The Top 5 Best Safety Practices for HAZMAT Carriers

From batteries and antifreeze to paint and cleaning agents, various materials fall under the category of hazardous materials. More specifically, DOT defines a hazardous material as any item or chemical, when being transported in commerce, that’s a risk to public safety or the environment.

Transporting these materials can carry a lot of risks both for business owners and the HAZMAT carriers handling them. Because of this, it’s crucial to follow the FMCSA’s rules to keep drivers, your freight and the general public safe.

A manufacturer may be an expert at producing goods. However, they may not be versed in the complexities of transporting such materials. It’s important to keep in mind that compliance is a team effort. Shippers, carriers and drivers must all work together to ensure the HAZMAT freight is delivered properly and FMCSA-compliant. In today’s blog, we’ll be sharing our top five best safety practices for HAZMAT carriers.


1. Parking Safety

Did you know parking is a top issue for drivers? As a HAZMAT carrier, you must park in a location that’s safe for you and the load. If you’re hauling Division 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 materials and parking on private property, you’ll need to ask the property owner permission before doing so and explain what you’re transporting.

As a general rule of thumb, avoid parking within five feet of a street or highway and avoid 300 feet of a bridge or tunnel. Also, loaded trailers loaded with HAZMAT must have a metal bolt seal or padlock at any time.

Keep in mind that federal safety regulations require drivers to stop and periodically check the securement of their cargo. This takes place before the trip start, within the first 50 miles, when a driver makes a change of duty status, or whenever the vehicle has been driven for 3 hours (or 150 miles).


2. Fire Safety

Because hazardous materials can be unstable, it’s crucial to keep them away from flames. If you spot a fire near the road, don’t’ drive past it unless you can do so safely without stopping. Also, don’t carry a lit cigarette within 25 feet of the truck (especially if you’re hauling explosives or oxidizers) and never smoke near an empty tank that has stored flammable goods.


3. Fueling Safety

It’s important not to run your engine when stopping to fuel. A reason for this is static electricity generates when imbalanced charges stay within or on the surface of a conducting material. In other words, this could lead to the generation of sparks (which is dangerous for HAZMAT carriers transporting explosive materials). It’s also a good rule to stay near the truck as its fueling; don’t leave it unattended.


4. Tire Safety

To avoid potential rollovers or vehicle accidents, it’s crucial to check your tires for any damage or overheating between stops. Blowouts often result in debris and loss of control, which creates a dangerous situation for both the HAZMAT carrier and load. During your tire inspection, check the air pressure, tread and valve caps. And if you notice any wear, repair or replace the tire immediately.


5. Legal Safety

As a rule of thumb, hazardous waste manifests (also known as shipping papers) must be kept for three years after the HAZMAT carrier accepts the material. More specifically, shippers must retain them two years and carriers for one year. For drivers to be legally compliant with FMCSA regulations, they must carry the following documents in their trucks at all times:

  • A copy of their FMCSA safety permit
  • A written plan of the route
  • The supervisor’s contact information

The shipper is responsible for providing the driver with the proper place cards. There has to be at least five - four for all sides of the trailer and one spare inside the cab. Also, HAZMATs that are over 20k lb. must have the UN number on the place cards.


How to Qualify the Right Carrier for Your Freight

Now that you’ve learned some best practices to keep HAZMAT carriers safe on the road, it’s time to turn your attention to selecting the right one for your transportation needs. For both insurance and regulatory reasons, many carriers have moved away from transporting hazardous materials. Because of this, shippers should be careful not to assume all carriers are HAZMAT-certified and/or FMCSA-compliant.

Take time to vet the carriers you interview. A few questions can go a long way, saving you headaches and a potential liability case! Here are some questions to ask when qualifying HAZMAT carriers:

  • What compliance programs do they use to meet state and federal laws?
  • Can they provide proof of their operating authority, permits, safety rating and experience working with hazardous materials?
  • Do they hold the appropriate insurance(s) and have a deep understanding of the HAZMAT classes?
  • Are they willing to meet in-person to discuss their processes and provide transportation recommendations for your unique freight?


In Summary

Taking the time to qualify carriers allows you to catch potential risks that might otherwise result in unsafe situations or ODT violations. Working with a carrier specialized in HAZMAT materials also minimizes the legal liability of non-compliant shipments for your company.

For more information about HAZMAT carriers or to request a free quote, reach out to us today at (847) 789-7131 or contact us using our online form.

The Ultimate Guide to Managing HAZMAT Freight