Making haz-mat travel safer

Changes should be made to DOT's hazardous-materials program to make the program safer, according to a report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).There are about 300-million hazardous-materials shipments in the U.S., most of which travel safely, according to the report. But improvements are needed."In 1998, there were 15,322 reported

Changes should be made to DOT's hazardous-materials program to make the program safer, according to a report issued by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).

There are about 300-million hazardous-materials shipments in the U.S., most of which travel safely, according to the report. But improvements are needed.

"In 1998, there were 15,322 reported haz-mat incidents, including 429 serious incidents,13 deaths, and 198 injuries. Although this is a relatively good safety record, given the total amount of shipments and movements, there remains the potential for catastrophic incidents in the transportation of hazardous materials where multiple fatalities, serious injuries, large-scale evacuations, and other costs to society could result," the report noted.

Recommendations included: * Establishing an entity at DOT to administer a coordinated hazardous-materials program.

* Focusing enforcement and inspection efforts on high-risk shippers.

* Educating the public about the risk of dangerous driving behavior near trucks carrying hazardous materials.

* Improving data collection about hazardous-materials hauling.

* Using 'strike force' operations to enforce regulations at specific locations.

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