How many catastrophic truck accidents are being caused by fatigued drivers who shouldn’t be on the roads in the first place?
As more facts are emerging about the cause of the Tracy Morgan truck accident, the public has now learned the Wal-Mart truck driver who caused the crash was awake for 28 hours prior to the wreck, according to reports by U.S. regulators.
The only good news to come of this terrible tragedy is that hopefully the public is becoming more aware of a serious safety crisis on our roads today. Regulators and law enforcement might do a better job of punishing the truck companies and clearly fatigued truck drivers that ignore mandatory safety regulations on hours of service.
As an attorney who focuses a large percentage of my legal practice on trucking accident litigation, I know this problem isn’t new. For years, I’ve had truck drivers in depositions who caused serious injuries refer to their log books as “lie books.” Truckers driving over mandatory hours of service is a problem that permeates the entire trucking industry today, where companies further incentivize drivers to violate these laws by paying by the mile instead of by the hour. Safety directors often look the other way. Dispatch ignores how long these drivers are on the roads. It’s a serious safety problem everyone knows about, yet very little is done to correct it.
Maybe now that will slowly change after the Tracy Morgan crash.
Tracy Morgan suffered a serious brain injury, broken bones and was left in a coma. Comedian James McNair was killed and nine other people were injured in the chain reaction truck accident that involved 21 people in six vehicles.
According to a recent story on Reuters:
“In a public hearing, NTSB officials said the Wal-Mart truck driver had driven 800 miles overnight to the company’s distribution center before embarking on his delivery, and had been awake for more than 28 hours at the time of the crash.
The truck was driving 65 miles per hour (104 km per hour) in a 45 miles per hour (72 km per hour) zone. It did not slow down when entering a road construction zone where it rear-ended the slower-traveling limousine van at around 1:00 a.m. ET, the NTSB said.”
NTSB investigators have recommended that Wal-Mart improve fatigue management programs for its drivers and install better vehicle warning systems for drivers and delivery operators.
The truck driver, Kevin Roper, faces charges of vehicular homicide and assault by auto and is awaiting trial in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally coming clean about the reality and prevalence of truck driver fatigue, as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx discussed truck accident deaths and the Administration’s commitment to preventing them:
“Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year and driver fatigue is a leading factor.”
The FMSCA stated that while the new hours of service rules instituted in 2011 were designed to reduce truck wrecks caused by fatigued driving, they identified further problems through studies and truck inspections:
“… a segment of the industry was often operating at the maximum hours allowed. It was also revealed that some truckers operating under the old rules were adding one full work shift per week.”