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Federal regulators are examining safety practices at a Tennessee trucking company whose driver was jailed after a fiery crash June 30 that killed three people and shut down Interstate 40 in Durham for several hours.
And state traffic engineers say they’ll study the crash site for any improvements that could make the road safer for other drivers.
Ronald Eugene Graybeal, 50, a driver for Hawley Transport Services of Greeneville, Tenn., was charged with driving while impaired and three counts of felony death by vehicle. Troopers found marijuana, methadone and drug paraphernalia in his truck.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun a compliance review for Hawley, which has 10 tractor-trailers and employs 10 drivers.
“It’s a full audit of all the company’s federally required safety management practices,” said Duane DeBruyne, spokesman for the FMCSA.
“We’ll go in and tell the owners we want to see all your driver’s commercial driver’s licenses, their medical certificates and log books,” DeBruyne said. “We’ll get records of their federally required random drug and alcohol testing program for drivers, and those test results, and vehicle maintenance records and licensing and insurance records.”
No drug or alcohol violations are mentioned in federal reports from 73 roadside inspections of Hawley trucks and drivers over the past two years. But Hawley truckers have been charged eight times with speeding and other violations, and 28 times for violating driver fatigue rules intended to keep truckers from spending too many hours behind the wheel without a rest break.
While the State Highway Patrol finishes its crash investigation, the state Department of Transportation is preparing to study a stretch of Interstate 40 in Durham, near the U.S. 15-501 interchange, where the crash occurred.
“We look for anything we feel could improve safety in a particular location,” said Kelly L. Becker, a DOT regional traffic engineer. Engineers will review a history of crashes for the past several years and consider whether new signs or other changes might reduce accidents.
Concerns have been raised since the crash about the design of I-40 at the U.S. 15-501 interchange. The road is reduced from three lanes to two lanes each way just west of the interchange, where the crash took place. Drivers sometimes are surprised when the left lane ends and they have to merge with the adjoining lane.
In letters published Wednesday in The News & Observer, James Rochon of Durham and Bob Reinheimer of Chapel Hill said DOT should install better signs to give westbound drivers more warning about the lane change.
“We’ll take a look at that as part of our investigation,” Becker said.