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What if I’m Involved in a Truck Accident Where the Truck was Hauling Hazardous Materials?

What if I’m Involved in a Truck Accident Where the Truck was Hauling Hazardous Materials?

Part 6 in an 8-Part Summary of Trucking Regulations…  

FMCSA Reg. Part 397 re hazardous materials

One of the most dangerous situations that arise out of commercial trucking surrounds the transportation of hazardous materials. Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration has highlighted the importance of this issue by creating an initiative to reduce the number of trucking accidents involving hazardous materials by 20 percent. The resulting enforcement spotlight has brought this issue to the forefront.

Of course, the beginning of any discussion about the transport of hazardous materials by truck must begin with an understanding of what constitutes a hazardous material. Federal regulations provide a large list of substances that fall within the categorization of hazardous, and rank them according to their inherent threat to public safety. For your reference the general overview of the list may be seen here.

Due to the inherent danger involved in transporting these materials both motor vehicle carriers and drivers must conform to a variety of regulatory duties when dealing with
them. First a driver must go through an additional level of certification, in which he/she must demonstrate a familiarity with knowledge specific to the transport of hazardous
materials.

Additionally, the driver must follow a variety of common sense practices meant to limit public exposure to the threats involved with the transport of hazardous materials. The main driver responsibilities are as follows:

  • A motor vehicle which contains hazardous materials must be attended by its driver while the vehicle is within public areas.
  • A motor vehicle which contains hazardous materials must not be parked on or within five feet of the traveled portion of public street or highway except for brief periods when the necessities of operation require the vehicle to be parked and make it impracticable to park the vehicle in any other place.
  • No person may smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe on or within 25 feet of motor vehicle that transport the regulatory classes of flammable or explosive materials.
  • When a motor vehicle that contains hazardous materials is being fueled its engine must not be operating and the driver must be in control of the fueling process at the point where the fuel tank is filled.
  • A driver must examine each tire on a motor vehicle at the beginning of each trip and each time the vehicle is parked.

An issue that often comes up in truck accident litigation involving the transport of hazardous materials centers on the motor vehicle carrier’s duty to properly route
the shipments. Under FMCSA regulation 397 a motor carrier carrying hazardous materials shall operate the vehicle over routes which do not go through or near heavily populated areas, places where crowds are assembled, tunnels, narrow streets, or alleys, except where the motor carrier determines that such routes have no practical alternative.

Despite the attention paid to these issues in the federal regulations, compliance may be too lax in some instances, especially it seems when accidents have occurred. With time pressure and economic motives pushing decisions unfortunately adherence to the intricate safety and routing measures required by regulation can fall by the wayside. Whenever you’re involved in a trucking accident involving a vehicle carrying such hazardous material such additional issues about compliance with such regulations must be thoroughly investigated.

Read Part 7 of Trucking Regulations… 

What if I’ve Been Injured by Cargo That Came Off a Large Truck?

– Back to Part 5

Starr Austen and Miller, specialized truck accident lawyers in Indiana, focus on representing individuals and their family members in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, such as those often involved in Indiana truck accidents. If you or a loved one have been in a truck accident you can contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.