Tanker-Trucks and Haz-Mat Trucks are important but dangerous. Who keeps them in line?

At Clark and Steinhorn, we see the ravages caused by crashes involving tractor trailers, eighteen wheelers and large commercial trucks. While these incidents are tragic they do not compare to collisions involving tanker trucks and haz-mat trucks.

Just yesterday, I-95 was closed down by a tanker-truck fire.  http://www.maryland-law.com/blog/i95-tanker-truck-fire-closes-roadway.cfm  W

While no people were injured, the seriousness of this incident focuses our attention on a little known federal agency, the United States Department of Transportation Department of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration or PHMSA. http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/home

The PHMSA works in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board to make our roadways safer.

Their website contains a wealth of information, including a mechanism for reporting safety violations, for making electronic Freedom of Information Act requests about hazardous materials incidents and for improving security and risk management.

One interesting area we will examine today is the "incident statistics" section.

First, it is clear from the numbers that many more deaths and personal injuries come about from transportation of hazardous materials by commercial truck than by other means. Since 1999, 119 deaths have come about from highway transportation of hazardous materials. This compares with 18 deaths by railway and 0 deaths by air or water.

As to personal injuries, 1.550 for highway transport, 1,148 for rail transport, 141 for air transport and 18 for water transport.

70% of economic damage for hazardous material transport comes from highway transport.

Overall wrongful death and personal injuries are declining in haz-mat transport but not nearly so consistently or precipitously as with highway deaths and injuries overall. http://www.maryland-law.com/library/maryland-car-and-truck-crash-safety-its-in-the-plan.cfm

So what is the solution to making haz-mat and tanker truck safety better?

The short list would include: better training, drug and alcohol testing, better enforcement, improved emergency preparedness, better incident reporting and investigation and more uniform international standards.