Every day, 18-wheelers and other large trucks transport a large number of goods across the country. While many of the goods they transport are harmless, many others meet the description of a hazardous material. A hazardous materials is a substance or material including a hazardous substance which has been determined by the Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.
Hazardous materials are classified based on what type of hazard they might be. This brings up instances in which a substance could actually fit the description for numerous hazards. When this occurs, the substance is capable of multiple hazards. When defining what type of hazard a particular compound is, the higher-risk classification is assigned. For example, if a substance is both a flammable liquid and an irritating material, the object is classified as a flammable liquid because that is the more serious of the two types of hazards.
The portion of the trucking industry that transports hazardous materials is under regulations from federal, state, and local agencies. There are numerous regulations and laws which apply to the trucking industry and its relationship with hazardous materials.
The Hazardous Material Transportation Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ford in 1975. IT allows the secretary of transportation to designate any material in “any particular quantity or form” that may “pose an unreasonable risk” to the “health and safety” of people or to their property. This act is enforced by compliance orders, civil penalties, and injunctive relief. Injunctive relief is a form of an equitable remedy in which a court orders someone or something to do or not to do something. The act preempts the laws written by state and local governments whose requirements are incompatible with the Hazardous Material Transportation Act of 1975. An exception to this is established when the state or local regulation affords the people more protection than the federal regulation does.
In 1990, in an effort to clean up the mess of the mass of conflicting state, local, and federal regulations, Congress passed the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act. This act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The law retains the Secretary of Transportation’s ability to designate items as hazardous materials.