Who’s responsible for deadly hazmat crash on I-10 in Tucson?

A truck carrying liquid nitric acid crashed in Tucson on Tuesday, causing a complete shutdown of Interstate 10 and evacuation and shelter-in-place orders.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:59 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2023 at 7:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - A truck carrying liquid nitric acid crashed in Tucson on Tuesday, causing a complete shutdown of Interstate 10 and evacuation and shelter-in-place orders.

Emblazoned on the side of that shipping container holding the nitric acid is the name Landstar.

The company is based out of Jacksonville, Florida.

It’s a freight systems provider -- meaning it doesn’t actually own a single truck.

Rather, they have thousands of independent owner-operators.

In this hazmat crash, the driver is not employed by Landstar, but rather by Richard Douglas Transportation.

One law firm that’s handled cases against Landstar is the Davis Law Group in Seattle.

“When you get into determining who owns what or who the players are, it can be very complicated and layered,” said Chris Davis, the founder of the law group.

For example, a commercial carrier that rents out trucks from one entity could rent out trailers for another entity and also rent out or use a contractor as a driver.

“So it doesn’t really have control over the actual shipment itself,” Davis said. “Then you’ve got a shipper involved who the carrier has no control over. So you have four, or five, or even six different entities involved in one particular shipment.”

Davis said though Landstar didn’t own the truck, it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t culpable for accidents that happen.

Landstar settled a wrongful death case out of Texas in 2021 involving a pilot car company involved in a crash.

13 News; sister station in Tyler, Texas, reported the family of the woman killed in a 2016 collision with a vehicle filed claims against Landstar Ranger because the load was being carried under their authority.

“You’ve got an accident like the one that happened in your state, there could be explanations from each party involved as far as what they did and didn’t do that might have contributed to the cause of this incident,” Davis said.

So what is Landstar’s safety record?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration evaluates carrier safety.

Landstar received a “satisfactory” rating.

Landstar’s out-of-service rates are below the national average, including for hazmat incidents. Out-of-service means the operation can’t continue until the driver can lawfully do so.

However, the report shows information about Hazardous Materials Compliance is not available to the public.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Arizona DPS Capt. Benjamin Buller reported, “from our investigation, the packaging and transport of this hazardous material were within the federal motor carrier guidelines.”

Tim Loranger is an attorney from California and has worked on numerous commercial truck cases.

He said it can be difficult to avoid a chemical spill after a crash, but these cases need to be examined.

“It seems very recently we’re seeing quite a few incidents, train derailments, and trucking accidents,” Loranger said. “I think that means that we need to look very closely at how we move these materials through populated areas. And maybe there are changes that need to be made in that process.”

13 News Investigates reached out to Landstar several times but they did not respond to our questions.

We’ll continue to dig into this hazmat crash to get more answers for you.