The local trucker who police say was driving the tanker that leaked a 40-mile ribbon of roofing asphalt onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike last week, snarling holiday traffic and damaging hundreds of cars, has been issued two tickets.

George Delaney, 50, of Glen Burnie, received citations from Pennsylvania State Police for failure to secure a load and failure to obey a state trooper.

The trucking company, MTS Express LLC of Stevensville, has placed Delaney on administrative leave and impounded the truck. It is also helping motorists with insurance claims.

"The driver is a 20-year law enforcement veteran, retired, with an excellent safety record. He is the kind of guy you want behind the wheel," said the company's president, Nicholas Marino, in a telephone interview. "We're still piecing together what happened."

Delaney could not be reached for comment.

The first report to turnpike authorities came just after 7 p.m. on Nov. 22 from a motorist heading eastbound near Pittsburgh. Hundreds of calls followed as cars became ensnared in the black goo, which was obscured by darkness and a heavy rainstorm.

Trooper Chad Church gave chase — or tried to.

"It was a hot pursuit that turned to slow pursuit," he said. "The tar was about an inch thick on all four tires and in the wheel wells. I was doing 10 mph. It felt like driving onto flypaper."

Said the trooper, an eight-year veteran, "I've never seen anything like it."

The 10-mile chase ended when Delaney pulled into a service area and Church caught up with him.

While interviewing Delaney and inspecting the truck, Church said, he was approached by more than 100 people asking for help.

"It was crazy," he said.

The Turnpike Commission estimated that more than 1,200 vehicles drove through the mess as highway crews raced to block lanes, scrape the road clean and cover it with sand. A spokesman estimated that as many as 300 vehicles may have been damaged.

Church said he told Delaney not to leave the service area until the late-model truck, which had been carrying 4,000 gallons of asphalt, could be thoroughly inspected.

"But in the morning, he wasn't there," Church said of Delaney. "He did leave the scene."

The home page of the MTS Express website provides instructions on how affected drivers can file an insurance claim.

"We tried to put ourselves in the position of those motorists," Marino said. "It was the least we could do."

MTS Express has been in business since 2000. It has 39 trucks and 40 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The company has not been involved in any crashes that resulted in injury or death, and its safety record is above the national average over the last two years, federal records show.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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