Tanker Company Has Accident History
Friday, January 16, 2004
WBAL Radio and The Associated Press
"The Texas company that owns the tanker that exploded on Interstate 95 this week received a "deficient" accident rating from a federal safety agency because its trucks have been involved in a high number of crashes in the past few years, according to published reports.
Petro-Chemical Transport's 300 trucks were involved in 30 accidents in the last year, The (Baltimore) Sun reported.
A Petro-Chemical tractor-trailer was involved in a fatal crash on a Utah highway in 2002, according to agency records that are available online, The Washington Post reported.
The number of accidents led to a rating of 97 on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 100-point scale, on which 100 is the worst score and zero the best. However, because the company scored well in other safety categories, including driver training, its overall rating was satisfactory.
"You're seeing accidents, but the accidents aren't all the result of the driver or the carrier," Andy Beck, a spokesman for the federal agency, told The Sun. Beck said the agency reviewed Petro-Chemical's operations a year ago and did not find significant violations.
Earlier Thursday, police said a Carroll County man was the driver of a tanker truck that plunged from an overpass onto Interstate 95, sparking an explosion that killed him, a Glen Burnie man in a pickup truck and two other unidentified drivers.
Jackie M. Frost, 64, of Finksburg worked for Petro-Chemical, which is based in Addison, Texas.
Maurice Durschlag, 62, of Glen Burnie was the driver of the pickup truck involved in the accident. His daughter said he is survived by his wife, Sandy, three children and six grandchildren, though she declined to comment further.
Frost's wife told WBAL-TV she last heard from her husband two hours before the accident.
John Young, 41, remembers Frost as a good neighbor who was "very family oriented."
"We talked about our kids," he said.
On Thursday, a reporter knocked on his door and told him about Frost dying in the interstate accident.
"You think about it a lot when you have a wife and mother across the street without a husband to take care of her," Young said. "It makes you appreciate your health and everything else."
Frost is survived by nine children, ages 3 to 39, according to his wife. The family did not immediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press.
Frost's cargo of gasoline may have shifted, making the vehicle uncontrollable, police have said. Two witnesses saw the tanker moving erratically on Interstate 895 before Tuesday's crash.
Investigators said they have not ruled out the possibility that Frost may have suffered a medical emergency. However, his family told authorities he had no medical condition that might have impaired his ability to drive.
The state medical examiner's office performed autopsies Wednesday. No signs of "natural disease," such as stroke, asthma attack or cardiac arrest, were found in any of the victims.
Blood samples also were taken to test for alcohol or drugs, but results will not be known for three to five days.
Drivers of the car and tractor trailer have not yet been determined.
In continuing the collision's investigation Thursday, authorities re-examined the interstate and vehicles, and met with Petro-Chemical Transport officials, according to Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
It is standard procedure for police to meet with officials from the company involved in an accident, he said.
Frost was carrying gasoline to a gas station from an oil company's storage terminals at the time of the collision, said John Conley, vice president of National Tank Truck Carriers. The Alexandria, Va.-based trade group - made up of about 180 trucking companies - was contacted by Petro-Chemical Transport.
"They don't own the product or sell the product," Conley said of the company. "They just move it from point A to point B."
Tanker trucks are filled with about 9,000-gallons of gasoline at a time. Drivers, like Frost, fill the four compartments on their truck with the different grades of gasoline at pipelines owned by oil companies, then deliver it to gas stations.
Drivers are required to have commercial drivers licenses as well as pass cargo tank and hazardous material tests.
Companies are "pretty selective in hiring," Conley said. "Most of the companies require the driver to be older, with more experience."
Typically, tanker truck drivers travel within 100 miles of their home and drive the same type of truck for safety reasons, according to Conley.
"A gasoline trailer could make five to six trips a day," he said. "They know what's back there. They're heavily regulated, and they should be."