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Impaired tractor trailer driver fails to slow before crashing into slowed vehicle in NC, kills one

A tractor trailer driver did not slow from 65 mph before crashing into a line of vehicles that had slowed for traffic on I-40 in North Carolina on June 30th. One passenger vehicle caught fire, and one person was killed.

According to a report from the North Carolina Highway Patrol, 50-year-old tractor trailer driver Ronald Eugene Graybeal of Newport, Tennessee was charged with felony death by vehicle, driving while impaired and possessing drugs including marijuana and methadone. According to media reports, he was convicted of rape in Cocke County, Tenn., in 1981 and is listed on the national sex offender’s registry.

Graybeal was driving for Hawley Transport Services of Newport, TN, a company with ten trucks and ten drivers. That company’s records with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate a score of 82.4% on “fatigued driving – hours of service” in on-road inspections in the past two years. Out of 73 relevant Inspections, 21 of those discovered a total of 29 fatigued driving violations.

Hawley Transport also has multiple prior reports of unsafe driving and vehicle maintenance violations.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations have zero tolerance for use of drugs that can impair drivers. Trucking companies are required to have random drug tests of drivers. However, when we sue trucking companies after catastrophic crashes, we often find companies that have continued operation after being cited dozens of times for failure to comply with drug testing rules, as well as hours of service and vehicle maintenance violations. This often appears to be part of a slack corporate culture that disregards safety rules.

Ken Shigley is president of the State Bar of Georgia, author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice, a Certified Civil Trial Attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy (one of 20 in Georgia), a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, and designated as a “Super Lawyer” by Atlanta Magazine. His practice involves litigation of interstate motor carrier collision cases in Georgia and neighboring states in compliance with the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules of each state.