Part of Highway 401 remained closed Monday evening as crews worked to get slick asphalt off the road after a tractor-trailer crashed, spilling 36 tonnes of liquid onto the main Toronto artery.

Police said they hoped the roadway's westbound collector lanes just west of Keele Street would be re-opened by midnight -- much later than their original estimate.

The accident also sent the truck's driver to hospital with severe burns to most of his body.

OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley said the driver is in very serious condition after the liquid asphalt, at about 175 degrees, spilled out of the rig around 5:30 a.m., covering the highway and the trucker.

"When the truck went over, the front of the tank exploded, knocking the cab off and filling the cab with in hot liquid asphalt," Woolley said.

Woolley said some witnesses, who tried to pull the victim out of his rig, were covered in tar -- one man spoke to CTV's John Musselman in his socks because his shoes had melted.

"The driver was trapped ... thankfully another motorist stopped and stepped into the burning asphalt," Woolley said.

"(He) held the driver's head up out of there, allowing him to breathe."

The fire department had to cut the roof off of the truck's cab to get to the driver, who was glued into his seat, and an air ambulance landed on the highway and transported the driver to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The accident occurred in the same spot where a tractor-trailer flipped last week. Woolley said the stretch of the 401 where both incidents happened is known as an exceptionally dangerous leg of North America's most-used highway.

"This is the area we call 'the Hot Zone', from Keele Street to Highway 400," Woolley said.

"If (drivers) go too fast it's very unforgiving here -- especially with trucks."

With a report from CTV's John Musselman