CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A motor vehicle crash that killed six people on a Tennessee highway last year likely happened because a truck driver who failed to slow down in a construction zone was probably fatigued and had taken methamphetamine, federal investigators said Tuesday.
In its release of the probable cause findings for the June 2015 crash, the National Transportation Safety Board also cited a failure in the employee screening process to determine that driver Benjamin Brewer of London, Kentucky, had been fired from a previous trucking job two years earlier because of illegal drug use. A hair test administered under an unrelated court order less than three months before the crash had also turned out positive for meth.
The board also found that the Brewer had likely gone without sustained rest for 40 hours before the crash.
“The driver in this crash should not have been behind the wheel of a large truck,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “As long as human beings drive trucks, they must be rested and unimpaired.”
Investigators said Brewer did not slow down from a speed of about 80 mph despite ample warnings that he was approaching a construction zone with a 55-mph limit on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga. There was no indication of heavy braking or that he tried to take evasive action before causing the crash, which involved seven vehicles occupied by 18 people.
Brewer is being held on $500,000 bond while awaiting trial in Chattanooga. His attorneys did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The NTSB recommended in its report Tuesday that states make it easier for trucking companies to check prospective drivers’ safety and drug records and that more should be done to address the disproportionate number of fatal truck crashes in work zones.
While large trucks make up about 8 percent of all highway miles driven, they accounted for about 30 percent of fatal crashes in work zones in 2014, according to the NTSB.