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Although transportation accidents involving hazardous materials ("hazmat") represent only a small proportion of overall traffic accidents, the potential consequences of a hazardous material release can be severe.
Federal and state governments share responsibility for hazmat transportation safety. In recent years, state and federal policymakers have reviewed the effectiveness of existing regulations, particularly due to security concerns about hazardous material transportation.
The U.S. DOT has the lead role under the Transportation of Hazardous Material law (49 U.S.C. §§ 5101-5128). This law and corresponding regulations set uniform national safety standards that apply to shipments of hazardous materials by highway, rail, air and water.
States also have a significant role in regulating hazmat transportation. The goal of state legislation is to prevent accidents, minimize adverse consequences, and ensure adequate emergency response. State laws address registration and permit programs, routing requirements, notification, financial liability, emergency response planning and training, inspection, enforcement and shipment restrictions.
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Updated October 2011