Except for explosives and radioactive material, extremely dangerous chemicals may be trucked along any route in the Beehive State. But some of Utah's Western neighbors are much more restrictive.
Dr. Harry L. Gibbons, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department, thinks more precautions are needed."I think there have to be some restrictions," he said. "I think they (hazardous-material trucks) should be routed to avoid certain areas."
Trucks carrying hazardous material into California must be licensed by the state, and they are closely regulated in the routes they can take and will soon need escort vehicles. And Denver forces them to use only certain roads.
"If you're hauling flammable or combustible liquids in a tanker truck, each vehicle has to be inspected," said Al Palmer, a civilian supervisor in the California Highway Patrol's Motor Carrier Safety Unit.
Palmer, based in Los Angeles, told the Deseret News that if the inspection fee is paid in advance, the truck can enter the state and undergo an inspection when it reaches its destination. That way, it isn't held up at the border.
"Then we certify them, and it's good for a year."
"On occasion, they get away from us," he admitted. Sometimes one will arrive at its destination, pick up a load and head back out of the state before it can be inspected.
To haul explosives or rocket fuel, a vehicle must carry a hazardous-materials license. Those carrying explosives are inspected yearly.
"There are certain routes they have to take within the state of California, which are within our California Code of Regulations. Basically, they're on your major highway," Palmer said.
Rocket fuel shipments to Vandenberg Air Force Base sparked a controversy last year. Now the fuel can't be hauled through Los Angeles, unless it's destined for some lab in that city.
Arnold Peters, who works for the California State Assembly's Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, Sacramento, said several bills were passed recently to designate special routes for hazardous shipments.
AB2705, approved last year, will go fully into effect in a couple of years, he said. Under it, the transportation of certain chemicals "will be regulated as to route, as to type of vehicle."
Escort cars will be required for certain dangerous cargoes. Routes away from population centers must be used when possible.
"The whole notion is to reduce the risk of transport . . . to the extent that it's feasible," Peters said.
Captain Ken Davidson of the Denver Fire Department said that Colorado city also has certain designated routes for trucks carrying hazardous material.
If they must make local deliveries, he said, the trucks drive to the closest exit, "get off, go directly to the delivery point, drop off (the delivery), and get back onto the designated route again."
This rule is imposed for any shipment requiring a warning placard, including gasoline.
Why is this rule in place? "Mainly to keep them out of the more populated areas, and also so we know where most of the materials are being transported, so we can have some contingency plan in case something would happen."
Davidson said Denver's regulations dovetail with those of surrounding municipalities.
LeRoy Ownbey, who has served as a safety consultant for the Utah Motor Transport Association, is critical of the Denver restrictions.
"They tell me it's a can of worms over there now," he said. "You have to get special permits, you can only move at certain times."
He concedes downtown Salt Lake City faces the potential of a hazardous-materials accident. "There's always a potential, because the loads are moving and they have accidents every day on the freeway.
But there are so many precautions that the chances are not great, he said.
"You can't make life completely risk-free unless you sit home on your couch and never go anywhere," Ownbey said.
The ideal is to use the best, safest highways, but also avoid congested areas. "Sometimes that's a conflict, because it's a proven statistic that the freeways are safer than the two- or four-lane highway," he said.
"In the case of Salt Lake City, where the freeway goes right down the middle of the town, it's a kind of conflict."