What Should Trucking HAZMAT Carriers Learn From Ohio Train Disaster?

What Should Trucking HAZMAT Carriers Learn From Ohio Train Disaster?

Non-Compliance of HAZMAT transportation rules can be the imminent death for a company, as the severity of fines and penalties can be up to $186,000 for civil violations and up to $500,000 for criminal violations.

There is no doubt about it, the Norfolk Southern HAZMAT freight train derailment on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio is a disaster.  

While the derailment seems to have started with a maintenance issue where one of the trains cars wheel bearings overheated and started a fire, the regulations are also under heavy scrutiny.

With national media focused on figuring out who to blame, it is obvious that the government will look at all aspects of HAZMAT safety, no matter if chemicals are transported by air, rail, truck, or sea. 

So, what can the trucking industry expect to happen in the weeks and months to come?

PBS news highlights trucking HAZMAT crash frequency

In the same month, a truck carrying nitric acid crashed on I-10 outside Tucson, Arizona killed the driver and released toxic chemicals into the air, forcing an evacuation in surrounding neighborhoods.

With HAZMAT scrutiny in the air, data is spreading about how federal data shows that trucking has had more HAZMAT incidents, deaths and damage when moving hazardous materials in the U.S.

Today, DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ data show trucks carry twice the number of hazardous materials shipped in the U.S. when compared to trains in ton-miles.

While trucking accidents involving hazardous materials are less dramatic than 50 car train derailments, data shows there are thousands more of them every year and over 16 times more fatalities in the last 50 years, especially in the last decade, when HAZMAT rail incidents caused zero fatalities while trucking was responsible for 83.

The issue is that most rail events take place in remote areas, limiting their human impact, while trucks travel on highways with other drivers around and often in busy urban areas.

Expect more regulatory pressures and inspection scrutiny

With the Ohio train derailment making national news, lawmakers and the DOT will push regulations and investigations for all modes of transportation, including trucking.

According to the PBS article, “activists are calling for more expensive investments, including requirements for heat sensors on train bearings, which appeared to have been involved in the Ohio derailment, and the restoration of a rule requiring advanced braking systems for trains carrying hazardous materials.”

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also looking into higher fines and encouraging rail companies to phase-in more puncture-resistant tank cars.

These regulations would raise the cost of rail shipping and could wind up putting more hazardous materials shipments on U.S. roads.

So, expect the same discussions around the trucking industry.

[Related: Surprise CVSA HAZMAT Road Blitz Found 14% Violations in June 2021]

What are HAZMAT carrier responsibilities?

There are many requirements among states and authorities to keep track of when it comes to hauling hazardous material.

Non-Compliance can be the imminent death for a company, as the severity of fines and penalties can be up to $186,000 for civil violations and up to $500,000 for criminal violations.

Any carrier that transports hazardous materials and falls into one of the 9 hazardous materials classes will be subject to these federal regulations.

[Related: CNS offers training, compliance training, certifications, and more]

For drivers, there are two rules that have been in place since 2003 and 2005 and were finalized by FMCSA and went into effect on November 1, 2019 concerning a mandatory background check for truck drivers interested in adding or renewing a HAZMAT endorsement on their CDL.

The background checks are mandatory and are administered by the Department of Homeland Security, with two exemptions, including state drivers with a valid transportation security card or Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC).

For carriers, if a HAZMAT involved incident occurs, there must be immediate notification by a carrier at the earliest practical moment when the hazardous material incident directly causes any of the following:

  1. A person is killed;
  2. A person receives an injury requiring admittance to a hospital;
  3. The general public is evacuated for one hour or more;
  4. A major transportation artery or facility is closed or shut down for one hour or more; 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 occurs in a quantity exceeding 450L (119 gallons) for a liquid or 400 kg (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

When it comes to HAZMAT carrier responsibilities, according to 49 CFR Parts 100-180 and Part 397, carriers are responsible for:

  • Shipping paper
  • Placard and mark vehicle
  • Loading and unloading
  • Compatibility
  • Blocking and bracing
  • Incident reporting
  • Security plan
  • Employee training

But wait, there is more.

HAZMAT hauler environmental pollution insurance coverage

Don’t forget about HAZMAT insurance coverage, which can be complicated and hard to find.

With news swirling around these derailments and accidents, a hazmat hauler must be prepared for any accident with pollution coverage. 

There are three common solutions available for insuring hazmat hauler pollution exposures:

  • MCS-90 endorsement
  • CA 9948 endorsement, and
  • Transportation Pollution Liability (TPL)

We cover all three of these in an in-depth article on our sister companies website. Check it out here.

With these coverages, you need a Risk Specialist to review your risk and make sure you have insurance without any coverage gaps at an affordable cost.

CNS Insurance specializes in Hazmat Risk. Our Commercial Trucking Insurance Specialists will review your insurance needs and recommend coverages that protect you and your company.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 800.724.5523 or email info@cnsinsures.com.

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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