Gary Turner was driving a tanker truck full of sulfuric acid on the northbound span of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway just before 10 a.m. Thursday when he looked in the rear-view mirror and saw flames, he said.
Turner, who was bound for a Bogalusa paper mill, made it off the bridge onto North Causeway Boulevard in the burning vehicle, stopping just before Brookside Drive.
He and a driver behind him both tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, he said, but without success. Firefighters with St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 4 then arrived and put out the fire.
The tank was not breached, and no chemicals were spilled, Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker said.
The incident caused some traffic delays. Both sides of North Causeway Boulevard were closed at 10 a.m. as heavy smoke filled the area. By 10:48 a.m., authorities reopened the southbound lanes and one of the northbound lanes. An additional lane on the northbound side was reopened about 1:40 p.m.
Mandeville police said that the rear wheels of the trailer had locked up, causing friction that ignited the fire.
Turner said he was driving the truck for Quality Carriers.
Sticker said that the driver behind the truck was a Homeland Security agent who noticed smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle and tried to alert Turner.
The scorched truck remained on the side of the road most of the day, awaiting a replacement tanker truck to offload the chemicals and a tow truck to remove the damaged rig. Twice during the afternoon, all northbound lanes were closed, once to get the replacement tanker in place to begin pumping out the acid and later to get the tow truck in place.
No cititations were issued, Sticker said, and as of late Thursday, two of the three northbound lanes remained open during rush hour.
"Fortunately, school is out, and the holiday break equals lighter than usual traffic," Sticker said in an email. "So it’s flowing a bit slower but good considering."
Ashley Rodrigue of WWL-TV contributed to this report.