Federal transportation authorities have issued a safety advisory to the owners and operators of commercial motor vehicles warning them about a rising number of accidents linked to the use of e-cigarettes and similar devices.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued the advisory on August 3, explaining that the use of battery-powered e-cigarettes has resulted in explosions, serious personal injuries, fires, and other failures.
“The explosions regularly involved the ejection of a burning battery case or other components from the device which subsequently ignited nearby flammable or combustible materials,” the FMCSA explained.
The U.S. Fire Administration reported it calculated that 25 incidents involving e-cigarette explosions and fires occurred between 2009 and August 2014. The actual number of incidents, however, is likely drastically higher. Investigative news sources have placed the number of e-cigarette related explosions at more than 1,500.
The devices can explode while they are being charged, stowed in one’s pocket or purse, or in one’s mouth or hands. Many e-cigarette users have suffered from second- and third-degree burn injuries requiring skin grafts and facial reconstruction.
The FMCSA noted that e-cigarette related incidents have prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to publish a final rule prohibiting passengers and crew members from carrying e-cigarettes in checked baggage and from charging the devices and their batteries onboard an aircraft, noting that an explosion or fire within the cargo hold or cabin of an airplane could be catastrophic.
“While no similar action has been taken to address the risks associated with checked items in the baggage compartment of motorcoaches or the charging of these devices by motorcoach passengers, these incidents highlight the potential safety risks to persons and property from the possession, storage, charging and use of these devices in the highway transportation environment,” the FMCSA stated.
Although federal regulators have not implemented any new rules affecting the use of e-cigarettes on commercial trucks and buses, they believe motor carrier companies and drivers “should be cognizant of the risks associated with these devices.”
The FMCSA advises commercial carriers and drivers to “exercise good judgment and appropriate discretion in their possession, storage, charging or use on, around or while operating a CMV, and adhere to the smoking prohibitions on, near or when loading and unloading a motor vehicle transporting hazardous materials.”