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DOT Regulations on Truck Driving

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A Truck Driver's Training Handbook gives a number of DOT regulations which professional drivers need to follow. This exercise is designed to supplement that information by introducing you to (1) Federal and State guidelines and regulations for transporting hazardous materials, (2) the hazardous materials placards, and (3) some types of hazardous materials that may be stored together and some that may not.

NOTE: We are not attempting to give you all of the specific guidelines and regulations you need to follow if you haul hazardous materials. We are simply giving you an overview of the regulations. That way, if you take on a job hauling hazardous materials, you will know what to expect and what type of additional information you will need to gather. For specific regulations, we refer you to the current edition of the MCSR (Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), particularly Part 397, and to other current books and materials on such subjects as rules and regulations for hazardous materials shipments; regulations regarding hauling hazardous wastes; the equipment you need to have when you haul hazardous materials; who to contact for state regulations regarding hauling hazardous wastes; health hazards and emergency action to be taken in case of fire, spills, or leaks; and necessary emergency first aid care. These topics are covered in a number of books available from the publishers of trucking-related reference materials. You will need to study these additional source books before you haul hazardous materials.

CONTENT: Hauling hazardous materials requires precautions over and above those used in hauling most other cargo. Don't take the potential dangers of hauling them lightly. A laid-back, lackadaisical attitude about the transport of hazardous materials can get you into just about the hottest water you can imagine.

The Private Truck Council of America, Inc. informs us that any person who knowingly commits an act violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations is liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day. If the driver or responsible person has knowledge of the law and willfully violates it, she or he can be imprisoned for up to five years and owe a penalty of up to $25,000.

Beyond that, hazardous materials spills or accidents can endanger or shorten your life and the lives of those along your transportation route. Spills or leaks from hazardous materials can start highway fires or cause severe damage to property. They can cause immediate or future illnesses to you and persons living, working or playing in the vicinity of the incident. There is almost no calculating the potential dangers of spills of radioactive materials. They can cause not only immediate deaths and injuries, but future cancers and other illnesses as well. We learned that from those who lived or worked around nuclear test sites during and after World War II. Spills and leaks can be caused by truck accidents, by fires on or near the truck, by improper packaging or loading, or by damage to the package or container in which the substance is contained.

For this reason, the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) has identified a great many substances (chemicals, powders, gases, etc.) as hazardous materials. A hazardous material is any substance which the Secretary of Transportation deems capable of posing any unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce. As you can imagine, in the United States, this includes a great many substances.

Rules for hauling hazardous materials are over and above those rules covering other kinds of hauling. That is, you must follow all other MCSR regulations; then, on top of those, you must follow the more stringent regulations for hauling hazardous materials. These regulations are found chiefly in Part 397 of the MCSR and in 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 171-177.

If you are hauling hazardous materials, you are responsible for knowing all of these regulations and for following them. The rules are updated periodically as new substances and methods of containing and shipping the materials are developed. They are also changed as our awareness of the dangers of dangerous materials grows.

INSTRUCTIONAL PURPOSE: The purpose of this article is to introduce you to EXERCISE the Hazardous Materials Incident Report, and to give you practice in filling it out.

CONTENT: Any time a hazardous material leaks or spills from a package, tank or other container you are hauling, you must report the release immediately to your employer. Your employer, in turn, must report the incident to the DOT. Your employer makes the report on the Hazardous Materials Incident Report shown in

Part IV of this workbook. This is the DOT'S own form. Tear one out now and look it over. In a moment, you'll be using it to report a sample hazardous materials incident.

In this exercise, you will be filling out the form. On the job, someone else will probably fill it out unless you are an owner-operator. Usually, the form will be filled out by the company's safety individual, but the trucking company may authorize a different person to complete and mail in the form. As you might have guessed, owner-operators have to fill out the form for themselves.

As soon as the person has completed the form, he or she sends it in. The form must be mailed to a specified state agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Highway Patrol or State Police, or the Department of Public Safety within 15 days of the incident. If the vehicle was hauling intrastate, that is the only place you need to mail the form: the specified state agency. If you were traveling interstate, however, you must also send it to the Federal DOT.
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