Safety & Compliance

Driver Charged With Vehicular Homicide in Fatal I-75 Crash

November 08, 2015

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The NTSB preliminary report shows the damage to Brewer's vehicle following the crash.
The NTSB preliminary report shows the damage to Brewer's vehicle following the crash.

The truck driver involved in a June 25 nine-vehicle crash on I-75 near Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed six people, has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, among other charges. 

The move comes shortly after the National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report into the crash, which found mechanical breakdowns, another minor crash on the trip, and major hours of service violations.

A lawsuit has also been filed against the driver and the carrier.

In addition to the vehicular homicide charges, Benjamin Scott Brewer, 39, was also charged with four counts of reckless aggravated assault; one count of driving under the influence of narcotics; one count of speeding (77 mph in a 55-mph zone), and one false report of duty status, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

On the evening of June 25, eight vehicles were stopped on I-75 northbound because of construction when Brewer's tractor-trailer plowed into them from behind. Six people, two of them children, were killed, and others were injured.

The NTSB usually sends five investigators to crash sites, but sent 11 to Chattanooga due to the scope of this incident, according to the paper.

In its preliminary report, the board found that Brewer began his trip on Monday, June 22, reporting for duty in London, Ky. He was supposed to pick up a load in Kentucky and deliver it to Florida. When he picked up the load, however, he found the truck's air compressor couldn't build up enough air to properly operate the brake system. After he got that fixed, the truck had problems with the fuel delivery system so it went back to the shop.

After that was repaired, no more mechanical issues were reported in route to Florida, but after being on duty for about 45 hours, he sideswiped another vehicle in Wildwood, Fla. There were not injuries, but he was cited with reckless driving for causing the crash, and the damage to the truck resulted in another delay for repairs.

The driver arrived at his final destination in Florida on Wednesday, June 24 – after being on duty for about 50 consecutive hours – and logged himself off duty at 4:30 p.m.

Twelve hours later he was on the road for his return trip to London, Kentucky, and at 7:10 p.m. was involved in the fatal crash – over his 14-hour daily on duty limit.

Other aspects of the investigation are ongoing, including a review of electronic control modules, security video from local businesses near the crash, cell phone records, motor carrier operations, and toxicology testing.

Two weeks ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declared Brewer an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered him off the road.

That order noted that although Brewer reported being off duty June 15-25, the vehicle tracking system used by his employer, along with other records, showed he had been on-duty and driving on June 22, 23, and 24.

It was also found that Brewer omitted a past citation and crash from his employment application, which required him to list all accidents and convictions occurring in the past three years. On May 25, Brewer also tested positive for controlled substances following a court-ordered controlled substances test.

A crash survivor has filed a $10 million lawsuit against both Brewer and the carrier that owned the truck, Cool Runnings Express Inc., and the company's owners, Billy Sizemore and Cretty Sizemore, according to published reports. It apparently was Brewer's first run for the company.

According to the Times Free Press, Cool Runnings Express operates six trucks and employs nine drivers, hauling refrigerated freight.

During the last 24 months, the paper notes, the company's trucks failed three of eight vehicle inspections and two of 14 driver inspections. On three occasions since 2013, trucks were put out of service during roadside inspection issues because of brake problems. In addition, the paper reports two instances of out of service violations for hours of service in 2014.

Comments

  1. 1. Jeff [ August 05, 2015 @ 06:36AM ]

    This story as well as others should show Tony Fox that the FMCSA is not doing enough to make sure carriers are abiding to the regulations. Not more regs we need better enforcement, CSA is great but again more so for the good carrier. This carrier probably doesn't know about CSA or never looks at it. Lets stop trying to regulate the good guys and go after carriers like this instead, money better spent.

  2. 2. Steve [ August 05, 2015 @ 08:28AM ]

    I hope this drug addict POS gets life in the gayest prison on the planet. He"ll probably like it !

  3. 3. Dan [ August 05, 2015 @ 04:55PM ]

    Any wonder what more govt. regs are coming down the pike instead of enforcing the ones already on the books, as per Jeff's comments? It makes everyone feel good ie somethings being done about these rough companies, drivers. And those, for the most part, jackbooted clowns called "safety groups"? Yep, another chance to get their undies in a wad and grind their heels into the back of our necks! Autonomous trucks... here they come making one & all, basically, steering wheel holders. Oh, & they'll have us all in truck "trains" too. Wave bye, bye OO's/OOIDA, it was fun while it lasted!

  4. 4. CURTIS [ August 06, 2015 @ 05:06AM ]

    THIS IS A WHAT A TRUKING COMPANY GETS, WHEN YOU HIRE CHEAP HELP, LOW TO NO EXPERIANCE DRIVERS AND MOST OF ALL, DO BAND AID REPAIRS ARE TRUCKS THAT CARRY TONS OF CARGO. FMCSA NEED TO GET SERIOUS ON SHUTTING A LOT OF THESE COMPANY'S DOWN TO MAKE OUR ROADS A LOT SAFER.

  5. 5. Darwin Thompson [ August 06, 2015 @ 01:16PM ]

    The USA needs to kill all people that are killing others knowingly doing things wrong. I can not see it is any different for someone to kill another this way or drunk driving. The people are just as dead as if someone pulled a gun on them and shot them to death. I pray the USA will wake up soon and get rid of these killers. So the good people can live a good life.

