Moving dangerous goods by truck not so dangerous: Report

OTTAWA, Ont. — With the transportation of dangerous goods on the radar of federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt following a devastating train wreck in Lac Megantic earlier this year, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is looking at its own industry’s best practices.

The Alliance today issued a white paper on the transportation of dangerous goods by truck. This after Raitt said she would be conducting a review of the situation and would make recommendations to prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred in Lac Megantic from occurring again.

In an analysis of 328 incidents involving dangerous goods moving by truck that have occurred in 2012, CTA discovered the incident rate was just 1.64 per 10,000 shipments. Most (56.4%) that involved product releases were minor (less than 500 litres), which can generally be cleaned up with little or no environmental damage.

Eighty-six per cent of all incidents involved tank trucks. Most incidents occurred while loading or unloading (70.7) and often the cause was employee error (28%) or equipment failure (34.1%).

Accidents while on the road accounted for 16.2% of total incidents, for a frequency of 0.27 per 10,000 shipments. The major incidents (spills greater than 5,000 litres) were usually caused by on-highway accidents (56.8%).

However, CTA reports major incidents represented just 6.4% of overall incidents.

Most incidents examined included flammable liquids, mainly crude oil.

“I think we can conclude from this white paper that overall the TDG regulations are effective in preventing dangerous goods incidents where trucks are involved,” said CTA president and CEO, David Bradley.

Still, the CTA put forth some recommendations it said would further improve safety.

It would like to see trucks hauling dangerous goods – as well as all other trucks where the driver must carry a logbook – to be equipped with electronic logging devices. The Alliance would also like to see roll stability systems mandated on all new heavy trucks. And it also says a mandatory speed limiter law restricting trucks to 105 km/h would also help. CTA also said mandatory entry-level training for truck drivers based on a national standard is encouraged.

Meanwhile, the CTA said there should be clarity provided as to who is liable in the event of an accident. In the wake of the Lac Megantic tragedy, the CTA noted, there were issues involving who would be responsible for the massive clean-up costs. In its white paper, the CTA contended that a determination of liability and who shall bear the cost of negligence is “a statement of the public interest and public policy.”

The Alliance has set up an advisory committee on dangerous goods, that will be tasked with examining the regulations in more detail.

“So this is our first word on the subject,” said Bradley. “But we strongly believe the most effective thing governments can do is to take the recommended actions to reduce the risk of highway accidents and to make sure that the parties whose negligence causes an accident are held liable for the claims.”

The full white paper can be read here.

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