Federal authorities have declared a Tennessee commercial truck driver to be an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered him to stop operating any commercial motor vehicle after he caused a deadly accident and left the scene.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that Earnest Paul Biddwell, who holds a commercial driver’s license from Tennessee, was operating a large commercial truck on Tennessee State Route 305 in McMinn County in August when the gooseneck trailer hitched to his truck came loose and separated.
When the gooseneck trailer, a long flatbed trailer that can support other structures, detached from Mr. Biddwell’s truck, it traveled across the center line of the highway and struck the trailer of a truck traveling in the opposite direction.
The driver of the truck that was hit by Mr. Biddwell’s trailer lost control of the vehicle and drove into a ditch, up an embankment, and overturned. The driver of the overturned truck, 53-year-old John Hubbard, died at the scene.
Although the gooseneck trailer had separated from his truck, Mr. Biddwell continued to drive until law enforcement officers stopped him. The FMCSA said that Mr. Biddwell subsequently tested positive for controlled substances and that controlled substances were also found in the cab of his truck.
The Daily Post-Athenian reported that Mr. Biddwell was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide for Mr. Hubbard’s death.
The FMCSA also said that Mr. Biddwell was operating with a revoked commercial driver’s license (CDL) and without a valid medical certificate at the time of his crash. In the preceding two years, Mr. Biddwell had been cited four times for violations of records-of-duty status (RODS) containing hours-of-service records (HOS), and three times for operating a commercial vehicle equipped with a radar detector.
The RODS produced by Mr. Biddwell for the months of June and July 2017, which showed him operating in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, and Missouri, falsely named two motor carriers for whom he was driving. In fact, Mr. Biddwell was not employed or operating on behalf of either motor carrier, the FMCSA said.
A post-crash inspection conducted by the Tennessee Department of Safety of Mr. Biddwell’s truck and gooseneck trailer found six violations, every one of which was bad enough to put the vehicle out of service. These deficiencies included braking components, improper breakaway or emergency braking equipment, fuel tank construction, and lighting devices and reflective components.
The FMCSA’s imminent hazard out-of-service order states that Mr. Bidwell’s operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce “… substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and the motoring public if not discontinued immediately.”