USDOT OIG “Reviewing” Minneapolis Bridge Incident for Possible Hazmat Violations
Washington D.C. – The United States Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (USDOT OIG) is “reviewing” the Minneapolis bridge incident for possible violations of federal law pertaining to tampering with hazardous materials (hazmat) loads.
On Thursday, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) filed a complaint with the USDOT OIG regarding the bizarre incident that occurred last month along Interstate 35.
Bogdan Vechirko, a 35-year-old owner operator, unintentionally drove his semi-tanker into a crowd of protesters, but remarkably did not hurt anyone.
Outrage has permeated throughout the trucking community that the protesters, who did not have a permit to access the roadway, have not been charged for violating the Hobbs Act: 18 U.S. Code § 1951.
The Hobbs Act states, in part, “whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce” is guilty of a crime punishable by a fine and/or up to 20 years in prison.
However, the SBTC contends the protesters could have also violated 49 U.S. Code § 5104(b), which pertains to tampering with the transporting of hazmat loads.
The law states:
No person may alter, remove, destroy, or otherwise tamper unlawfully with—
(1) a marking, label, placard, or description on a document required under this chapter or a regulation prescribed under this chapter; or
(2) a package, component of a package, or packaging, container, motor vehicle, rail freight car, aircraft, or vessel used to transport hazardous material.
Those found to be in violation face a fine and/or imprisonment up to 5 years, or 10 years “if the violation involves the release of a hazardous material that results in death or bodily injury to any person.”
In its complaint, the SBTC wrote, “As you know, in addition to the Hobbs Act, which prohibits interference with interstate commerce through threats or violence, Federal law makes tampering with a HAZMAT shipment unlawful.”
Further, “The SBTC hereby requests a Federal investigation by USDOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and/or the office of the DOT Inspector General into this matter.”
In a response email obtained by Transportation Nation Network (TNN), Scott Harding, Complaint Center Operations Chief, said: “We have coordinated with our Criminal Regional Office and have sent your concerns to their office for review.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Minnesota continue to investigate the incident as well.
Despite releasing Vechirko last week without filing formal charges, they have indicated possible charges could be forthcoming.
Additionally, officials also indicated no one involved in the protest will face any charges.
Specifically, authorities said Vechirko had declined to press charges against those who beat him and stole his personal belongings including his wallet and cell phone.
TransportationNation.com will continue to monitor new developments.