What is Hazardous Cargo?

Every day of the week, year-round, thousands of large trucks like 18-wheelers transport millions of pounds of stuff across the country. They ensure that people receive mail and that fruits and vegetables reach the grocery stores where so many people get their food. Something else they transport is hazardous cargo.

Hazardous cargo is any cargo made of a hazardous material. A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, physical) which has the potential and likelihood of causing harm to humans, animals, or environment if not handled properly. It can do this on its own or through interaction with other factors.

There is an entire profession dedicated to handling hazardous materials properly. Hazardous materials professionals are responsible for and properly qualified to manage these materials. This includes managing and advising other managers on hazardous materials during their entire life cycle. This goes from process planning and development of new products through manufacturing, distribution, use, disposal, cleanup, and remediation.

Hazardous materials are defined and regulated in the United States by laws and regulations. These regulations are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Each organization has its own definition of what a hazardous material is.

OSHA has a definition of “hazardous material” that includes any substance or chemical which is a “health hazard” or “physical hazard.” This includes chemicals that are carcinogens, toxic agents, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers. It also includes agents which act on the hematopoietic system and chemicals that damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Combustible, explosive, flammable, oxidizers, pyrophorics, unstable-reactive or water-reactive chemicals are all also included. Basically, OSHA has the broadest definition of hazardous as they are dealing with the safety of workers everywhere rather than a specific field.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has adopted OSHA’s definition but added any item or chemical which can damage to people, plants, or animals when it is released by spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, escaping, leaching, injecting, dumping, or disposing of the substance into the environment. Their list of hazards contains over 350 hazardous and extremely hazardous materials.

The Department of Transportation defines a hazardous material as any item or chemical which is a risk to public safety or to the environment when it is being transported or moved. These items are regulated under the Hazardous Materials Regulations, International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, the Dangerous Goods Regulations of the International Air Transport Association, the Technical Instructions of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United States Air Force Joint Manual, Preparing Hazardous Materials for Military Air Shipments.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates items or chemicals which are a “special nuclear source” or by-product materials or radioactive substances from “special nuclear sources.”

For more information on the hazards of hazardous materials in transportation, please visit http://www.truckaccident-lawyers.com.