Tennessee Highway Patrol wants feds to investigate trucker who hit trooper

By Land Line staff | 3/16/2012

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to look into an Orlando, FL, trucker who hit a trooper’s cruiser parked along Interstate 40 Tuesday night.

Sgt. Lowell Russell was finishing a report while parked on the side of Interstate 40 in Knoxville, TN, at approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13. His cruiser was struck from behind by trucker Eric D. Lewis of Orlando, according to The Associated Press.

Lewis, who drives for FSH Trucking in Orlando, FL, reportedly told law enforcement he had fallen asleep not long before the crash and had stopped long enough to “splash water onto his face,” the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Tennessee Highway Patrol investigators also found inconsistencies in Lewis’ logbook, prompting a request to the FMCSA to investigate, The AP reported.

FSH Trucking’s fatigued driving BASIC – a category which measures hours-of-service compliance through the agency’s CSA safety monitoring program – shows the company in “alert” status with a score in the 68 percent threshold. 

“Alert” status means the company is subject to “intervention” or enforcement by FMCSA.

The company has a spotty record in the fatigued driving BASIC, hitting the 96.1 percent threshold in December 2009 and being considered in “alert” status a number of times throughout the current two-plus year history reported in the database.

The trooper suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, two fractured vertebrae and swelling of the brain, The AP reported.

Lewis was reportedly not seriously injured. The trucker was charged with felony counts of aggravated assault (reckless intent) and reckless endangerment. He remains jailed at the Knox County Detention Facility. His bond was set at $10,500.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that a series of coincidences and sheer luck helped save the trooper’s life as he was narrowly pulled, unconscious, from the burning cruiser. The paper credits a local police officer who decided to circle back to the area of the trooper, an ambulance that also happened to be nearby, and a chorus of volunteers – many with medical training – who assisted in the trooper’s rescue.