The judge sentenced Eric Barnes and Stanley Jacks to eight years and eight months in state prison for vehicular manslaughter. The defendants' families had hoped for a more lenient sentence.
"The penalty definitely was severe on the condition that he doesn't have a criminal record at all," Barnes' brother Tim Barnes said.
Barnes and Jacks were convicted last month for causing the fiery collision four years ago on I-80 near Berkeley's Ashby Avenue.
A big rig veered out of control crashing into a car carrying three UC graduate students, killing Julia Adesso, Jason Choy and Benjamin Boussert.
The California Highway Patrol believed drivers racing on the highway caused the big rig to swerve.
An ABC7 report six months after the accident gave investigators the scientific evidence they needed to support their case and make arrests.
Engineers at The University of California's Traffic Safety Center saw the ABC7 story. They told the CHP that magnetic sensors they had placed on I-80 for a research project revealed the suspects cars were traveling more than 100 miles an hour.
"This case involved excessive speed, cars going out of control," CHP spokesperson Sam Morgan said.
After the hearing, family and friends of the victims were circumspect.
"I don't think anyone wins today, I mean, I think the only good that can come out of this is that people can learn from the mistakes that were made," Boussert's brother Joel Boussert said.
"This is one time where a message needs to be sent which is, 'if you drive recklessly, this is what you may face,'" the victims' friend Helen Cameron said.
This was Barnes and Jacks first criminal offense. Both said they were remorseful.
The probation report asked for one year in county jail and five years probation, but the judge said he gave the maximum sentence because of what he called the hideous deaths which the victims suffered.