Yet another fatality involving Takata air bags has happened, but it wasn’t the kind of accident you might be imagining. In August, 2016, near Quemado, Texas, a truck carrying Takata air bag inflators and propellant with ammonium nitrate crashed in a one-vehicle accident, then caught fire and blew up. The explosion demolished a house and killed the woman inside it as well as injuring four others in the area. The blast was so powerful that 10 other homes were damaged, and debris from the accident was found almost a mile away. The driver and his passenger managed to get out of the truck before it blew up. It has been determined that the truck’s driver, on his way to a Takata plant in Eagle Pass, Texas, was going over the speed limit while approaching a curve and failed to stay on the road.
The crash was a terrible tragedy. It’s also strange that the cargo—Takata air bag inflators and propellant, implicated in deaths of at least 14 others—was what caused the truck to explode. Normally a truck crash such as this one doesn’t make national news. We might close the book on the story here, except for two factors making it more than just an unfortunate occurrence.
One is that the trucking company, Industrial Transit Inc. of LaGrange, Georgia, was ordered to halt all operations immediately because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers the company “an imminent hazard to public safety.” The reason? FMCSA discovered a large number of serious safety violations. Reportedly, the company failed to perform the drug and alcohol tests required of it and to obey their license’s requirements for hauling hazardous materials.
The agency also found major safety defects in the company’s trucks, such as oil leaks, badly-working air brake components, poorly-adjusted and contaminated brakes, and loose steering components. On every occasion during the past 10 times the company’s trucks have been pulled over for random inspection, the trucks were either ordered off the road or cited for violations.
The trucking company was a subcontractor hauling the Takata air bag components, not part of Takata.
Second is the general issue of carrying hazardous materials, also known as hazmat. Each day, more than 800,000 hazmat shipments in trucks travel our roads. Annually, roughly 4.2 percent of trucks transport hazmat cargo, and 200 fatal crashes and 5,000 nonfatal crashes involve hazmat trucks. Although these numbers are a small percentage of total truck crashes (5,000 fatal and 400,000 nonfatal crashes), hazmat crashes carry a much greater chance that human life will be lost.
Risks in hazmat cargo crashes include a bigger chance of fire—14 percent for hazmat as opposed to 4 percent for non-hazmat truck crashes—and the danger of accidentally releasing the hazardous material, which can potentially injure persons some distance away, even miles away. Transporting hazmat cargo is done under strict federal regulations, including a requirement for proper signage indicating that the truck is hauling hazardous material, along with the appropriate codes that indicate what kind of hazard the cargo poses.
It is not known whether the subcontractor’s truck in the Takata air bag crash was sporting the proper signage or was obeying other regulations related to transporting hazmat cargo. But it is clear that loads such as the Takata air bag inflators and propellant need closer scrutiny, as the dangers may not be fully recognized nor fully covered by current regulations.
How Can “The Injury Lawyer” Help You?
Truck accidents are likely to be serious due to the size of the vehicles involved. They are also legally more complex and may involve multiple parties, including the driver’s company, truck owner, truck manufacturer and others. Steve Heisler has been helping injured people in Maryland for more than two decades with all types of vehicular accidents. Steve’s thorough investigation will uncover all potential defendants in your case, demanding just compensation for your medical expenses, rehabilitation, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one because of a big rig driver’s negligence, Steve can help your family recover through a wrongful death lawsuit.
You’d better believe the trucking company and its insurer will have a team of lawyers to protect their interests. Contact Steve to protect yours. Call (410) 625-4878, or use our online contact form, to arrange a no-obligation, no-fee initial consultation.