Prepare for Incidents Involving Hazardous Materials in Transit

Prepare for Incidents Involving Hazardous Materials in Transit

Fire/Rescue Services

(Concluded from March issue)

There are five methods for moving goods from one point to another: train, truck, airplane, barge and pipeline. The regulatory agencies, working under the Department of Transportation, are also divided by mode of transportation.

Regulatory Agencies

Agency Mode

Federal Railway Administration Rail

Federal Highway Administration Truck

Federal Aviation Administration Air

U.S. Coast Guard Barge

Federal Power Commission Pipeline

Many states have adopted regulations which are almost identical to the Department of Transportation except that enforcement is a state function. However, Pennsylvania has proceeded one step further and established its own Hazardous Substances Transportation Board. This board regulates carriers that operate solely within Pennsylvania.

The National Transportation Safety Board reports directly to Congress and is not part of the Department of Transportation. Its function is primarily to investigate transportation accidents and make recommendations to minimize the chances of future accidents.

Railway mishap causes

Railroads cause problems in the following ways:

  1. Couplers which disengage during derailment and puncture an adjoining car,
  2. Tank car separation from truck,
  3. Makeup of train either in the arrangement of cars or in the manner of gravity coupling,
  4. Disrepair of track, track separation, sudden widening of track, and weakening of road bed,
  5. Wheel and journal box design to reduce friction, and
  6. Vent designs on tank cars too small.

There has been a decrease in track mileage and the number of railroad cars, but the volume of freight carried has increased. This is due to the efficient use of the available cars. In addition, larger cars carrying an increased amount of commodities cause an increase in the amount of goods moved. This has resulted in an increase in train accidents from 1963 to 1968.

Truck accidents

Tractor-trailer vehicles cause problems in the following manner:

  1. Driver error in taking a ramp too rapidly and overturning.
  2. Driver fatigue from driving too much,
  3. Jackknife of rig,
  4. Nonfunctioning emergency valves,
  5. Aluminum construction of tank, and
  6. Vent designs on tank vehicles too small.

Just as railway freight is increasing, so is the highway freight. However, in this case most states limit the size of the truck which can travel on the highways. This means more vehicles to move the additional material, which means a greater likelihood of an accident.

The airlines account for very little movement of hazardous materials and no definite information is available on this mode of transportation.

Problems on water

Transportation of hazardous materials by water presents some unique problems:

  1. Special pressure relieving systems,
  2. Possibility of collisions,
  3. Running the barges aground,
  4. Danger of a spill traveling great distances,
  5. Lack of accessibility of cargo on barge, and
  6. Lack of fire fighting vessels.

To increase the cargo-carrying capability of barges, the number of towboats and their power have greatly increased. The estimates are that barge accidents have increased 300 percent during three recent consecutive years.

Pipelines for fuels

Pipelines carry a large percentage of the flammable material produced in this country. Pipelines include natural gas under pressure, LPG, gasoline and fuel oil. Gas lines as large as 50 inches in diameter are in operation, and there is a 40-inch line running from Oklahoma to Chicago that carries gasoline. Some of these pipelines operate up to 1200 psi and are 30 to 36 inches underground.

Booster stations are necessary at least every 100 miles and closer if the area is mountainous. Most of the booster stations are unmanned.

Pipelines present the following problems:

  1. Leakage due to break caused by excavation equipment,
  2. Deterioration of pipe material, and
  3. Failure of a weld.


  1. General planning Possible incident location Response route Obstructions Alternate route
  2. Water supply Hydrant location Flow available Static sources Tanker operations Water relays
  3. Approach
  4. Traffic and road conditions Wind directions Accessibility to site Ground slope

  5. Apparatus positioning Position of hazardous vehicle Wind direction and velocity Ground slope
  6. Type of hazardous material carried – Placards

    (Telephone for special assistance. If initiating a call to CHEMTREC, be prepared to provide the information in the table.) Line lengths Water availability

  7. Rescue
  8. Within hazardous vehicle Other involved vehicles Explosives

    Evacuation of surrounding area

  9. Exposures Life hazard
  10. Other hazardous vehicles Surrounding buildings Distance

    Height and construction Grass or weeds Overhead wires – will shut off be required?

    Streams and sewers – will system have to be flushed? Vapor or liquid flow

  11. Tank vehicles Normal vents Emergency vents Shutoff valves Emergency shutoff valves Type of construction
  12. Special extinguishing agents Foam
  13. Quantity Travel distance Aqueous film-forming foam Quantity Availability Travel distance

  14. Cleanup Material disposal

Assistance from environmental authorities

Cleaning of gear and equipment

Additional information sources

The following are 24-hour numbers which can be called for assistance for a hazardous material transportation emergency:

CHEMTREC – 800-424-9300 Du Pont – 302-774-7500 Dow Chemical – 517-636-4400 The following organizations can be consulted for additional information:

National Transportation Safety Board, 800 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20592.

American Petroleum Institute, 1801 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

American Trucking Association, 1616 P Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

Association of American Railroads, 1920 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

Bureau of Explosives, 1920 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

National Academy of Sciences, NRC Committee on Hazardous Materials, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418.

National Tank Truck Carriers, Inc., 1616 P Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

U.S. Coast Guard, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590.

U.S. Department of Transportation, Railroad Safety Office and/or Highway Safety Office, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590.

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