Thursday, June 25, 2015

Regulations for Trucks Transporting Hazardous Materials

A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel reported on a serious accident in Orange County Florida, where a truck carrying fuel was involved in a crash spilling its hazardous contents onto the roadway. The county HazMat team responded, along with the Highway Patrol and EMS, to attend to the injured parties and clean up the spill. This scene is far too common in the news in Florida and other heavily populated states. Thousands of trucks operate on Florida roads and highways annually, transporting different classes of hazardous materials. If an accident occurs on the roadway, while loading or unloading or parked, the results can be horrific. That is why truckers carrying hazardous materials are subject to much stricter regulations than other carriers. Are these regulations always followed? Unfortunately the answer is no. Hazardous materials are classified as explosives, flammable gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids as well as caustic and toxic materials. Many of these are carried in violation of regulations by unscrupulous companies, trying to avoid the high cost of compliance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) adheres additional duties and requirements to those transporting hazardous or dangerous materials, as do others governing commercial transportation. Certain duties and responsibilities are in place when a trucker is transporting hazardous materials under these regulations. These regulations exceed the already strict requirements that apply to common transport.

For example, states have the right to designate specific roads as off limits for the transportation of hazardous materials. The state must, under the FMCSRs (§ 397.69) make “a finding supported by record,” that public safety will be enhanced. (§ 397.71)  The truck drivers, transporting hazardous materials, will be required to use alternate routes, if the finding is supported. Native American tribes also have the right to apply these restrictions.

Other restrictions that apply to truckers transporting HazMats include:

- Parking the truck within five feet of a traveled portion of a public street or highway.
- Parking on private property without the property owners knowledge of the contents, knowledge of the intent to park in the location and has not given consent to park there.

Ordinarily a trucker can park within five feet of a public street or highway for “brief periods when the necessities of operation” so require. A trucker may freely park on private property also if no hazardous materials are on board.

Semi-trucks carrying certain classes of hazardous materials are required to be monitored at all times under the FMSCA regulations, (§ 397.5 (d) (1)) with limited exceptions. The person in charge of the vehicle must be on the vehicle, awake, and not in the sleeper birth, or within 100 feet of the vehicle with an unobstructed view. This is contrary to the regulations that require a driver to take breaks to sleep after a certain number of hours behind the wheel. The limited exceptions apply in this case. 

The trucker may rest if a qualified representative attends the truck. This is a person that is qualified by:

- Being designated as the attendee.
- Having knowledge of the hazardous contents of the truck.
- Being instructed in emergency procedures.
- Having authorization to move the truck and the means and ability to do so.

Often, in cases of long distance transport of hazardous materials, the designated attendee is another qualified driver that travels as an alternate. If the truck is parked on the property of the trucking company’s property, or that of the shipper or consignee, it is, in those cases, considered attended.

Aside from the regulations mentioned above there are many others that apply to the transportation of hazardous materials. Truckers and trucking companies must learn the Safety Regulations and adhere strictly to them. Not only do they risk paying extremely high fines, if caught in non-compliance, they could be held responsible in the case of a mishap involving property damage, injury or death and pay additional civil damages that can be substantial. 

Dolman Law is an experienced truck accident law firm that has successfully litigated cases against trucking companies and shippers involving injuries and damage regarding the transport of hazardous materials. If you or anyone you know has suffered, due to a truck transporting hazardous materials, speak to one of our truck accident attorneys today. You may be entitled to a cash award. There is no obligation or cost to you.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765


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