Hazardous Materials is one of seven categories that inspectors from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) measure as part of its Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC). It’s like the other six BASICs in that the FMCSA compares drivers with a similar number of safety events to come up with a percentile ranking. The higher the percentage, the greater the likelihood the FMCSA will initiate intervention efforts with the driver. However, this category is unique from the others because it only applies to drivers who transport materials the FMCSA considers hazardous.
A definition of hazardous materials
Because not every commercial driver or owner of a trucking company will agree on what constitutes a hazardous material, the FMCSA has created an official definition that all drivers must follow. According to the secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), a driver’s cargo meets the definition of hazardous if possesses the ability to create an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of others or damage to property. The following are some specific types of cargo it includes in this definition:
- Elevated temperature materials
- Hazardous waste and substances
- Marine pollutants
- Any material deemed hazardous under the FMCSA Hazardous Materials Table 49 CFR 172.101 and subchapter 173
Drivers who transport hazardous materials must place an official HazMat placard on their truck identifying the risk to others. Examples of specific violations under the Hazardous Materials BASIC include:
- Failing to affix the HazMat placard or label or mark the hazardous materials
- Not securing a hazardous load properly
- Not meeting specific cargo tank specifications
- Leaking of hazardous materials
- Improper loading or unloading of the truck
- Not completing required FMCSA training on the proper handling of hazardous materials
Types of documents to have available during a Safety Inspection
A safety inspector may ask to see several types of documents while inspecting a commercial vehicle for the Hazardous Materials Compliance BASIC. These include:
- Hazardous materials shipping papers
- Hazardous materials incident reports
- Evidence you have successfully completed hazardous materials training
- Cargo Hold Manufacturer’s Certificate
- Hazardous waste manifests
Be sure to keep these papers in the glove box of your commercial vehicle to ensure you do well on the Hazardous Materials BASIC.
How to improve your score for the Hazardous Materials Compliance BASIC
If you received a disappointing score on your most recent safety evaluation, spend some extra time reviewing 49 CFR 397 entitled Transportation of Hazardous Materials, Driving and Parking Rules. This publication goes into greater detail about parking, smoking restrictions, fueling guidelines, what qualifies as hazardous materials, and how to secure and mark hazardous loads. Motor carriers must also ensure that their drivers complete adequate hazardous materials training and provide ongoing training and updates as required.
Keep in mind that a poor score in one of the BASICs carries less weight as the months pass and drops off completely after 24 months. As long as you learn from the experience, you don’t need to let it disrupt your career.
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