Every time there is a truck accident involving hazardous material, it’s not just the lives of the truck driver and other motorists at stake. Some material carried by trucks could potentially seriously injure any residents of households or even school children if the accident happened close to a residential neighborhood.
The situation in Tennessee appears to be that state authorities do not seem to have any method of easily determining what sort of material that any one truck might be carrying. That includes state troopers. If emergency responders, including ambulances, police and the fire service are called to the scene of a crash, how can they know what to do and whether an evacuation of nearby resident should be carried out?
More than 15,000 trucks carrying hazardous substances are moving around on Tennessee roads and highways every single day. According to federal law, the most dangerous of substances are required to be carried by rail, not road and there are specific regulations in place that determine what is being carried and the amount. But these regulations do not apply to trucks.
That means that no-one but the trucking company knows exactly what is being carried in any one truck and how much of that material is being carried. Even the truck driver may not know, although the information should be recorded on the paperwork being carried by the driver.
Example of Lack of Information Regarding a Truck Accident
Fox 17 reported an incident in Rutherford County last December which illustrates the sort of problem that can occur.
A truck that rolled on the 14th December on the I-24 was carrying 28,000 pounds of chlorine pellets. Residents who were evacuated from nearby homes said that they could smell the pellets that had spilled even though they didn’t know what they were or how dangerous they were.
Because the truck driver was injured and removed from the scene, state troopers who arrived couldn’t get their hands on paperwork he was carrying. The interstate was shut down for a whole day while the nature and amount of substance was determined and the material removed. The same thing can happen when there is a fire as a result of the truck crash which destroys the cab.
Hazmat trucks may have a placard on the side of the truck which states the nature of the substance being carried, but not the amount. There is apparently no requirement for the placard to be present if the amount of substance is 999 pounds or less in quantity.
Closure of Tennessee Roads to Placardable Trucks
The Tennessee Department of Safety does put some restrictions on what are called ‘placardable’ amounts of hazardous materials being carried by trucks. It imposes closures on specific highways or parts of those highways from time to time. THP troopers also carry out random checks on trucks which are designed to ensure that the limited state regulations are enforced.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are around 200 truck accidents every year involving trucks carrying hazardous material.
Reasons for Hazmat Truck Accidents
Hazmat trucks can crash for the same sorts of reasons as any large truck. Most trucks accidents are caused by driver error. In a smaller number of cases, there are other reasons such as road conditions, road design or signage, extreme weather events or because of poor truck maintenance or the use of defective components or spare parts.
It is the job of a personal injury attorney to piece together the specific cause of a truck crash in the event that an injured victim decides to file a personal injury claim against the party at fault. This may be the driver, the truck company, or in some instance, a parts manufacturer, distributor or other party.
Contact a Nashville Personal Injury Attorney
Truck accidents involving hazardous material can happen at any time as the above account demonstrates. If you, or a family member have been injured in any sort of truck accident, whether it is a hazmat truck or not, you should not delay but contact one of our experienced truck accident attorneys at Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville Tennessee. Ring 615-313-3999.