Train Derailment in Ohio Puts Focus on HAZMAT Transportation


Photo by Ana Itonishvili on Unsplash

On Friday, February 3rd, a freight train carrying vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Vinyl chloride is a dangerous hazardous material. The chemical is a carcinogen – or cancer-causing agent – and the burning of vinyl chloride releases phosphene, which is toxic gas once used as a weapon in World War I.

An explosion could have been disastrous, so state authorities and railroad workers worked together to release the chemical from the tanks and do a controlled burn. A two-mile area was evacuated, and some residents reported dead fish, dogs, foxes, and other animals as a consequence of the release.

Eventually, authorities claimed that it was safe for residents to return to their homes, but questions remain. The ecological impact of this accident is likely severe.

HAZMAT and Trucking

The train derailment, allegedly caused by the corporate negligence of the Norfolk Southern train company, puts a focus on HAZMAT.

When truck drivers get their Commercial Driver’s License, they are also permitted to take tests for various endorsements. These endorsements allow truckers to drive additional types of vehicles in addition to dry van.

Perhaps the most common endorsement is that of HAZMAT or the combined endorsement of Tanker and HAZMAT, which allows the transportation of hazardous liquids.

Truck drivers already put their life at risk every time they go to work, due to highway traffic and potential accidents. The addition of hazardous materials puts additional risk on the job.

Recently, an existing bipartisan bill had been proposed for the trucking industry called the “Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act”. This bill, if passed into law, would create a new Safety Fitness Determination test for trucking companies. This test would require trucking companies to pass safety standards, and the bill would also require shippers to select companies that are licensed and registered.

With the transportation of hazardous materials in the news, it will be interesting to see if this bill or other new HAZMAT safety rules may come soon to the trucking industry.