One commercial truck driver is dead and another seriously injured after two tractor trailers collided head-on Friday morning on Interstate 759 in Gadsden, Ala.
Gadsden Fire Chief Stephen Carroll told The Gadsden Times that a call reporting the fiery crash was received just after 5:00 a.m. Emergency crews were on the scene around 5:08 and immediately worked to get the fire under control.
One of the tractor trailers was hauling a load of cotton and the other was reportedly carrying a cargo of cloth. Fire crews battled the flames for about an hour and by the time they were nearly extinguished only the metal frames of the trailers remained.
Authorities said that the truck heading west on 759 veered off the road and crossed the median into the path of the other 18-wheeler traveling east. One witness reported on Facebook that it appeared the driver of the westbound vehicle may have fallen asleep. However, the crash remains under investigation and authorities haven’t yet determined why the tractor trailer drove across the median into oncoming traffic.
Driver fatigue and falling asleep behind the wheel are dangers for commercial drivers, which is why federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations limit the number of hours a driver can log before being required to take a break. Similar crashes also have occurred as a result of driver distraction, such as with a smartphone or other electronic device, or as the result of a medical emergency.
The collision closed down a stretch of I-759 for several hours Friday. The Alabama Department of Transportation reported that the northbound lanes of the highway were closed from the I-59 intersection to U.S. Highway 411.