Tractor-trailer driver charged after Sunday fuel spill accident - - Columbia, South Carolina

Tractor-trailer driver charged after Sunday fuel spill accident on I-26

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The tractor-trailer driver involved in an accident Sunday on Interstate 26 has been charged with driving too fast for conditions and was fatigued at the time of the accident, according to a Highway Patrol report.

Paul Thomas Hans, 45, of Easley, ran off the road and into a ditch near Exit 103 at about 4 a.m. Sunday, spilling roughly 150 gallons of fuel from the tractor-trailer.

The tractor-trailer is owned by Petroleum Transport Company in Pilot Mountain, N.C., and is authorized to carry liquids and gases on interstates, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Shannon Branch, director of compliance and operations with Petroleum Transport Company, told WIS that this tractor-trailer has not been involved in any prior accidents nor had Hans previously been convicted of a traffic violation of any kind while with the company nor in South Carolina. Branch would not answer any questions regarding Hans' shift nor where he was headed at the time of the accident.

"Our investigation of the incident is still ongoing, and we don't have any additional information to offer at this time," Branch told WIS in an email.

The accident closed the westbound lanes of I-26 at Exit 103 for almost 10 hours while emergency personnel cleared the scene. Hans was taken to an area hospital, but his condition is unknown at this time.

The company that owns the tractor-trailer has been involved in several accidents and has received numerous violations within the last few years.

From January 2013 to December 2014, the company's fleet has had 464 inspections with more than 200 violations.

  • 19 crashes were reported from January 2013 to December 2014 – two fatal accidents and six had injuries. There was no regard to fault given in the details of the FMCSA report.
  • 24 unsafe driving violations – eight violations for failing to use a seat belt while operating a vehicle; six violations for speeding 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit; three violations for speeding 11-14 miles per hour over the speed limit; two lane restriction violations; two violations for using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a vehicle; two failure to stop at a railroad crossing violations; and one violation for speeding 15 or more miles per hour over the speed limit.
  • Four driver fitness violations – driving while a commercial driver's license is suspended for a safety-related or unknown reason; driving while disqualified; driver not in possession of a medical certificate; and operating a property-carrying vehicle without possessing a valid medical certificate.
  • 20 hazardous materials compliance violations – four violations for shipping paper accessibility; three placard damaged violations; two fail to mark manual remote shutoff device; two emergency response information missing; two violations for release of hazardous materials from package; one violation for failure to comply with regulations; one violation improper shipping name; one violation basic description not in proper sequence; a violation for not noting an empty package; and violations for not closing packages or because of a leak, placard not being visible and for DOT supports and anchoring.
  • 198 vehicle maintenance violations – 31 violations for inoperative required lamps; 19 for clamp brakes out of adjustment; 14 violations for air brakes; 12 violations for brake connections with leaks and constrictions; and 10 brake violations. Other violations include failing to secure vehicle equipment, damaged windshield, and oil leaks.
Currently, Petroleum Transport has a satisfactory rating and says it follows all Department of Transportation regulations regarding medical, drug and alcohol testing for its drivers. Branch also said the company's fleet is inspected following DOT guidelines, which includes daily driver inspections.

WIS will update this story as more information becomes available.

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