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Student Drivers – Should they haul Hazardous Materials

Posted on : 28-03-2009 | By : Truckdriversnews | In : Thoughts from a trucker, truck driver Industry


I know I know, I hate beating a dead horse also. But, I think this needs to be discussed and looked at more in the trucking industry. You all know what it takes to get your HazMat license. It’s not much, I mean yea you have to go through a back ground check and all. But, just because someone is not a criminal doesn’t make them qualified to haul HazMat.

I know, this is not a serious problem yet, but I feel it is going to be later on. General freight hauling days are almost over people. The way things are, trucks are not making money and they are going to start looking at different ways to make money. Hauling Hazmat, does pay evener though you do not see it reflected on your paycheck.

I was asked in another post on this blog (War of the Blogs over one wee little ole truck driver) What should/could be done to change the training of new student drivers?

First off I want to give a little background on my experience with HazMat.

I began driving a few years ago, I got a job with a company right out of school and started OTR. We hauled a couple of loads considered HazMat, but nothing major. I soon saw that OTR was not for me, I did not like staying gone for 30 days at a time. So, I soon quit the first job I had. I got a job hauling coal, rock, sand etc. with a guy as a local driver, I did this until the company folded up about four years. Went on to another local company for another couple years, they also closed.

I then decided it was time to give OTR another shot. I found a great company to go without of Green Bay,WI. No, it was not Schneider…I went to work here pulling a liquid tanker in the food industry. I never knew they even had such an industry. I hauled liquid chocolate, for M&M Mars, and Hershey, and Nestle. This was great! This was my first real OTR gig, and I loved it. I stayed out mostly for two weeks at a time, sometimes more. In the food industry hauling chocolate, you would not think you would encounter anything Hazardous to you health. Wrong!, Each load of chocolate is blanketed with Nitrogen, keeps it from making too many air bubbles while hauling it down the road. It also takes the oxygen out of the tank, which will kill you and you do not even know it.

I did this for a few years, I had got a friend from here at home a job there as well. He jumped ship and went to another company after a few years, it’s a long story why we both quit and our terminal manager did too I wont bore you with that.

But, he calls me to tell me he had another job with an another tanker outfit hauling Hazardous Materials. I told him I had dropped my Hazmat endorsement he told me to call the terminal manager that they needed drivers. So I did, the guy practically hired me over the phone. Even after I had told him I had no Hazmat endorsement. He said I could just get it added back that they had trainers to train me to haul Hazmat.

So, I agreed and quit my job and went right to work for this other company. I went and studied the book on hazmat, and got my endorsement back with no problems.

Now the fun begins, I started out with a trainer. We hauled five loads and they said ok pick your truck out. I said huh? This is all no more training involved? They said nope, you have successfully passed the training required by state and the company. So, I began hauling some really nasty products. We hauled some poisons, acids, and solvents. This was some bad stuff.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is a toxic, white crystalline solid with a sweet tarry odor, commonly called a “hospital smell”. It reminds me of cough syrup, because of how it smells. It is fatal to breathe in enough of it. It will make you light headed just to get a whiff of a smell off it. But, if you have a cold, and your head is stopped up, it will clear the sinus’s. It is fatal if it gets on your skin as well, enough of it I mean. It will burn you two ways, chemical burn you and also a scald burn, as it is heated so it does not turn back to a solid. To load or unload this product, you are required to “Suit Up”. Which means you put on a flame retardant coverall, a chemical suit top and bottoms, rubber boots, long rubber gloved chemical resistant, full face respirator with chemical resistant filters, also must have a hood from your chemical suit on. Two people are required to load and unload this product. One person does all the work, the other is on standby if something happens to the person loading or unloading this product. Here is a PDF link to more clearly explain this. This is used in a wide variety of products…Chloraseptic spray is the main one I saw it in. MSDS sheet on Phenol.

Maleic anhydride, is a corrosive chemical that we hauled plenty of. This is the MSDS sheet on it. It is used to make fiber glass and plastics…it is also used in candy, and pop. Requirements to load and unload, Flame retardant coverall, rubber boots, chemical resistant gloves, a respirator, hard hat with face splash guard.

