Given the dangerous and volatile nature of hazardous materials (HAZMAT), it’s very important that their transport is highly and strictly regulated in addition to truck regulations that apply to all commercial vehicles. Packaging, labeling, securing, or transporting mistakes can put everyone on the road in danger. A HAZMAT truck spill or collision can instantly cause injuries, explosions, widespread toxic exposure, and death.
Defining Hazardous Materials
In §171.8, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines a hazardous material as “a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce…”
It’s the Secretary’s job to consider the potential risks of a substance or material, and if s/he deems it hazardous as per 49 U.S.C. 5103, s/he must “prescribe regulations for the safe transportation, including security, of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce.”
Types of Hazardous Materials
The government lists nearly 3,000 distinct types of hazardous materials in the federal code books. This includes everything from aziridinyl phosphine oxide to zirconium.
Most of the materials fall into one of the following categories.
- Radioactive materials
- Infectious substances
- Flammable or combustible liquids, solids, or gases
- Toxic, oxidizing, or corrosive materials
- Compressed gas
PHMSA & Hazmat Truck Regulations
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the division of the Department of Transportation that regulates and oversees “the safe and secure movement of hazardous materials to industry and consumers by all modes of transportation…”
Each day, there are over one million shipments of some type of hazardous material in America; it’s PHMSA’s job to regulate them “[t]o minimize threats to life, property or the environment due to hazardous materials incidents.”
The agency provides very detailed criteria for HAZMAT handlers and transporters in an effort to promote public safety. There are specific procedures and policies by which those in the HAZMAT industry must abide, including the following.
- Training requirements
- Proper markings of HAZMAT packages, containers, and trucks
- Detailed shipping papers
- Emergency response plans and protocols
- Packaging requirements
- Mixing requirements
It’s important for HAZMAT packagers, handlers, and carriers to strictly adhere to all the HAZMAT regulations that apply to them. This is not only to avoid fines, penalties, and sanctions, but also to prevent needless tragedies from occurring on the roadways.
When HAZMAT Trucks Cause Crashes
When hazardous materials escape their containers, the results can be deadly. A chemical spill, explosion, fire, or gas leak can mean harm to the environment, the truck driver, and everyone else on the road. When a hazardous materials truck is in an auto accident, the potential ramifications are exponentially higher than when the accident involves non-HAZMAT vehicles.
If you or your loved one suffered injuries in a HAZMAT-related auto accident, you might be entitled to financial compensation for damages. If the driver, carrier, packager, or loader were negligent in some manner, you may be able to file a claim or suit against the responsible party. For instance, if the driver did not have proper training or valid HAZMAT certification, the company might be negligent, and legally liable for your damages.
One of the first things to do after an accident with a truck is to contact a truck accident attorney in your area. Your attorney will then set to work on preserving evidence to support your case. He or she will also begin combing through the details surrounding your accident to determine if anyone along the chain of transport was in violation of any regulations or was in any way negligent.