Ronald Eugene Graybeal, 50, of Newport, Tennessee is charged with one count of felony death by vehicle, two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, DWI, and possession of methadone, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
He appeared in court Tuesday for an initial appearance on the felony charge. His bond was initially set at $500,000, but Tuesday it was increased to $600,000.
Graybeal was expected to return to court Wednesday for an initial appearance on the remaining charges.
Troopers say Graybeal was driving his big rig on I-40 West just west of the U.S. 15-501 exit in Durham about 4 p.m. Thursday when he failed to react to slowing traffic and plowed into three smaller vehicles - killing the drivers of all three.
Graybeal was not injured.
Before his arrest, Graybeal was convicted of rape and burglary.
Out of jail, he was working for Hawley Transport. According to his boss, Graybeal had a good driving record - never missed an inspection, never failed to deliver his load and never failed a drug test.
"He's had random drug screens and every one he's passed so you know, we were told that his doctor prescribed him methadone for pain. That was news to me," Karen Hawley said.
However, the Federal Motor Safety Administration says Tennesse-Based Hawley Transport's had at least eight drivers cited for traffic violations. Two of those drivers were fired, according to the company.
While safety authorities say Hawley Transport's record includes dozens of fatigued driver violations, Hawley says that those infractions are often linked to minor offenses like log book errors and failing to make note of a truck stop.