Truck Accident Law: OHMS Standards for Commercial Trucking
Due to the inherent danger large commercial vehicles pose to other motorists on the road, highly specific federal and state regulations exist governing these trucks and their drivers. Both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issue regulations that apply to all employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles that transport property or passengers in interstate commerce.
While some of these regulations focus on how often a commercial driver must take rests or have their truck inspected, very specific laws also exist to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials. The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) develops these safety regulations specifically for the commercial trucking industry.
If you or a family member has been injured by a tractor trailer, semi, rig or other large truck, it’s important to understand how these safety rules might apply to your case. It is also important to retain an attorney as soon as is possible after an accident to be able to investigate and gather evidence to discover whether the large commercial truck involved was operating in accordance with the safety rules.
Here are the basics about the OHMS standards for the safe transportation of hazardous materials. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
What is federal hazmat law?
“Hazmat”—hazardous materials—use, disposal, and general safe handling of are controlled by federal law and various federal subsidiary organizations, such as the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. The federal hazmat transportation law, officially titled 49 U.S.C. § 5101 et seq., is the basic statute regulating transportation of hazardous materials in the United States.
The purpose of the statute is to “protect against the risks to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce.”
What qualifies as hazardous waste?
A hazardous material is any substance that would be a danger to life or to the environment if it were to be released without precautions. Under the federal statute, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation has top regulatory authority over hazmat substances and determining which and in what quantity should require special care for transportation in commerce.
The commercial trucking industry must follow the OHMS standards in order to transport any material the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated as hazardous, meaning the act of transporting it in a particular amount and form may pose an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property. That list includes explosive and radioactive materials; infectious substances; flammable or combustible liquids, solids, or gases; toxic, oxidizing, or corrosive materials; and compressed gas, among others specified by the EPA as hazardous and marine pollutants.
What elements of transportation are regulated?
Federal hazmat law covers many aspects of the transportation process, including licensing, training, parking, and highway routing. For example, OHMS states that a state cannot issue a license to operate a motor vehicle for the purposes of transporting a hazardous material unless the Secretary of Homeland Security has first determined that the individual in question does not pose a security risk. Under the laws, states can also designate certain routes for the transportation of non-radioactive hazardous materials.
OHMS regulations prohibit vehicles transporting hazardous materials from parking within 300 feet of an open fire or within 25 feet of any person carrying a lighted cigarette if the truck contains flammable or explosive materials. They cannot park within 5 feet of a public street or highway or private property without the consent of the property owner or within 300 feet of a bridge, tunnel, or place where people work, except in rare instances. The laws require drivers transporting hazardous materials to inspect their tires before setting out on the road and each time the vehicle is parked. Any issues require immediate attention.
These are just a small sample of the many regulations governing the commercial trucking industry when it comes to hazmat transportation. OHMS violations can result in serious injury, pain, and suffering. If a commercial trucker fails to follow the OHMS guidelines and you or a loved one is injured as a result, consult with an attorney to learn about pursuing a claim against the driver, his or her employer, or the company shipping the hazardous material.