Trucking Dangerous Goods: Who’s Liable in Case of Accidents?

TORONTO— The Canadian Trucking Alliance is asking the federal government to invalidate contract clauses compensating shippers from liability in case of incidents involving dangerous goods such as crude oil.

CTA’s president and CEO, David Bradley, commented: “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 growing trend of shippers including clauses in freight contracts that compensate them from liability from their own negligence goes against both public interest and policy, the CTA says.

The discussion comes in light of last summer’s Lac Megantic accident when several rail tank cars carrying crude oil derailed.

After that incident, the federal government wrote some big clean up cheques and called for increased insurance coverage for rail carriers and shippers.

But an incident of the magnitude of Lac Megantic is unlikely to occur with trucks, the CTA says.

In a report stating its position on the transportation of dangerous goods by truck, the CTA found that the frequency and severity of highway incidents involving trucks carrying dangerous goods is extremely low.

The report analyzed 328 dangerous goods incidents involving trucks in 2012 and found that the number of incidents was 1.64 every 10,000 shipments, with a majority (56.4 percent) of the releases of product under 500 litres, or in other words, minor. These incidents are usually cleaned up with little or no environmental damage.

Highway accidents, where the public is most at risk, accounted for 16.2 percent of all incidents, which means they happened as often as 0.27 times every 10,000 shipments.

Despite their rarity, the major accidents, which account for 6.4 percent of all incidents, are the main cause (56.8 percent) of releases of product larger than 5,000 litres.

“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,” Bradley said.

Even so, the CTA advisory committee on dangerous goods has been struck to look at the regulations in more detail. 

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