Trucker cited for crash one day, causes another on I-75 the next

On June 24, the driver of a semi-truck apparently sideswiped another truck as he was trying to pass. No one was hurt, but he was cited for careless driving. The next day, the same trucker was headed down a stretch of I-75 in Tennessee. Traffic had stopped due to construction, but the trucker didn't notice in time. His truck slammed into eight vehicles, causing six people to be injured and six more to die.

These allegations come to us via the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which seems to have done a thorough job trying to pin down what went wrong. Unfortunately, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board says it's just too early to tell.

What we do know is that the 39-year-old truck driver had driven at least 400 miles before the deadly crash, but it's not yet clear how many hours he had been driving. This is crucial information because drowsy driving by commercial truckers seems to be a big weakness in our system. Hours-of-service rules try to control it, but, commercial truckers routinely exceed those hours of service nevertheless.

Could one driver from a small trucking company cause this much damage?

Chattanooga police have not charged the driver with anything, but he is the focus of the investigation and won't be allowed to drive until it's complete. The NTSB may focus its attention more on the trucking company, Cool Runnings Express.

Cool Runnings is a tiny operation -- a carrier of refrigerated meat and produce with only six trucks and nine drivers, according to the agency. Unfortunately, the company appears to have some safety issues. Three times in 2013, roadside safety inspectors pulled Cool Runnings trucks off the road on an emergency basis due to failed brake-safety checks. In the past two years alone, the company failed three out of eight vehicle inspections and two out of 14 driver inspections. For a small concern, that translates into a 37-percent failure rate in vehicle inspections and a 14-percent failure rate in driver inspections.

This was a tragedy, and we can only hope all those involved take active steps to make things right. What this story means for us is really simple reminder. Truckers and trucking companies make deliveries across the country, so poor safety policies by companies or problem drivers could show up on our doorstep any time. It's in everyone's interest to hold them accountable.

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