Chemical in Downtown Connector crash can burn eyes, skin

An overturned tractor trailer hauling benzoyl chloride snarled traffic in downtown Atlanta for hours on Monday. John Spink/
An overturned tractor trailer hauling benzoyl chloride snarled traffic in downtown Atlanta for hours on Monday. John Spink/

The overturned tractor trailer that shut down the Downtown Connector for hours and made a mess of the Monday morning commute was hauling benzoyl chloride, a compound that can be used in dyes and resins that can be toxic if inhaled and cause burns to the skin and eyes.

And the driver of the rig was in violation of state law for not taking his load around the Perimeter, officials said.

Captain Mark Wesley, the head of the state Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance division, said the trucker was violation of state law when his vehicle overturned about 3 a.m. Monday.

“He was inside the Perimeter when he should have been on the Perimeter,” Wesley said. “He was cutting through.”

State law allows some business exceptions for heavy trucks inside the Perimeter.

According to state law, trucks are only allowed to use the Downtown Connector for pick up or delivery to or from a shipper based inside I-285; going to or from the carrier’s terminal inside the Perimeter; going to or from a repair facility; or if a driver is going to or from a residence inside the Perimeter.

An Atlanta police incident report states the driver of the truck attempted to avoid a vehicle that had stopped on the freeway.

The other motorist in the incident, a driver from Tennessee, was also ticketed for improper stopping in the roadway.

The truck was marked with the logo for the company Greatwide Logistics Services, a subsidiary of Cardinal Logistics Management Inc. Greatwide has an office in Tucker.

The Downtown Connector was closed in both directions after about 50 gallons of diesel fuel and up to 250 gallons of a toxic chemical spilled on the interstate.

The trailer of the truck was marked with the logo for MSC, one of the world’s largest shipping companies.

Messages left for both companies were not immediately returned.

The police incident report stated the truck was owned by Dickey Truck Leasing, which does business as Greatwide American Trans-Freight.

A message left for a company official was not immediately returned.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data showed Cardinal has a better than industry average safety and compliance rating. The company’s drivers logged more than 184 million miles in 2016, federal records show.

Cardinal, based in Concord, N.C., is authorized for a wide range of interstate hauling, including general freight, metals, wood products and building materials, garbage, refrigerated foods, beverages, paper products and chemicals.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, benzoyl chloride is "a colorless fuming liquid with a pungent odor." It can irritate a person's skin and eyes, and it is "corrosive to metals and tissue."

The compound is “used in medicine and in the manufacture of other chemicals,” according to NOAA’s CAMEO Chemicals database.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is still trying to determine the identity of the driver. The AJC will also seek records for the driver’s safety records and other information about why the semi was traveling through the city’s core.

The wreck snarled the morning commute causing headaches for motorists across the region still adjusting their routines to the loss of I-85 just north and east of the freeway's union with I-75 in Midtown.

The freeway was reopened before 8 a.m., but the incident once again demonstrated the fragility of the Atlanta region's transportation infrastructure in the wake of the I-85 incident.