  6. 6. ken mckinnon [ August 07, 2015 @ 04:11AM ]

    Reading between the lines here...New driver, truck issues. Granted it doesn't take a thorough pretrip to find your air isn't charging; but that truck should have been DOT legal when he got in it. I wish I got paid for all the times I had to babysit the shop as per the company's directions- sometimes for days- while repairs are being made AND then pressured to run because the load is behind schedule. No excuses here- but to me it looks like this guy got hemmed up and hurried. As a result six people are dead.

  7. 7. betty jo [ August 07, 2015 @ 08:17PM ]

    Does anyone else think there is something wrong with this article not saying the driver isn't guilty but saying this was the guys first run yet he was on duty three days before the run and then he was on duty for 50 hours before the run and never left Kentucky like I said I'm not saying he's not guilty at all I'm just really confused here did he log in like he was going to leave and the truck broke down and he forgot to log out on the computer. And yes these companies that band aid fix their trucks and people are stuck driving unsafe junk is.not right either I don't know how thongs are now but when I drove if it wasn't safe it didn't move at all but I never sat there and baby sat the mechanics either if they didn't fix it right then it sat till it was do be right I never ever had a load on a truck that was worth anyone's life. Now I'm not saying I never got caught speeding cause I did but on bad roads or truck was not what I considered safe to run on the road it didn't go. But I have also worked places that would pull the well if you don't go and make it then your done well just tell those people hang on say that again and let me record that they sure change their.tune. I am sorry for.the lost lives in the situation but this article is very confusing on being a first run and on duty three days before that first run and then 50 hours on duty and never went anywhere the drugs shame on him people that do drugs at all should not have any driving priveliges at all anymore ever if you can't stay sober you don't need to drive any thing at all

  8. 8. bruce [ August 08, 2015 @ 07:41AM ]

    I agree with betty jo, there is something wrong in the tally of hours. If the driver didn't have access to the truck while in the shop he might not have had the ability to change status. The severity of the accident does warrant stiff penalty ,but before we condemn the driver to death make sure the evidence isn't over zealously added to satisfy blame seekers. Proper training in both driving and logbook keeping seems to be obvious ,so does maintenance . Condolences to those that suffered loss through this tragedy .

  9. 9. bruce [ August 08, 2015 @ 07:44AM ]

    Meant to say training was obviously lacking

  10. 10. Randy [ August 08, 2015 @ 07:59AM ]

    Bruce and Betty Jo - The 14 hour limit in June was the concern not the weekly limits. On duty at 4:30am (presumably Florida), crash at 7:10pm. There was no mention of repairs between these destinations. My math says that's over 14 hours.

  11. 11. Ronald [ August 08, 2015 @ 09:25AM ]

    We drivers have always mediated and moderated, abuses levied on us. Seasoned drivers, know their limits, mostly because they've been pushed to them, time and again and survived. Our industry is now hog-tied for current regulation and technologies capabilities and yet, they persist in pushing the limits. Problem is....today's driver, can't and don't handle those stresses. Nor do they problem solve well. They don't realize, you can't drive a truck like a 4 wheeler, yet they persist. These types of disciple, will never be found in today's atmosphere as simple safety and self preservation concerns, fail to be met. Examples of this are ample here. If brake air supply is an issue....don't drive it. If it brakes are out of adjustment...get out there and adjust them. We all like to speed...but you gotta know when and when not to...a construction zone is especially sensitive and especially if you don't have a clear view of what's ahead. No driver should feel compelled to run those hrs and I feel these figures are erred, as you could probably run the round trip, plus supervised unloading and loading under that number. What he did previously is a mystery...and if he did run that hard...he was due a restart anyway, before duty.Hence moderating that abuse, even if its your own. The equipment here is the best and its easily seen, its well taken care of. Drugs played a big part here and while they will always be around and available...here again, the driver has to know when to say when, and in today's high odd of incident..not at all !

  12. 12. Al [ August 08, 2015 @ 10:06AM ]

    He will never hold a license in any state ever again....dot will make sure of that...also if he was long on hours and computered the dispatch should have never let him go driving after the repair without at least 10. Hours off

  13. 13. TH [ December 31, 2015 @ 05:44AM ]

    The problem here has nothing to do with CSA, company scores or anything such. The problem is with enforcement which the FMCSA does not have enough investigators out there to do what needs to be done. Those they do have, particularly the Auditors and investigators who work for state partners are under-paid and under-appreciated. The states are allocated a sum of money from the annual FMCSA budget based on what they expect to do in the coming year. The states then use these funds for other things besides properly compensating those trained people they hired to do the job. Most states starting pay for these people is $12K-$15K per year less than their federal counterparts. The actual amount of pay I can tell you, a person cannot raise a family on. These trained people then leave the enforcement side for the trucking side so they can feed their families. I know this to be fact because I use to be one of those state partner investigators! The states care nothing for the job these people actually perform. All they care about is boosting their annual budget with federal funds. An OTR company I worked for had previously been fined twice by the FMCSA for HOS violations. I was "laid off" not for the reason I was told but due to the relationship I had with the feds and the knowledge I had of the company continuing to violate HOS rules. The feds were made aware of these violations but did "NOTHING" because of the company owners position within the state trucking association! The feds also cater to the larger companies needs and only listen to their concerns and not the small companies. They can say what they want but I've seen it first hand. Until the FMCSA and states does whats right for their people they will never recruit and retain quality, knowledgeable people to keep companies such as in this article off the road!!

 

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