When driving next to a semi-truck, it may be common to feel nervous – to grip the wheel tighter, speed up, slow down, or change lanes to avoid being directly next to the truck. This may be for good reason, because of the very large size of the vehicles for one. In addition, the semi-trucks we see every day on the road also may be transporting hazardous materials.
The Hazardous Material Transportation Act of 1975 empowered the Secretary of Transportation to designate hazardous materials as “any particular quantity of form” of a material that “may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property” (https://www.osha.gov/trucking-industry/transporting-hazardous-materials). Additionally, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990 requires the Secretary of Transportation to regulate the safe transport of hazardous materials in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce. All drivers who are transporting hazardous materials are required to undergo training and follow protocols while transporting these materials to ensure safety. Although these protocols and regulations are in place, accidents may still occur and can have devasting impacts. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has also identified different hazardous materials, requiring that a vehicle transporting such materials display a clearly visible card around the trailer to ensure that other drivers on the road are aware.
A recent report revealed the dangers. According to the news report, two people died after a fatal crash on US-12 in Berrien County, Michigan. The driver of a liquid-propane hauler was traveling eastbound when the driver crossed the median and struck a gasoline hauler head-on. Although some liquid propane leaked from the truck, it was quickly contained. The driver of the liquid-propane hauler was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the gasoline hauler was transported to a local hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Initial investigations revealed that both drivers appeared to be wearing seatbelts, although the cause of the accident is still being investigated.