Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh No You Didn't

A while back, we were transporting extremely flammable freight - one of those categories that drivers need a HazMat endorsement for.  We've hauled dangerous chemicals in the past - like the load I dubbed "Hellfire and Brimstone" - but some of this stuff are the big kahunas of Things That Go Boom and they're divided into six divisions.  Division 1.1 is the most dangerous.

To give you an idea exactly how dangerous, and how explosive they are, here's a very brief definition:

Division 1.1:  Consists of explosives that have a mass explosion hazard. A mass explosion is one which affects almost the entire load instantaneously.  

When hauling certain division categories, there are very strict federal rules that must be followed by the driver.  Things like:  you can't park 300 feet from a place where people work, congregate or assemble; you must always being in control of the fueling process at the point where the fuel tank is filled (which means always keeping your hand on the hose - try doing that when you're getting 220 gallons at at time); you have to check your tires every time you stop; and, the motor vehicle must be attended at all times by its driver or a qualified representative - meaning the load is never left alone.

But to me, the scariest aspect of hauling extremely flammable freight is fire.  Why? Because the potential hazard of some of this freight is the fact that it "may explode and throw fragments one mile or more if fire reaches the cargo".  I don't even want to park next to those guys.

ONE MILE OR MORE.  Whadya think the chances of outrunning that are?

The Emergency Response Guidebook even tells you what a driver is supposed to do in the event of fire:

"DO NOT fight fire when fire reaches cargo!  Cargo may EXPLODE!"  (Written with exclamation points and all.  As if.)

"Move people out of line of sight of the scene and away from windows."

"Isolate spill or leak area immediately for at least 1/3 mile in all directions."  (I can see it now - me running down the interstate in my martini glass pajama bottoms trying to get traffic to stay away.)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) even has a regulation that covers what one might think of as an innocuous fiery item, being near the load.

According to Part 397, Subpart A, Regulation 397.13:

"No person may smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe on or within 25 feet of a motor vehicle which contains Class 1 materials."

So when we pulled into a truck stop to refuel and I saw this guy in the fuel island, I flipped out.

He was sitting in his truck, one space over from us, smoking a cigarette. 


He wasn't even getting fuel.  

He was just sitting there with the door open, foot propped up, talking on the phone and flicking ashes on the ground.  I watched him the entire time - because, you  know, no one is supposed to be smoking within 25 feet of us - and I had a feeling he was going to flick that cigarette onto the ground.  He just looked like the type who would.

And I was right.

Sitting in the front seat of my truck, my eyes trained on this guy, I was waiting.  Then I saw him FLICK THE CIGARETTE ON THE GROUND.  A glowing, lit cigarette.

So I rolled down my window and yelled at him.  Just like anyone would do, right?

"Hey!" I shouted.  "HEY!!!!"  He looked over at me perplexed. 

I pointed to the ground and yelled, "Pick that up!!!" 

He looked back at me and said, "It's out."  

I yelled, "Get out and stomp it out!"  

"It's out." He said again. 

"GET OUT AND STOMP IT OUT!! Right now.  You're in a fuel island!  And I'm hauling flammable freight. Get out of that truck RIGHT THIS MINUTE and put that cigarette out!!"  I yelled at him. Really loud. Like an angry drill sergeant.  I was PISSED.
So he got out of his truck, picked up the cigarette, showed it to me and said, "It's out."

Yet I still saw smoke trailing from it.

"It's NOT out."  I said.  "I can still see smoke.  Put it out."  

He shook his head, and with the cigarette in hand, got in his truck and drove away.

I had the name of his company from the door of his truck, along with his DOT number, and looked it up on FMCSA's SAFER system. It's a one truck/driver operation.  He was probably the owner.  These are my colleagues, people. 

When we left and I told Ed what happened, all he said was, "Oh.  I wondered what all that yelling was."  He must have known I was doing fine, because he didn't intervene.  

I don't know what someone else might have done, but I'm not taking any chances with "mass explosion" freight that can blow me a mile from my truck because of some asshole in a truck stop.

Especially if I'm wearing martini glass pajama bottoms.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2012: Nothing Is More Memorable Than A Day At The Lake

2011: The Champion Of Our Cause, The Protector Of Our Dreams
2010: Shuttin’ Down The Operation
2009: Rolling Out The Holiday Films
2008: No Rig Too Big
2007: Go Dasher, Go Dancer, Go Prancer, Go Vixen
2006: Untitled
2005: Unawarrior


Gil said...

Pretty hard to set diesel and/or diesel fumes on fire with a cigarette. Try putting some diesel in a open container and dropping a cigarette and/or a match into it. Chances are it won't flame up. Don't try it with gasoline! Well, unless you are out on a sandy beach...

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: I have heard that. It's still a little unnerving. And just stupid. And you know, diesel-powered vehicles - although the majority - are not the only ones who come through these fuel islands. Sometimes there are gas-powered vehicles pulling trailers. And that dropping a match into an open container of diesel thing? I'm not trying that. LOL

Belledog said...

I'm glad you said something.

That O/O has to be more aware of his surroundings, and more safety conscious.

What would Landstar do if they caught you or Ed lighting up during a fueling stop?

Decorina said...

That guy is a complete and utter macaroon. Glad to hear that you are safe and keeping the rest of us out of the...well...line of fire.