SILVERTON, Colo. (CBS4) — A truck driver whose semi crashed outside Silverton on Wednesday has been cited by the state for hauling hazardous materials on a non-permitted route.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jeff Chmielewski told the Cortez Journal on Friday that the driver, 45-year-old Mac Rogers of Pineville, Louisiana, was trying to avoid bad weather on Interstate 70 and chose to take his rig over two-lane Highway 550 instead.

Rogers, working for Mississippi-based Miller Transporters, Inc., was driving a load of methyl methacrylate monomer to Grand Junction. Methyl methacrylate monomer is a highly flammable liquid used in the production of plastics.

Rogers’s tanker skidded off a highway curve at 7:30pm Wednesday, crossing the opposing lanes of traffic and rolling on a small embankment.

(credit – Colorado Department of Transportation)

The tanker began leaking immediately and both directions of the highway were closed. The highway remained closed for more than a day and a half while authorities awaited the arrival of an “off-load” truck in which to transfer the wrecked tanker’s contents, and for freezing temperatures to abate at daybreak Friday.

Rogers was not seriously injured, Chmielewski said. But he was cited with unauthorized deviation from a designated route while transporting hazardous materials, failure to comply with Department of Public Safety rules and regulations, and careless driving. All three charges are midemeanors.

CSP Trooper Ivan Alvarado told CBS4 Saturday that hazardous materials haulers are allowed to deviate from planned treks along Colorado’s system of permitted roadways, but only if the load meets certain requirements. If it the load being hauled does not allow any such flexibility, the wisest choice for a driver facing inclement weather is to park the vehicle and wait for the weather to improve, he said.

Drivers and trucking companies are penalized heavily, he added, when they are caught disobeying state and federal regulations designed to keep the big rigs on the right roads.

CSP’s Chmielewski told the Journal is was not known how much of the hazardous material had spilled, but future mitigation work at the crash site is still possible.

Rogers’s employer will likely be responsible for clean-up costs. The trucking company did not return calls Friday seeking comment.

Highway 550 climbs three mountain passes (Coal Bank, Molass, and Red Mountain) above 10,000 feet in elevation over its course through southwestern Colorado.

Asked if Rogers was aware of the route’s terrain before he chose to drive it, Chmielewski said, “My guess is, he did not.”



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