New First Responders Alert of Derailed Train Cargo Vs Trucking HAZMAT Accident

New First Responders Alert of Derailed Train Cargo Vs Trucking HAZMAT Accident

Hazardous materials are essential to the United States economy and its citizens, but the fear of harm that these dangerous chemicals can unleash on the public makes safety regulations top of mind for the government. So, what are the accident response requirements for trains to trucks?

The East Palestine chemical train derailment has pushed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other regulators to make accident response and other safety changes for trains hauling hazardous materials, with an eye on highway transportation.

The goal is to protect and inform first responders to a chemical train derailment or trucking accident.

So, what is changing for trains and how does it compare to the trucking industry?

New accident response for trains with hazardous materials

Previously, train crews were expected to provide cargo information at the scene of the accident.  The accident response looked like this:

  • Many freight railroads have an app, AskRail, which has allowed around 35,000 first responders to quickly look up the details of what each train carries.
  • Crews printed copies of their cargo in the cabs of their locomotives.
  • Railroads push information electronically and dispatchers and rail police are expected to maintain contacts for first responders all along their routes.

However, many important decisions can cause emergency response mistakes.

On Wednesday, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed a new rule that would require all railroads to immediately send the details of everything aboard their trains to every emergency responder within 10 miles as soon as the railroad becomes aware of an accident.

Regulators want responders to know exactly what is being transported before they reach the scene of the accident as it may require a specialized response.

The rule would force nearly 600 railroads, not just the largest railroads, to send out electronic push alerts this information to all nearby emergency services instead of expecting arriving first responders to look up the details on an app.

However, this is still a backup plan in case first responders do not receive the electronic information right away.

How does this differ from trucking HAZMAT carriers?

The requirement for Emergency Response information is contained in 49 CFR, Part 172, Subpart G. As a professional driver, if an accident involving hazardous material happens, they must:

  • Keep people away from the scene.
  • Limit the spread of material, only if you can safely do so.
  • Communicate the danger of the hazardous materials to emergency response personnel.
  • Provide emergency responders with the shipping papers and emergency response information.

For carriers, if a HAZMAT involved incident occurs, there must be immediate notification by a carrier at the earliest practical moment to the National Response Center (800-424-8802) when the hazardous material incident directly causes any of the following:

  1. A person is killed;
  2. An injured person is admitted to a hospital;
  3. General public is evacuated for one or more hours;
  4. A major transportation artery or facility is closed or shut down for one or more hours; or
  5. Fire, breakage, spillage, or suspected radioactive contamination occurs involving a radioactive material;
  6. Fire, breakage, spillage, or suspected contamination occurs involving an infectious substance other than a diagnostic specimen or regulated medical waste;
  7. A release of a marine pollutant over 119 gallons for a liquid or 882 pounds for a solid; or
  8. A situation exists of such a nature that, in the judgment of the person in possession of the hazardous material, it should be reported to the National Response Center even though it does not meet the other criteria

Notice involving an infectious substance (etiologic agent) may be given to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (800-232-0124), in place of notice to the NRC. 

If a reportable quantity of hazardous substance was involved, the caller should give the name of the shipper and the quantity of the hazardous substance discharged.

Written emergency response information must be appropriate for the hazardous material being transported. If the carrier’s equipment has an emergency response guide or similar document on board, there is no requirement to provide a separate emergency response document.

Carriers must make detailed written reports within 30 days of an incident on DOT Form F 5800.1 for all incidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials unless exempted.

Hazmat and DOT Training

At CNS, we are fully capable to handle your HAZMAT compliance training or other DOT training.

There are many rules, regulations, and requirements in each state for authorities to keep track of when it comes to hauling hazardous material. If you are not DOT compliant, it could be detrimental to your company, as fines and penalties can be upwards of $180,000.

Questions about DOT Compliance, Licensing, Audits, Programs, etc.?

Our DOT Specialists are here to help!

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