Banning Dangerous Goods Shipments during Storms

The March 14th, 2017 snow storm that hit Ontario and Quebec hard and resulted in an accident on Highway 401 (the main highway between southern Ontario and Quebec) that closed the road for 30 hours because it became a hazmat incident, has resulted in a growing number of elected officials to call for some sort of action to prevent similar incidents in the future. The 30-vehicle crash killed the driver of a tractor-trailer, from which 8,000 litres of fluorosilicic acid spilled onto the highway, and sent 28 people to hospital, many for treatment for exposure to the chemical. Many of the injured were police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

Fluorosilicic acid, which is listed as a dangerous good under the Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, produces a highly toxic, highly corrosive and poisonous solution which is harmful to skin, lungs and eyes.

As reported in the The Kingston Whig Standard, the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health’s board of governors have endorsed a city council motion asking the provincial government to prohibit the transportation of hazardous materials on highways during inclement weather. Accidents become more likely when there is a change in weather involved, and it can be more dangerous for those who find themselves in such weather. Commercial truck insurance helps to cover damages and protect drivers if such a thing were to happen.

The motion resolved that “the City of Kingston ask the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Environmental and Climate Change to consider additional safety measures, including prohibition, regarding the transportation of all Hazardous Materials during severe weather conditions.”

In New York State, all transport trucks had been ordered off the roads during the March 14th storm. Nonetheless, any professional and respected transportation services should have the awareness to make such a judgment call themselves. You would never find a full trailer load service by TS Europe running during conditions that could potentially put the life of the driver or the public at risk.

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), in a letter to Mayor of Prescott, the municipality near the scene of the March 14th hazmat incident on Highway 401, pointed out the trucking industry experiences approximately one spill for every 40,000 shipments it delivers. It also pointed out there are more than 2,200 commodities classified as dangerous goods – including shampoo and soap. In the view of the OTA, a ban on transportation of dangerous goods in poor weather conditions is impractical.

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