Understanding the FMCSA Safe Haven Law for Truck Drivers

Safety is a top priority for all truck drivers. But those transporting dangerous cargo bear an extra responsibility to protect themselves and everyone else.

Because hazardous materials pose a special set of risks, hazmat drivers must keep the cargo secure at all times while in transit, including when the truck is parked.

Let’s go over some of the dangers associated with hazardous cargo and the federal Safe Haven rules designed for parking hazmat trucks.

Which Materials Require Hazmat Placards?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established 9 classes of hazardous materials, which must be clearly labeled with warning signs while being transported:

  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gasses
  • Class 3: Flammable and Combustible Liquid
  • Class 4: Flammable Solid, Spontaneously Combustible and Dangerous When Wet
  • Class 5: Oxidizer and Organic Peroxide
  • Class 6: Poison (Toxic) and Poison Inhalation Hazard
  • Class 7: Radioactive
  • Class 8: Corrosive
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous

Examples of cargo that are considered hazmat include dynamite, fireworks, propane, gasoline, ammonium nitrate, uranium and battery fluid.

Dangers of Leaving Hazmat Unattended

Leaving a hazmat truck unattended could lead to serious injury, property damage or even death. It can also harm wildlife and the surrounding environment, and in some cases may be difficult to clean up.

  • Flammable or combustible gasses, liquids or solids may catch on fire.
  • Corrosive materials can cause chemical burns.
  • Toxic, poisonous or radioactive substances can leak and cause severe, long-lasting damage.

Earning a CDL Hazmat Endorsement

While all truck drivers go through training in order to earn a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), hazmat drivers must complete extra training to earn a hazmat endorsement on their CDL.

Hazmat training covers a number of important topics:

  • Understanding the safety risks of transporting hazardous materials
  • Understanding what each hazardous material specifically does
  • Verifying that the person receiving the hazmat knows what the material does
  • Knowing what to do in an emergency involving hazardous cargo, such as if a fire or explosion takes place

Safe Haven Rule for Truck Drivers

According to the FMCSA, hazmat may only be left unattended in three locations:

  • The carrier’s property
  • The receiver’s property
  • A Safe Haven

The FMCSA defines a Safe Haven as a designated area, approved by local, state or federal authorities, where a hazmat driver may park and leave his/her vehicle unattended.

When the truck is parked outside of a Safe Haven, such as on a public street or highway, the driver must legally attend to it. “Attended” means that the driver is either:

  • In or on the vehicle, awake and not in the sleeper berth
  • Within 100’ of the vehicle and has an unobstructed view

A video recorder may be used only if the driver is watching it at all times while in use.

Hazmat trucks may not park in the following locations:

  • Within 5’ of a roadway
  • Any place where people congregate
  • Within 300’ of a fire, unless proper safety measures are followed

The driver may not smoke within 25’ of a truck that contains explosives, oxidizing or flammable materials. Safe Haven rules and emergency procedures must be kept on-hand at all times. For some explosives, the driver must carry a designated route plan written beforehand

If you have questions about transporting hazardous materials, or you’re looking for more profitable loads to haul, contact our experts at Advanced Fleet Power Fleet program today.