Thursday, September 29, 2016

No vaping around big trucks – true or false?

Persistent road rumors have it that FMCSA has now made vaping illegal in and around commercial motor vehicles as accidents continue to cause personal injuries. Not true, but here’s what the agency did last month that has spawned the talk.

On Aug. 3, Land Line reported on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s announcement that it is issuing this safety advisory to provide notice and information to owners and operators of commercial motor vehicles concerning incidents that have occurred relating to the possession and use of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices. Specifically, the advisory mentioned e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, e-hookahs, personal vaporizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems. It was clear in explaining transportation safety risks associated with the use of these devices.

According to an October 2014 report from the U.S. Fire Administration, battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices were first patented in 2003 and have been available for sale in the United States since 2007. These devices have been rapidly growing in popularity as the number and selection of products expand. According to the report, the devices contain a liquid, an atomizer or heating element, and a battery. When the device is operated, the heating element vaporizes the liquid, which is inhaled by the user.

The use of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices has resulted in incidents that include explosions, serious personal injuries, and fires. The explosions regularly involved the ejection of a burning battery case or other components from the device, which subsequently ignited nearby flammable or combustible materials.

According to the FMCSA, news sources place the number of explosions at over 1,502.

As a result of incidents related to checked baggage, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 1) citing fires in cargo holds of passenger aircraft due to the heating element of these devices being accidentally activated or left on. These incidents and risks prompted the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to publish a final rule on May 19, 2016 (Docket HM-262; 81 FR 31529) prohibiting passengers and crewmembers from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in checked baggage and from charging the devices and their batteries on board an aircraft.

For truckers, it’s a heads up; it’s not a ban or a new rule but a warning. The Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not specifically address the potential safety risks posed by battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices. However, the agency advises that “ motor carriers and drivers should be cognizant of the risks associated with these devices and exercise good judgment and appropriate discretion in their possession, storage, charging or use on, around or while operating a CMV.”

The agency also reminds drivers to adhere to the smoking prohibitions on, near or when loading and unloading a motor vehicle transporting hazardous materials in accordance with 49 CFR 177.834(c) and 397.13.