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Table 5-4: Hazardous Materials Transportation Incidents

Because most hazardous materials are transported by road, most incidents related to hazardous materials transportation are on the highways. In 2003, 90 percent of all incidents were highway-related. Moreover, 85 percent of injuries and all fatalities in hazardous materials transportation, a total of five, occurred in highway transportation.

A very small share of hazardous material transportation incidents are the result of vehicular accident or derailment (known as “accident-related”). In 2003, only 2 percent of incidents were accident-related. Most incidents occur because of human error or package failure, particularly during loading and unloading. While only 2 percent of incidents were accident-related in 2003, they accounted for nearly three quarters of all property damage.

Table in Excel format

empty Cell 1980 1990 2000 2003
Air - Accident-related0010
Highway - Accident-related347249327276


Rail - Accident-related134486242
Water1 - Accident-related2000
Other2 - Accident-related3000

1Water category only includes packaged (nonbulk) marine. Non-packaged (bulk) marine hazardous materials incidents are reported to the U.S. Coast Guard and are not included.
2Other category includes freight forwarders and modes not otherwise specified.

Notes: Hazardous materials transportation incidents required to be reported are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 49 CFR 171.15, 171.16 (Form F 5800.1). Hazardous materials deaths and injuries are caused by the hazardous material in commerce. Accident related means vehicular accident or derailment. Each modal total also includes incidents caused by human error, package failure, and causes not elsewhere classified.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration, Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, Hazardous Materials Information System Database, available at as of July 16, 2004.

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