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CVSA conducted hazmat inspections without forewarning

Alliance also reports smaller percentage of brake safety violations this year

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has compiled the results of its second-ever hazardous material/dangerous goods (HM/DG) inspection in the U.S., which is notable for its advance warning process: It doesn’t have one. 

Unlike the broad-based Roadcheck Week or Brake Safety Week, the latter for which the CVSA just announced the 2021 results, the HM/DG inspection was conducted unannounced June 21-25. The results were just recently disclosed.

Carlisle Smith, the CVSA’s director of the Level VI inspection program, said the HM/DG inspections in the U.S. were added in 2019 to an existing Canadian program, meaning the 2021 inspection was just the second ever in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 effort. 

Smith also said the Canadians had not been disclosing the week of the HM/DG inspection in advance and requested that the U.S. not do so either when it joined the program.  

Mexico also was part of the inspection. It participates in other inspections such as Roadcheck Week. 

Smith told FreightWaves that the primary measurement used to count the number of HM/DG inspections is based on “packages.” A package is any type of container that might be used to transport HM/DG, Smith said, adding that one truck might have multiple packages.

In the 2021 inspection, CVSA said it had inspected 10,905 vehicles and 8,363 packages, with 2,714 violations identified. This year’s inspection was smaller than that in 2019. That year, the CVSA reported that it had inspected 15,197 packages. 

There are nine HG/DM classifications. The category with the most inspections made was class 3, defined as flammable liquids. Among the types of products in that category are fuels like gasoline, diesel and ethanol, as well as acetones, adhesives and some pesticides. Across the three nations, there were 5,150 inspections for class 3 materials.

Second on the list was class 2, consisting of flammable or nonflammable gases. That accounted for 2,217 inspections.

Liquid or solid corrosive substances such as sulfuric acid accounted for 1,501 inspections. All the other categories had less than 1,000 inspections.

The 2,714 violations were spread widely. The largest category had 628 violations in non-bulk/small means of containment packaging violations.

Smith said the inspections do not just target trucks that are clearly marked as carrying HM/DG. Wider inspections will go on, he said, and an inspection of a truck that does not have a placard noting it is carrying HM/DG will turn into a hazmat inspection if that type of material is discovered. He noted that not all transport of HM/DG requires a placard identifying that cargo.

One goal of the inspections, Smith said, is the search for what he called “undeclared materials.” He defined that with an example: “Let’s say I ship to you and you have no placards for hazmat, and it’s not on the shipping documents,” Smith said. 

And while he said the CVSA “found some of that,” Smith conceded he expected to find more. Asked why he thought the total would be higher, he described it as “an old inspector hunch.” 

Smith said the goal of the HM/DG inspection is not just to find violators. It is also to educate drivers on proper packaging, since it is possible they might be carrying HM/DG packages that were put together improperly by a shipper before being loaded onto a truck. 

There are times that a truck driver might have material placed on a truck “and they have not had the opportunity to look at what is back there,” Smith said. But once the trailer is opened, “you can see that none of it is secure,” he added. 

“We want the drivers to become more comfortable with identifying shipper violations,” Smith said.

Brake Safety Week took place Aug. 22-29 across all three North American countries. The CVSA said it inspected 35,764 vehicles and found violations that took vehicles out of service in 12% of the vehicles inspected. It did not give a specific figure, but 12% of 35,764 is approximately 4,120.

In 2019, Brake Safety Week inspected slightly fewer vehicles, coming in at 34,320. The number of vehicles taken out of service then was 4,626, about 13.4%. 

The CVSA said the out of service rate in Canada this year was 15.4%. In the U.S. it was 13.5% and in Mexico it was just 2.6%.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.