Acetone, is a solvent that we hauled a lot of. It is highly flammable substance, everything must be grounded to keep static electricity away. Yes, i said static electricity will set it off. Requirements to load and unload, Flame retardant coverall, face slash guard, chemical resistant gloves, rubber boots. MSDS Sheet on Acetone.

I did this job for a few years, until back in 04 I was involved in a bad accident with 7000 gallons of Acetone on a tanker. I was rear ended by another tractor trailer. I soon after dropped my hazmat endorsement and have refused to haul it since.

I know some of you are thinking why did I post all this. Well, because I had NO TRAINING what so ever to haul these very bad products. The requirements for a driving position at this company were. one year experience driving and a Hazmat endorsement. The five load training program you endure through this company was so you would know at least a little something about unloading the products, and the paper work involved with getting paid. Thats it, nothing else.

© 2009, Truck Drivers News. All rights reserved.

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Comments (7)

Very informative blog! I’ve seen this argument being banged about, and you make some very good points – enough to make me agree with you to a point. I believe that with PROPER TRAINING, newer drivers can haul hazmat. Obviously the situation you present in your blog doesn’t fall into that category; but there are other companies out there that do train properly. So, what to do? Raise the training requirements, IMHO. Federally mandate those requirements in the name of homeland security. Good stuff – keep it up!


Thanks, for the comment SurfingTrucker. I believe with the PROPER TRAINING a new driver could haul hazmat also. But, it has to consist more than they do now. What I posted is still what this company requires as for a driving position. Also I want to point out, when I titled this post, it was ment for New Drivers to Hauling Hazmat. A driver that has never fulled with it, or hauled it.

Just because you (A driver) has 30 years experience hauling General Frieght and NO experience hauling HM, with no accidents. But has a HM endorsement, still doesn’t qualify you to haul it.

The requirement should be a Federally Mandated Training. Almost like going to college, and getting a degree. A Dr, doesn’t just take a 50 question test to become qualified to handle a life and death situation.

Some of the loads being hauled up and down the highway, have the potential to be considered a life and death situation.


What Great Observations!

I’m sure glad qualified experts are discussing this topic.

Sure makes sense to me, & I’m just a girl.

Okay, I gotta get back to painting my nails.


Thanks Desiree, I dont know about being an expert on the subject, but I do know a thing or two about it.


I can’t help but to add one more element to this already brewing and exhausted discussion.

ARealRedneck brought up a very valid analogy;
He said,” The requirement should be a Federally Mandated Training. Almost like going to college, and getting a degree. A Dr, doesn’t just take a 50 question test to become qualified to handle a life and death situation.”

Now, with that in mind, think about this for a moment.
Why do Dr’s get paid more than most people?
You got it, because they have extensive formal educations.
So, if hauling HM required a “formal training” guess what? Yep, right again, companies would have to pay drivers more, or why would anyone even bother to train for it?
The sad fact is, it’s really all about money, plain and simple. Safety is nowhere in the equation when it comes down to hiring drivers to haul HM. Hats off to those trucking companies that train properly without a federal law forcing them.
Yes, there should be a mandate to train drivers properly and maintain the safety of those at risk.
Most experienced drivers understand the risks involved when hauling HM and know that their monetary reward for hauling HM is either slight or non existent, therefore choose not to haul it.
So, who do you think they persuade or encourage to haul it?
Yep, right again.
Back in April of 2007 I wrote a post,Truck Driver Training for Accident Prevention. It touches on HM training as well as a few other points of interest. http://www.askthetrucker.com/truck-driver-training-for-accident-prevention/
It may give you an idea about training requirements in general, but if nothing else, the stats may make you just a little more aware of the need for adequate driver training.


Thanks Allen, for the comment. I have said this for years if it was mandated and we as drivers had to have some sort of special training required, they would have no choice but to pay more/better to have it hauled and hauled safely.


Hey, cool tips. I’ll buy a glass of beer to that man from that chat who told me to go to your site :)


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