Two people in Virginia may have felt lucky to be alive after an out-of-control tractor-trailer peeled off the side of their car in the early morning hours of July 21, 2021. The sideswipe collision happened in New Brunswick County southwest of Petersburg. Sadly, the commercial truck driver did not survive.

State troopers responded to the crash at mile marker 24 of I-85 at 1:43 am. This is close to the exit for VA Route 644.

According to news reports, the 18-wheeler struck the car as it left the roadway. The semi continued until it hit a tree and flipped. The 31-year-old truck driver from North Carolina died at the scene.


Emergency responders have not released details on the nature of the injuries to the driver and passenger in the car, but both individuals are expected to live. A photo included with several stories shows three-quarters of the driver’s side of the car missing.

Truck Driver Fatigue Will Be Investigated as a Contributing Factor

The injured driver and passenger in the car appear to have strong grounds for filing insurance claims. Even though the person operating the tractor-trailer lost their life, their insurance policies will remain in effect until all claims are resolved via settlements or lawsuits. The company that employed the truck driver may also have liability for compensating crash victims.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces hours of services rules for commercial truck drivers who cross state lines. Without getting too far into the weeds, these rules specify how many hours a day a person can spend driving. Rest periods and extended breaks for sleeping are also mandated.

Trucking companies have legally enforceable duties to ensure all their drivers comply with hours of service rules. Failing to meet those duties creates liability for paying crash victims’ medical bills and for providing other types of monetary damages such as settlements for pain and suffering.

Hours of service rules exist because fatigue is a constant problem for interstate semi and tractor-trailer drivers. As the FMCSA explains on its website,

Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities, or a combination of other factors. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.

The agency further notes that “indicators of drowsiness include frequent yawning, heavy eyes and blurred vision.” Ignoring those warning signs that one may fall asleep at the wheel significantly raises the risk for drifting out of one’s lane, running off the road and crashing into other vehicles.

Whatever the cause of this wreck on I-85 in New Brunswick County, my Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I send our condolences to the family and friends of the truck driver. We also wish for a speedy recovery for the injured survivors.