United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is a federal cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation and is governed by the United States Secretary of Transportation. It was established by the United States Congress in 1966 and began operations on April 1, 1967.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has as its mission statement to:
“Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient
transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the
American people, today and into the future.”
This mission statement declares that the safety and quality of life of all who travel on America’s roads, rural or urban, are entitled to a system that protects them from hazards related to what is being transported on those roadways. It also declares that the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses that move their goods on American roadways are of vital importance the country.
With the goal of keeping the U.S. transportation system safe, efficient, and secure for the American public, the Department of Transportation has the responsibility to issue, update, maintain, and enforce the rules and regulations for transportation safety. The United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates what items and products can be transported on American roadways, but also how they are transported, specifically related to the safety of everyone on the road.
Included under FMCSA’s General Requirements, Packaging, and Exceptions rules and regulations is the requirement that any vehicle that transports hazardous materials requiring DOT labeling must have an approved and operational fire extinguisher. This is an important rule that is designed to protect the driver should a fire occur. Part 393.95: Emergency Equipment on all Power Units requires every truck (but not a tow truck), truck tractor, and bus be equipped with a fire extinguisher.
- The Fire Extinguisher must have an Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) rating of 10 B:C or more.
- If the power unit is not used to transport hazardous materials it must be equipped with a single fire extinguisher with a UL rating of 5 B:C or more; or two fire extinguishers with a UL rating of 4 B:C or more.
- Each fire extinguisher must be labeled or marked by the manufacturer with its UL rating.
- The fire extinguisher must be designed, constructed, and maintained to permit visual determination of whether it is fully charged.
- The fire extinguisher(s) must be filled and located so that it is readily accessible for use. It must also be securely mounted to prevent sliding, rolling, or vertical movement relative to the motor vehicle.
- The fire extinguisher must use an extinguishing agent that does not need protection from freezing, and must comply with the toxicity provisions of the Environmental Protections Agency’s New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) regulations under 40 CFR Part 82, Subpart G.
In addition, motor vehicle drivers must also know how a fire extinguisher works, what the labeled UL ratings mean, and know how to properly use the fire extinguisher to protect themselves.
Part 173.309 states that the fire extinguisher must:
- Include only extinguishing agents that are nonflammable, nonpoisonous, and noncorrosive.
- Be charged with a nonflammable, nonpoisonous, dry gas that has a dew-point at or below minus 46.7 °C at 101 kPa and is free of corroding components.
- Contain more than 30% carbon dioxide by volume or any other corrosive extinguishing agent.
- Be protected externally by suitable corrosion-resisting coating.
- Be tested at least once a year. Documentation for this requirement requires that the actual date of inspection be clearly marked on the Meets DOT Requirements label.
To help with compliance, there are penalties in place for violations to the rules and regulations as previously listed. DOT penalties can include:
- Place a hold on the carrier’s shipment. This holding of the carrier’s product may continue until all regulation requirements are met.
- Financial penalties that can run into the thousands of dollars.
- Further investigation to uncover other potential violations, and the potential hindrance of business operations.
- Other real costs for noncompliance such as time and labor losses, and even criminal charges.