Safely tucked away in our SUVs, minivans, and hybrids, we rarely think about the cargo being carried by the semi-trucks on the road with us. But, when there's a truck accident, and toxic material spills across the roadway, we are suddenly faced with dangers that go way beyond a standard collision.
From the risk of fires and explosions to exposure to deadly chemicals, crashes involving trucks carrying hazardous material (hazmat) should be of great concern to every driver. Learn about the classes of hazardous material that can be transported on our roads and the injuries caused by release of these materials.
Types of Hazardous Materials
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 800,000 trucks carry hazardous materials across the U.S. every day. And each year, about 5,000 of those trucks are involved in nonfatal crashes, and 200 result in catastrophic death.
While this represents a small percentage of the 400,000 commercial trucks that crash every year, these accidents put people at a greater risk of injury and death. That's why shipment of these materials is regulated by federal law.
One of the regulations is that dangerous materials must be classified under one of nine categories and the truck must be clearly labeled as carrying a hazardous material. The classifications are as follows:
- Class 1: Explosives. This category includes materials with the potential to create a mass explosion, explosives with a projection hazard, blasting agents, and detonating devices.
- Class 2: Gases. Hazardous gases may be flammable, non-flammable compressed gas, and gases that are toxic when inhaled.
- Class 3: Flammable Liquids. The most commonly transported hazardous material, flammable liquids include gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oil, kerosene, ethanol, and many other types.
- Class 4: Flammable Solids, Spontaneously Combustible Materials. These include household items such as matches and sulfur, as well as activated charcoal, aluminum powder, and magnesium.
- Class 5: Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides. Chemical compounds that cause or enhance the combustion of other materials are known as oxidizers. Certain organic peroxides can also be explosive.
- Class 6: Toxic Materials and Infectious Substances. This category includes poisons that aren't gases and infectious biological materials.
- Class 7: Radioactive Materials. Any material considered to be radioactive must adhere to special handling rules by law.
- Class 8: Corrosive Materials. Acids and bases that burn the skin or corrode other materials must be transported with care.
- Class 9: Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods. A dangerous substance that doesn't meet specific criteria of one of the other classes may be designated a Class 9 hazard. For example, lithium batteries and dry ice fall into this category.
Truck drivers carrying these types of loads must have a permit granting permission to move these specific hazardous material and have the appropriate placard displayed on their trailers with a unique identification number.
Risks of These Materials to Drivers and Others
According to FMCSA, hazardous cargo is released in over 30 percent of fatal crashes involving hazmat trucks. Spills like these are dangerous not only to other drivers, but also to nearby residents, animals, water supplies, and the environment.
Depending on the substance, a spill can cause:
- Thermal burns
- Explosions resulting in burns, amputations, and loss of hearing
- Chemical burns
- Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
- Respiratory distress
- Property loss
- Delayed reactions
- Long-term illness
Sometimes, injuries caused by materials released in a hazmat crash are difficult to connect to the accident. Victims will need help to recover both medically and financially.
Hazmat Crash Victims Need Legal Representation
If you're injured or a loved one is killed in a crash involving a truck carrying a hazardous material, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Trucking companies transporting hazardous materials are subject to regulations above and beyond those applying to non-hazardous cargo. It's quite possible those regulations were violated and that the truck driver and his employer are liable for your damages.
These cases are complex, as they involve state and federal agencies and powerful trucking companies. You'll need an experienced Kansas City truck accident attorney who knows what to do to preserve evidence. To learn more about your case, contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616.