Hazmat ban: Can Menino ban dangerous trucks?

A sign on Interstate 93 southbound tells trucks carrying hazardous materials to exit before enters the big dig tunnel system.

Truck drivers traveling through Boston hauling hazardous materials are facing some serious roadblocks as Mayor Thomas Menino pushes to ban them from using city streets as access points for deliveries.

The mayor wants to divert trucks that don’t have official drop-offs in Boston onto Route 128 to avoid a catastrophe like last week’s explosion and eight-alarm fire caused by a tipped fuel tanker on Route 1. The diversion would extend a typical nine-mile trip to 31 miles.

But state police say while they scour the roads to stop hazmat violations on highways, they lack the manpower to keep an eye on every delivery coming down state roads.

“The department as a whole desperately needs more road troopers for all aspects of field enforcement,” said state police spokesman David Procopio. 

Procopio said the first priority with any new troopers that join the force is to begin strengthening the numbers in the barracks.

He said it could be “down the road a bit” before units would spill over into specialty units like the state police commercial vehicle enforcement section, tasked to carry out citations for commercial truck violations.

For now, 33 officers spread out from the Cape to the Berkshires do their best to stop serious violations and take trucks out of service and off the highways before they reach cities like Boston.

Menino recently released a report, commissioned by an independent contractor, urging hazmat vehicles to go around Boston via the highway.

But due to roughly 500 fewer state troopers, lost through attrition in the last five years, enforcement is more difficult.

“The first priority is to boost regular road patrols. Obviously, more troopers in any unit translates into an ability to get more done,” said Procopio.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear.


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