Federal and state records have revealed that Ohio leads the nation in trucking accidents involving hazardous materials, and enforcement of state laws to prevent such spills is on the decline, according to Associated Press reports.
An analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation records showed that Ohio had 1,300 accidents last year involving trucks hauling materials such as gasoline and chemicals, about triple the number the state reported in 1990. Texas was found to have had 1,132 incidents in 1999, putting it in second place, while Illinois ranked third with 1,095.
Federal officials maintain that few deaths are attributed to hazardous materials on the highways, but say that a growing number of incidents are causing major highway delays. At least 23 times between July 1998 and June 2000, a major road has been shut down somewhere in Ohio because of a hazardous materials accident or a violation is discovered, reported AP.
To make matters worse, critics say, laws that might prevent spills are not being enforced as well as they could be.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a division that inspects trucks carrying hazardous materials at weigh stations, along roads and at trucking terminals, said the state conducted 8,911 hazardous materials inspections in 1990, but by 1999, the number had dropped 28% to 6,474. The state also issued 47% fewer citations to trucking companies, drivers and shippers over that time frame and ordered fewer trucks out of service for safety violations: 1,337 in 1999, compared with 2,302 in 1990, according to the AP.
Thomas Yager, deputy director of the PUC's transportation department, said the decline occurred in part because the state began examining trucking companies' overall operations instead of just pulling over trucks on the road.