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LOWELL, NC – An 18 wheeler truck driver traveling on I-85 North sideswiped a vehicle near exit 23, Wednesday morning, March 21, shutting down northbound lanes of I-85 for 3½ hours.

A semi truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road crashing into a concrete median barrier on the northbound I-85 in Lowell, NC on Mar 21, 2012. Photo: John Clark/The Gaston Gazette

The tractor trailer accident occurred at 6:31 a.m. just south of Lowell causing a traffic nightmare for thousands of commuters. By 9:30 a.m., one northbound lane had finally re-opened and the others were open shortly after 10 a.m.

Map shows location of semi truck accident on the north I-85 in Lowell, NC near Exit 23.

The city of Lowell is located in Gaston County North Carolina in the southwestern part of the state about 37 miles southwest of Concord and about 17 miles northwest of Charlotte.

The driver of the big rig told police that he was tired, fell asleep and ran off the road, according to 1st Sgt. Tracy Greene with the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

There were no reports of any injuries at the time of the incident. The truck driver was checked out at Gaston Memorial Hospital but not transported by paramedics.

Greene said that the tractor trailer hit trees as it ran off the road, with some becoming entangled in the front engine of the truck. The trees also dislodged both of the truck’s fuel proportion tanks and the first driving axle closest to the cab, Greene said. The 18 wheeler slammed into a concrete median barrier.

The Gastonia Fire Department and McAdenville Fire Department were both called to the scene of the accident, where they had to use chainsaws to remove the brush from the Interstate.

The incident remains under investigation at this time.


Truck accident attorneys, Gordon, Elias and Seely, state that driver fatigue and drowsiness are conditions that result in reckless behavior such as failure to keep in the proper lane and running off the road. Tired truckers are of such concern that in April of 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted new hours of service regulations to curb truckers’ problems with fatigue. While these laws have helped reduce the number of accidents, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board still blames driver fatigue as a probable factor in 20-40% of truck crashes.

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