Have you been following the news story about the crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and left comedian Tracy Morgan in critical condition?
According to CNN, the truck driver Kevin Roper was charged with one count of vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto. Roper, a driver for Walmart, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment today amid accusations he was awake for 24 hours before the incident.
The accident, involving six vehicles, occurred about 1 a.m. on Saturday June 7, 2014 when the limo bus Morgan was in was hit by a semi truck and trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike. Police said the, “driver of the tractor-trailer failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead….at the last minute he swerved to try to avoid the Mercedes limo bus but struck it from behind, forcing the limo to rotate and overturn.”
Walmart has come forward with a news release that said it was investigating the case. Walmart representative Brooke Buchanan said, “It is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations.” (Referring to limits of 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period followed by 10 hours of rest)
Truck Driver Fatigue?
This recent crash has put a spotlight on the dangers of tired drivers, yet truck driver fatigue has been a long-standing issue in the industry. In fact, last July new federal regulations took effect – limiting truck drivers to 70 hours of driving within a week, an approximate 14.6% decrease from the previous limit of 82 hours. After reaching 70 hours of driving, truck drivers must rest for 34 consecutive hours including at least two nights. Lastly, drivers must take a 30-min break within the first 8 hours of their shift.
According to The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) it is estimated these new safety regulations will, “prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injures each year.”
Despite the potential savings in both lives and money, there are skeptics of the new truck driver regulations. At least one trucking industry spokesperson has said the, “new rules weren’t restrictive enough” at a House subcommittee hearing. It has been argued that while the new hours of service regulations are designed to help drivers, rules can be broken and handwritten logs can be easily disguised or falsified.
Tracy Morgan remains in critical, yet stable condition and it has been reported he will be in the hospital for several weeks. As the National Transportation Safety Board gathers factual information, I will be following this case closely.
In the meantime, I invite you to share your opinion in the comments area. Should we be doing more to stop truck driver fatigue? Should the government require electronic onboard recorders for all large trucks?
Mayor Law LLC
Have you or a loved one been injured due to a drowsy truck driver or truck driver negligence? Did you know you may be entitled to file a lawsuit for compensation if you have been injured in a trucking accident?