Let us know what you think by leaving your opinions and questions in the comment section. Not only will you help us learn more about societal opinions, but your experiences could also help our clients get the extra knowledge and confidence they need following a cargo accident.
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