Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

How Often do Hazmat Accidents Happen?

How often do hazmat accidents happen in America? What are the causes of these accidents? Hazardous material accidents during transportation are a relatively small percentage of the total number of motor vehicle accidents each year. When they do occur, it is usually the truck driver and first responders who are at greatest risk of injury or death.

The Prevalence of Hazardous Cargo on American Roads

There are approximately 800,000 hazmat shipments every day. The more than 3.1 billion tons of hazardous material transported each year includes everything from gasoline to chemicals used in construction and manufacturing. approximately 11% of all freight transported in the United States is classified as hazardous. Each day, approximately 7% of all commercial trucks are transporting hazardous cargo on American roadways.

The Frequency and Cost of Mistakes

Data from the Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Safety Administration showed that there were 3,391 incidents during transportation involving hazardous cargo in 2017. These accidents resulted in 2 hospitalizations and 6 fatalities. They also caused nearly $33 million in damages. Fatalities are rare and in 2018, only 3 fatalities were recorded. However, injuries are common. In 2018, 101 people suffered injuries in an accident involving hazardous materials.

Nationwide, the number of injuries and fatalities has been on the decline over the past few years. However, the number of incidents remains high. In 2016, 16,524 incidents were recorded. This declined slightly to 15,729 in 2017 before rising to 15,970 in 2018. Since 1975, the number of incidents has fluctuated wildly with no clear trend or pattern. What is clear is that a growing number of hazardous materials incidents occur during the unloading process. In 2017, there were 8,036 such incidents that caused nearly $5 million in damage.

Thus far in 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has recorded 1,599 transportation incidents, and 263 incidents while cargo was in transit and in storage. A further 1,842 incidents have occurred during loading, and 2,618 have occurred during unloading. In all, 5 people have been hospitalized, 22 suffered injuries not requiring hospitalization, and 1 individual died. These accidents have caused nearly $27 million in damages. Flammable liquids and corrosive materials are the most commonly involved materials in a hazmat accident.

Hazmat Risks for First Responders

Hazardous materials can cause asphyxiation, chemical burns to skin and mucosal surfaces, and thermal burns when ignited. Many hazardous materials are classified as Toxic Inhalation Hazards or Poison Inhalation Hazards. Further, many hazardous materials such as gasoline and natural gas, oxygen, hydrogen, propylene, and propane pose a significant risk of explosion which can cause puncture wounds and severe internal injuries.

Hazmat Endorsements

Drivers who transport hazardous cargo are required to have a Hazmat endorsement on their CDL. There are many requirements for obtaining this endorsement. Among these, drivers are required to pass a detailed exam, pass a Security Threat Assessment, and prove that they do not have any disqualifying offenses on their driving or criminal records. This process helps ensure that drivers are knowledgeable of all laws requiring the safe handling and transportation of hazardous cargo.

Call in the Bull to help you clear the air after a hazmat accident. You can call us at 1-800-241-BRAD, or call us on or local line at 316-684-4400 to speak with an attorney. You can reach Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can call Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237. You can call from Western Kansas at 620-THE-BULL.