Fort Bend 18-Wheeler Crash May Have Released Hazmat Gasses, Raises Key Points about Hazmat Trucking RegulationsOctober 26, 2017
Shortly after 9 am this morning, an 18-wheeler truck crashed into a Japanese restaurant in Fort Bend. The truck driver, who suffered serious injuries in the crash, reportedly died in the hospital from his injuries. Three others who reportedly suffered minor injuries were transported to a local hospital for treatment.
According to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, the truck was heading southbound on Grand Parkway when it swerved across the median and crashed into the Shogun Restaurant, located on the 7300 block of State Highway (SH) 99, next to the former Palladium Theater. While the investigation is ongoing, at this point, authorities believe that a medical condition caused the trucker to veer over the median.
Details regarding the nature of hazardous gasses being transported by the truck and whether these gasses were released have yet to be made public. Authorities did, however, evacuate the building following the crash.
Additionally, the northbound lanes of Grand Parkway (at West Bellfort) have been closed as the cleanup and investigation for this crash continue.
Local reporters are continuing to follow this investigation and issue updates as new details become available.
Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Trucking Regulations: What You Need to Know
This hazmat truck accident raises some important points about the rules and regulations for transporting hazardous materials – and who can be liable for hazmat truck wrecks and releases.
In particular, truck drivers and motor carriers who transport hazardous materials are required to comply with special regulations, in addition to standard trucking regulations pertaining to the transport of nonhazardous cargo.
These hazmat trucking regulations are set by federal and state law, and they pertain to matters like (but not exclusive to):
- How hazardous materials are packaged for transport – Special containers must be used to store and transport hazardous materials, with the nature of the container hinging on the specific type of material being hauled. Here is a complete list of the materials that are currently classified by trucking regulators as “hazardous materials.”
- The routes on which hazmat trucks can or cannot operate – States can specify which roadways are designated, preferred or restricted routes for transporting hazmat cargo. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a complete list of these routes.
- Where hazmat trucks can be parked – Hazmat trucks cannot be parked within five feet of a “traveled portion of a public street or highway,” according to federal regulations. Additionally, these trucks can only be parked on private property if the property owner is aware of the truck’s cargo and the intent to park and if the owner has granted permission for the truck to park on his or her property.
- How hazmat trucks must be monitored – Hazmat trucks must be monitored at all times. When a truck driver is monitoring a hazmat truck, (s)he must be awake, on the vehicle (but not in the sleep berth) or within 100 feet of the truck and with an unobstructed view of the truck. When a trucker is resting or off-duty, a hazmat truck can be monitored by a “qualified representative” (as defined by federal law), the motor carrier or the shipper of the cargo.
- How incidents involving hazmat trucks must be reported – Any events involving a hazmat truck that cause serious injuries, death or the release of hazardous materials must be reported “at the earliest practical moment” to the National Response Center (a division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must also be notified if the hazmat release involves a disease-causing agent.1
Additionally, hazmat trucks must have special permits, placards and shipping papers. For more details about federal hazmat trucking regulations, see here.
Although hazmat trucking regulations are focused on promoting the safe transport of hazardous materials, today’s 18-wheeler crash in Fort Bend reveals how accidents involving these trucks still occur and have the potential to cause real harm to many.
1: According the FMCSA’s Guidelines on How to Comply with Federal Hazmat Regulations