Tractor-Trailer Accident: Chemical Spill in Atlanta

Truck Accident Lawyer

As if Atlanta’s highways didn’t have enough problems, a tractor-trailer hauling hazardous materials rear-ended another vehicle then overturned on the downtown connector, spilling benzoyl chloride and diesel fuel all over the roadway. We have rules to prevent this. Unfortunately, the tractor-trailer driver (or his dispatcher) failed to follow them.

Safe Following Distance

First, all tractor-trailer drivers must have a commercial driver’s licenses. To earn this CDL, a driver must successfully complete specific training about how to drive such a large vehicle. One of the main points that the commercial driver’s license manual stresses is not following too closely. As the CDL manual says, “All drivers look ahead; but many don’t look far enough ahead.” Truck drivers should look about twelve to fifteen seconds down the road. On a highway like the downtown connector at 2:00am, that’s about a quarter mile. Here, the truck struck another vehicle in the rear. This wreck happened because the truck driver failed to look far enough ahead. That’s the most obvious rule he broke.

Hauling Hazardous Materials

Second, tractor-trailers hauling hazardous materials, like benoyl chloride and diesel fuel, must follow special rules. One of the big ones is avoiding a rollover that could cause the hazardous materials to spill. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a rollover safety video that tells drivers carrying hazardous loads how to avoid a rollover. Drivers should avoid fast turns and abrupt braking. Of course, rule number 1—not following too closely—helps with that.

Keep Off the Connector

Third, the truck never should have been on the downtown connector in the first place. Georgia’s DOT regulations, issued under the authority of O.C.G.A. 40-6-51, establish that tractor-trailers passing through Atlanta should take I-285, not the connector unless they have specific business inside the perimeter. The reason for that is clear—it’s safer to keep tractor-trailers away from the swirling mix of four-wheel automobiles on the connector, as long as it’s practical for them to be someplace else. This tractor-trailer should have been on I-285, not the connector. At this time of night—about 2:00 am—I-285 should not have even been crowded. Why the trucker or his dispatcher ignored the rule, and took the load of hazardous material through the heart of downtown, remains a mystery.