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Transporting Hazardous Materials: The Risks and How to Stay Safe

Being a truck driver who transports hazardous materials on a regular basis is a risky job. With truck crashes being rampant in the United States and other countries, imagine how many other road users will be affected if a chemical spill occurs due to a crash. These accidents can also result in fatalities; all the more reason extra precaution must be taken while transporting hazardous goods.

When a hazardous material spill happens on a highway in Utah, for example, a team of professional respondents will arrive quickly, with all the necessary tools and equipment to clean up the spill and make the road safe again. But even with an efficient service like this, accident prevention is still preferable by all means.

Categories of Hazardous Materials

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration named nine categories of hazardous materials. Vehicles transporting any of these materials should be properly marked and categorized.

  1. Explosive materials
  2. Gaseous substances
  3. Flammable and combustible liquids
  4. Flammable and combustible solid (dangerous when wet)
  5. Oxidizer and organic peroxide
  6. Poison
  7. Radioactive substances
  8. Corrosives
  9. Miscellaneous

Dangers and Risks

An explosion is likely to occur if a truck carrying explosives collides with another vehicle. The motorists involved may sustain serious injuries or die. Serious injuries include brain damage, chemical burns, poisoning, hearing loss, and loss of limbs.

Another danger is a radioactive chemical spill. If the ground absorbs such a harmful substance, the water supply of a large area will be affected. Exposure to carcinogens and other toxic chemicals may also be experienced by the people in the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the risks for drivers and manufacturers include property damage, personal injury, individual state violations, non-compliance with the regulations, and damage to the manufacturer’s reputation.

They can also be at risk of paying penalties and a possibility of suspension should they not adhere to the laws regarding the transportation of hazardous materials. The drivers can also lose their jobs from non-compliance, or if they caused injury and/or property damage while on the job.

As a manufacturer, truck owner/operator, or driver, you need to be sure that you’re following all regulations and guidelines established by the Department of Transportation. In addition, refer to the Hazardous Material Transportation Act and determine if your practices are safe. Ignorance of the law will not be excused and it could take only one incident for your business to close down.

Safety Tips for Drivers

Like other drivers of any vehicle, you should always wear your seatbelt. Over 40% of vehicle crash fatalities are due to the seatbelt not being worn. Moreover, approximately one in six truck drivers reportedly do not wear their seat belts. Do not be one of those.

As all drivers are constantly reminded, avoid using your smartphone while driving. Not only do you put yourself at risk of an accident, but also of being arrested.

Another constant reminder to all drivers is to not drink and drive. Innocent lives are affected due to intoxicated drivers, and you can end up in prison, too. Avoid taking medications before driving, as some drugs cause drowsiness.

Follow traffic signs and regulations, such as slowing down on sharp curves and pedestrian lanes, driving within speed limits, and not tailgating. Monitor weather forecasts to see if the roads will be safe for driving on a certain day. If there would be heavy rains or a typhoon, it’s best to postpone your trip.

Lastly, make sure you’re well-rested before driving. If you suddenly feel drowsy in the middle of a trip, pull over safely and legally and take a nap. Avoid sugary beverages and junk foods, as those can stimulate drowsiness.

Dealing with hazardous materials poses a serious risk, so make sure you’re complying with the existing laws and regulations. Drive and work responsibly.

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