In Tennessee, drivers must follow state and local driving laws when operating their vehicles within state lines. Drivers of 18-wheelers and commercial trucks must follow these laws in addition to specific rules and safety regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These rules are known as Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”). Since commercial vehicles, tractor trailers and other big rig trucks are much larger in size than the cars that typical Tennesseans drive, trucking accidents are often investigated to determine what caused them and to see if any recommendations can be made to prevent them in the future.
On October 4, 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) met to discuss potential causes of a significant June 2015 trucking accident near Chattanooga, Tennessee that caused six fatalities. This accident, which occurred on an Interstate 75 work zone, involved nine vehicles and 18 people. Around 7:00 p.m., traffic was slowing down when a Cool Runnings Express, Inc. (“Cool Runnings”) tractor trailer rear ended a Toyota Prius. This began the chain reaction with the other seven vehicles. After investigating the crash, the NTSB blamed the Cool Runnings driver for causing the wreck because he failed to slow down in the work zone and instead drove through it at around 80 miles per hour. According to the NTSB, fatigue and drug use affected the trucker’s conduct that night.
Proving a truck driver’s negligence can be accomplished, in part, by showing that he or she violated one or more federal regulation. Two sections would specifically apply to this accident, Sections 382 (drug use) and 395 (hours of service). Under Section 382, truck drivers are expressly prohibited from operating their trucks while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and drivers who violate this rule can face civil or criminal penalties. After being involved in an accident, a commercial truck driver must undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing.