Commercial Motor Vehicles and the Possession of Electronic Smoking Devices

200472283-001The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a safety advisory August 3, 2016 on the use of portable electronic smoking devices (e-cigs) in or around commercial vehicles. The advisory was issued to provide notice to owners and operators of trucks and other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) about the safety hazards such devices pose to individuals in or near CMVs.

The safety advisory applies to battery-powered electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-hookahs, personal vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS.)

Serious harmful incidents including explosions, serious personal injuries and fires have resulted from the use of battery-powered electronic smoking devices. The explosions usually are a result of a burning battery case or other component being ejected from the device and causing the ignition of nearby flammable or combustible materials. There have been 25 incidents between 2009 and August 2014 according to the U.S. Fire Administration but news sources have estimated there have been 150 incidences or more in the U.S. (The Daily Hornet, May 2016.) These hazardous incidences have occurred while the device was being charged as well as when the person was using or carrying the item.

In response to reported incidences related to checked baggage, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a safety alert for aviation operators. The alert cites incidences of fires in cargo holds of passenger aircraft due to the heating element of the electronic device accidentally being left on or somehow activated. These incidences were very concerning, leading officials to prohibit passengers and crew members from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in checked baggage and from charging the devices and their batteries on board an aircraft.

These incidents highlight the potential safety risks of these devices on or around motor vehicles. At this time the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not specifically ban the use of battery-operated portable electronic smoking devices, but the FMCSA has issued a warning of the potential hazards of charging and/or operating such devices in or near a CMV. It is incumbent upon carriers and drivers to use good judgment and appropriate discretion in how they carry, store, charge or use these devices on or near their commercial motor vehicles. For more information, contact the FMCSA here.