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North Texas has been preparing for truck crashes involving hazardous material for decades

North Texas has been preparing for decades for truck crashes involving hazardous material
North Texas has been preparing for decades for truck crashes involving hazardous material 03:47

PLANO ( — Every day, thousands of 18-wheelers loaded with hazardous material drive through Dallas-Fort Worth—most without incident.

But when one is involved in crash, the impact is often great.

Around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, a tanker truck carrying unleaded fuel lost control, flipped, and caught on fire on U.S. Highway 75 in Plano. Emergency responders elected to let the fuel fire burn rather than to risk contaminating the local sewer system by dousing it with water.

As a result, all northbound lanes of the busy highway were closed for more than seven hours.

North Texas officials have been concerned about crashes involving trucks carrying hazardous material for decades.

In the 1980s, local city leaders who were concerned about a potential chemical spill in densely populated areas came up with designated hazmat routes.

At the time, these designated routes put trucks carrying hazardous material on the outer loops of Dallas and Fort Worth, such as I-635 around Dallas, I-820 around Fort Worth, as well as U.S. 75—north of I-635, the location of Wednesday's crash.

Over the next four decades, the population of North Texas exploded from three million to eight million residents, yet the designated hazmat routes have stayed the same.

Dan Kessler, the assistant director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said that despite the population growth, the current designated routes remain the best options.

"I think the thing to remember—and this is the part that is hard to understand—is we don't have a lot of other options. We don't have a continuous further outer-highway loop," Kessler told the CBS News Texas I-Team in a May 2023 interview.

Over the past 40 years, many North Texas cities along the designated hazmat routes have invested heavily in hazmat response teams.

Roughly six miles from Wednesday's crash is Plano Fire Station 5, home of one of the region's largest hazmat teams. It is strategically located near multiple hazmat routes.

In 2019, the City of Plano also put into service a new state-of-the-art hazmat apparatus, known as "the Bus."

In the past decade, according to federal transportation data, there's been 266 crashes involving trucks loaded with hazardous material that resulted in monetary damages in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. 

Crashes with reported monetary damages indicate there was an impact on the environment and community. These crashes involving trucks carrying hazardous material totaled $5.8 million in damages.

However, Kessler said the frequency of accidents involving these trucks is remarkably small and credits the steps North Texas leaders have made over the past four decades as a key part of the reason.

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