A truck driver’s lack of sleep is blamed for a crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian in New Jersey. Authorities say the 35-year-old Georgia driver hadn’t slept for 24 hours before the crash, which occurred when he failed to stop for slowed traffic on the highway.
Federal law limits driving to 11 hours in a 14-hour period, followed by 10 hours of rest, although the driver’s employer, Wal-Mart, insists he was operating within those guidelines.
The truck was equipped with safety systems designed to slow the rig’s speed and notify the driver of stopped traffic ahead, but it’s unclear whether the technology was activated or that the system was operational at the time of the crash.
Birmingham truck accident attorneys recognize that while this case is under investigation, truck driver fatigue continues to be a serious ongoing problem throughout the country despite recent legislation.
Every year, truck crashes kill more than 5,000 people and injure nearly 150,000.
And yet, just days before that deadly crash, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved to weaken safety rules pertaining to truck standards. Last summer, officials passed a number of “restart” regulations requiring truckers to rest for at least 34 straight hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., prior to their next work week. The primary goal was to reduce the amount of driver fatigue. The new rules also limited the maximum work week from a maximum of 82 hours down to 70 hours, and drivers were also mandated to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
The measure has yet to be adopted by the full Senate and reconciled with appropriations legislation and then drawn up in the House.
Fatigue is the leading factor when it comes to large truck crashes. If there is any positive that can come from the Tracy Morgan crash, perhaps it is a greater awareness of the problem. It is almost certain that the measure would have passed more quietly in the Senate appropriations committee had this incident not occurred.
Studies have revealed that the risk of a truck accident doubles from the eighth to the tenth hour of driving, and then doubles again from the tenth to the eleventh hour of driving alone.
When the new rules went into effect in July 2013, companies typically faced up to $11,000 per offense, while drivers faced up to $2,750 per offense.
Those new regulations were the result of more than 15 years of legal battles over how long is too long when you’re talking about control over an 80,000-pound rig.
Said Anne Ferr, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “The hours are exceedingly long.”
In 2012, truck crashes reportedly caused nearly 4,000 deaths.
Hours of service regulation was expected to prevent some 1,400 truck crash deaths annually, saving 20 lives and avoiding some 600 injuries.
Police: Driver charged in Tracy Morgan crash was awake 24 hours, June 9, 2014, By Kevin Conlon and Doug Ganley, CNN
Asklar v. Gilb – Jurisdictional Issues in Truck Accident Lawsuits May Impact Insurance Payouts, June 3, 2014, Birmingham Truck Injury Blog