Did driver fatigue contribute to the crash between a Wal-Mart tractor trailer and comedian Tracy Morgan’s limo bus that left one dead and three others, including Morgan, seriously injured?
The criminal complaint filed against Kevin Roper, a Wal-Mart employee, states the truck driver hadn’t slept “in excess of 24 hours.”
Driving without having slept for 24 hours is considered reckless under New Jersey law (the crash took place June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike). Deaths that occur in such cases can be charged as vehicular homicide.
Roper has been charged with one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of injury by auto.
State Police say Roper failed to see traffic slowing down and slammed into Morgan’s limo bus, causing a six-car pile-up that killed comic James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and left Morgan and two others with serious injuries.
While the criminal complaint against Roper says he was awake for more than 24 hours, it doesn’t say he was working during that entire period.
Wal-Mart has issued a statement stating the company believes Roper “was operating within the federal hours of service regulations.”
Hours-of-service regs for commercial vehicle drivers limit work shifts to 14 hours, with only 11 hours behind the wheel.
Last year the HOS regs were revamped to require truck drivers to have a 34-hour rest period after a 60-hour work week, with two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods included in the rest period.
Some companies had complained about the new rules, predicting the new rest period requirements would put more trucks on the road during congested daytime hours.
However, the crash involving Morgan’s bus happened in the early pre-dawn hours.
The pressure from business regarding the HOS regs has been so great that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee had added language to a funding bill to scrap that new requirement. The amendment passed the committee but has far to go in the legislative process before it would become law.
The Teamsters Union has sent a letter to Congress calling on lawmakers to oppose efforts to drop the 34-hour, two overnight rest period requirement.