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Tennessee Commercial Truck Crashes and Spills Toxic Chemicals

Many commercial trucks and 18-wheelers carry waste and other hazardous materials. Toxic chemicals must be properly secured and transported so that they do not spill after an accident or rollover crash. Just before 3:00 a.m. on December 14, 2016, a commercial semi-truck that was carrying hazardous materials crashed into another truck on Interstate 24 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. This impact caused the truck to overturn followed by a toxic chemical spill onto the highway. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the truck was carrying chemical cleaners such as chlorine tablets, oxidizers, and other corrosives. After the crash, the truck and the released chemicals caught on fire.

This accident occurred near Buchanan Estates, a Rutherford County neighborhood with around 150 homes. Local law enforcement officers initially instructed all residents within a 1 mile radius of the wreck to stay indoors, as the flames from the fire were potentially toxic. Officials also expressed concerned about the wind pushing the fumes farther from the site and affecting more even people. As law enforcement began to clean up the spill by dumping water on the chemicals, all residents and business owners were told to evacuate the area until it was safe to return.

Exposure to chemicals or toxic waste can be extremely dangerous. Hazardous materials that commercial trucks transport can include radioactive materials, explosives, toxic waste, certain cleaning products, and methane. People can be exposed to these materials in many ways, including through the air or water supply. Exposure can cause significant and permanent injuries that may initially go undetected. Side effects may include cancer, respiratory disease, and developmental problems in children. If a pregnant woman is exposed to toxic or hazardous waste, the child may be born with birth defects.

Lawmakers and trucking regulators recognize the significant risks of chemical exposure, which is why specific Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) directly address the transport of hazardous materials. A hazardou material is defined as “a substance or material which has been determined by the Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.” Under the federal rules, carriers transporting hazardous materials must apply for a special permit through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) before being able to transport these materials. In order to receive the permit, the trucking company must show that they meet basic safety standards, employee training requirements, and sufficient insurance limits. Companies who ship these materials also must comply with detailed rules regarding classifying, labeling, and packaging the materials. Companies who violate these rules can face civil and criminal fines for their conduct. For example, a violation can bring about a civil fine of up to $75,000, but if the violation resulted in death, serious illness, or severe injury to a person, it can increase to $175,000.

Victims of exposure to hazardous materials caused by a truck company’s negligence may be faced with large medical costs and bills for future medical treatment. Significant injuries can also permanently alter an individual’s lifestyle. An experienced attorney with knowledge of trucking regulations can conduct the necessary investigation and discovery to prove negligence of the truck driver or company for failure to properly transport or secure hazardous materials. If you or a loved one has been injured in a tanker truck accident caused by a big rig or 18-wheeler, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today at 1-800-LAW-4004.