HAZMAT Trucking Accidents: Understanding the Danger

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The weight of a semi-truck is often more than 30,000 pounds. This fact means that any accident involving one of these trucks represents a life-threatening event. As deadly as truck accidents can be, there are several reasons an accident with a HAZMAT truck is even more dangerous than accidents that involve other big trucks.

What Is a HAZMAT truck?

The term HAZMAT is a combination of the words hazardous materials. These materials become a threat to humans, animals, and the environment if safe handling procedures go unfollowed. HAZMAT trucks are the vehicles responsible for transporting these materials from one location to another.

The Dangers Involved With HAZMAT Trucking Accidents

While truck accidents can be caused by unsafe working conditions, the following additional risks occur when the vehicle is a HAZMAT truck:

  • Fire – The risk of fire exists whenever a HAZMAT vehicle carrying a flammable liquid becomes involved in an accident. The people involved with the accident, first responders who arrive to render aid, and onlookers who tread too close to the wreck face immediate danger if these flammable liquids ignite.
  • Chemical Burns – Fire means more than the threat of burn injuries when a HAZMAT truck is in an accident. Dangerous chemical leaks are capable of maiming or killing accident victims. These chemicals also represent a serious threat to the environment.
  • Dangerous Poisons – The cargo carried by HAZMAT trucks often includes poisonous substances. When these substances seep from containers, they become a threat to the environment and any people near the accident.
  • RadiationRadioactive substances represent a serious danger to people, even when no physical contact occurs. Radiation can become a health risk to the population of people near the accident if it makes its way into nearby groundwater.
  • Explosions – HAZMAT trucks often carry volatile materials that are prone to explosions. This threat can conceal itself in the immediate aftermath of an accident because some time may elapse before an explosion occurs.

What to Do in the Aftermath of a HAZMAT Trucking Accident

HAZMAT truck drivers should do what they can to contain leaks of hazardous substances after a wreck. Passengers in other cars should immediately move away from the HAZMAT vehicle to avoid chemicals, fires, and explosions. Once everyone is a safe distance away from the HAZMAT vehicle, a call to the appropriate authorities is necessary.

Damage to the other vehicle may make it difficult for its occupants to free themselves from the car or truck. When this happens, the HAZMAT driver may need to provide them with protective gear like gas masks or burn-resistant suits. The cargo carried by the HAZMAT vehicle will determine which protective materials are required.

HAZMAT Trucking Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the agency responsible for establishing HAZMAT trucking safety regulations. The FMCSA establishes and enforces standards for handling and transporting hazardous materials. The administration also determines how and where a driver can park a vehicle carrying hazardous materials.

One provision set forth by the administration is that HAZMAT trucks cannot park within five feet of a public roadway. This provision lessens the chance that passing motorists will become involved in an accident with a parked vehicle carrying hazardous material. HAZMAT drivers must also never leave vehicles that contain hazardous materials unattended.

Vehicles carrying hazardous cargo are also not allowed to park a HAZMAT vehicle anywhere without informing the property owner of the materials inside. Property owners must consent before a driver can park HAZMAT vehicles on their property.

Despite these and other regulations set forth by the FMCSA, deadly accidents involving HAZMAT vehicles continue to occur. Understanding the dangers that result from these accidents and the steps to take following an accident is necessary to protect all parties involved.

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