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Fatal Tennessee Tractor-Trailer Crash Precedes New Federal Safety Rules

Two Bonnaroo music festival goers were killed in a Tennessee tractor-trailer crash before ever reaching the concert.
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The crash happened just two weeks ahead of implementation of federal rules designed to reduce the number of fatal tractor-trailer accidents here and across the country.

According to investigators’ accounts from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the accident occurred shortly after midnight on a Thursday, as cars were slowing due to heavy traffic from an earlier accident near I-24 near Murfreesboro.

The driver of the truck was reportedly unable to halt in time. Eight other vehicles were struck. Two of those vehicles burst into flames. One of those vehicles became fully engulfed, causing the deaths of two people from Indiana, a 25-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man. Five other people suffered serious injuries. Seven others, including the trucker, were not injured.

The truck driver, from Kentucky, was cited for failure to exercise due care, and additional charges are pending.

Our Knoxville injury lawyers can’t say for certain that driver fatigue played a role in this crash, but it does seem to fit the mold: The crash occurred after midnight and involved the trucker’s delayed reaction time. By many accounts, drowsy driving affects reflex times just as much as alcohol consumption.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association reports that nearly 15 percent of all fatal trucking crashes are the result of drivers who were overworked and fatigued. It’s for this reason that over the past five years, the agency has been battling to enact a series of hours of service rules that would limit the amount of time a trucker could remain behind the wheel at any given stretch.

Now, those rules will be formalized July 1, 2013.

It should come as no surprise that the industry has put up a fierce fight on this issue, arguing that the changes will deliver a devastating blow not only to the trucking industry but to small businesses nationwide that depend on timely delivery of goods to provide their services. There is no question that the new rules will have some impact on the industry, but we believe the problems stated have been overblown.

What’s more, industry advocates’ assertions that current rules are doing more than enough to tamp down the number of fatal crashes simply doesn’t hold water when you consider crashes like the recent one that happened in Murfreesboro. In no other industry would it be acceptable to allow thousands of innocent people to die and become seriously injured every year, and then chalk it up to merely being a cost of doing business.

That’s why the FMCSA has pressed forward on these rules. They include limiting drivers to a maximum of 11 hours on the road at any given stretch. Drivers are also expected to take at least a 30-minute rest break every eight hours (so at least once a shift) and they have to be off-duty at least 10 hours before getting back on the road after a full shift. Drivers will go from being allowed to work a maximum of 82 hours in a seven-day week to being allowed to work only 70 in a work week. This will ensure that drivers have more time to rest and recharge so that when they do get back to the road, they will be refreshed – and less likely to fatal mistakes, like the one that senselessly claimed those two young lives in Tennessee.

If you are involved in a Knoxville traffic accident, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657.

Additional Resources:
UPDATE: 2 Killed in 10-Vehicle Crash Near Murfreesboro, TN, June 13, 2013, Associated Press

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Knoxville Crash Risk Heightened During Summer Travel, June 10, 2013, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog