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The Safety Risks of Trucks Hauling Hazardous Materials

Trucks Hauling Hazardous Materials Present Increased Crash Risks

In 2016, there were an estimated 475,000 crashes involving large trucks in the United States. Most of those, about 73 percent, involved a collision with another vehicle on the road. About 5 percent of trucks haul hazardous materials, which could result in considerable dangers to the community as well as injuries and fatalities to other road users should an accident occur.

Types of Hazardous Materials in Trucks

Trucks provide an essential method for transporting consumer goods, industrial supplies and waste products. While some things can be shipped by train or boat, trucks are typically used to get to places without easy railroad or port access. Hazardous materials are categorized separately by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Trucks hauling these materials can only use certain roads. For example, they are not authorized to travel on an interstate that passes through the center of the city. They must go on a route marked for trucks with hazardous materials. Some of the hazardous materials that might be transported on a truck include:

  • Flammable liquids, gases or solids
  • Explosives
  • Corrosive or oxidative chemicals
  • Infectious substances and biohazardous waste
  • Poisonous substances
  • Radioactive waste

Hazards of Spilled Fuel and Crash Debris

Flammable liquids are the most common type of hazardous material hauled on trucks. It is also important to note that the diesel fuel in the truck's gas tank can also be hazardous. General debris from a truck crash may present a hazard, too. Some of the hazards associated with spilled fuel, oil and debris from a trucking accident include:

  • Slick road surface
  • Spread of fire
  • Risk of explosion
  • Contamination of nearby soil

The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act

The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act allows the federal Department of Transportation to regulate the transportation of hazardous materials on roads. Trucking companies are responsible for activities such as:

  • Training drivers on hazardous materials handling
  • Ensuring drivers have the appropriate certification for hazardous materials transport
  • Labeling the truck with the type of hazardous material
  • Identifying and describing the hazard
  • Maintaining the truck
  • Registering the truck with state and federal transportation authorities

The Impact of a Hazardous Materials Trucking Accident

When a truck hauling hazardous materials gets in an accident, there are several key steps that must happen in order to protect the safety of other drivers, passengers and people in the community. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for overseeing the emergency response and cleanup of the hazardous materials. OSHA must provide respiratory protection, training and personal protective equipment at the site of the cleanup. The response to a hazardous materials trucking accident may also include:

  • National Response Center coordination for fuel and oil spills
  • National Regulatory Commission oversight of nuclear weapons trucking accidents
  • Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency joint oversight of nuclear waste trucking accidents

Reducing the Risk of Accidents Involving Trucks With Hazardous Materials

Fortunately, trucking accidents involving hazardous materials are not common. When these accidents do occur, however, they have an increased risk of injuries and fatalities. Trucking companies and other drivers on the road can mitigate the risk of a collision or accident by:

  • Providing thorough training to drivers
  • Properly securing hazardous materials in the trailer
  • Maintaining the truck fleet
  • Giving all trucks plenty of room on the road
  • Treating all trucks as if they were hauling hazardous materials

What to Do If You're Injured in a Truck Accident

If you were injured by a truck accident involving hazardous materials, it's important for you to obtain legal representation. Our Philadelphia truck accident attorney can explain the legal process and inform you of your rights under Pennsylvania law. Legal counsel may investigate the types of materials on the truck and whether or not those materials were properly secured and reported. Our firm may also investigate the maintenance history of the truck and the driver's training and certifications. When you need a Philadelphia truck accident attorney, contact us at Metzger & Kleiner. You may reach our Philadelphia law office at (215) 567-6616 to schedule a consultation.

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