• Jun 9, 2014

Days before Morgan's accident, the Senate approved legislation that would undo rules that mandated certain rest periods for truck drivers.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a sleep-deprived Walmart truck driver didn't see that traffic ahead in the northbound lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike had slowed down.

By the time he reacted, it was too late. One person was killed and four more were injured, including comic Tracy Morgan, in the six-vehicle crash that followed. Authorities said Monday the driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, 35, hadn't slept for 24 hours at the time of the accident.

Daphne Izer has heard this story before.

On October 10, 1993, a Walmart truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel and ran over a car containing her son, Jeff, and four of his friends. Jeff Izer and three others died. In her grief, she founded Parents Against Tired Truckers, an organization that lobbies lawmakers on transportation safety issues. She said Monday that not only are such crashes common, but they're poised to grow in number and severity.

Days before Morgan's accident thrust trucking safety into the news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would undo rules that only went into effect last year that mandated certain rest periods for truck drivers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that would suspend a regulation that truck drivers rest for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM, before driving again.
"With one amendment, we're doing away with rules we worked years to develop," Izer said Monday.

The "re-start" rule was one of several that started last summer. Other rules limited the maximum average work week to 70 hours of driving time for truckers, which was 12 fewer hours than the previous maximum of 82. Another rule required drivers to take a 30-minute break during their first eight hours behind the wheel. The full Senate is slated to begin debate on the legislation as early as next Monday.

Separately, safety advocates say they're worried that, as part of ongoing debates over a multi-billion dollar bill that would fund surface transportation programs, the trucking industry will seek changes that allow for 33-foot trailers, a growth from today's 28-foot trailers, and force more states to accept double-trailers. Currently, only 11 states allow double and triple trailers.

Fatalities and injuries related to traffic accidents involving trucks have increased for three consecutive years.

Taken together, safety advocates say the two pieces of legislation amount to an assault on driver safety.

"We're fighting two really serious battles here," said Jackie Gillan, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "We're fighting to protect rest time and fighting against these longer trucks."

Fatalities and injuries related to traffic accidents involving trucks have increased for three consecutive years. Approximately 3,921 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2012 and 104,000 more were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In those fatal crashes, the overwhelming majority of the fatalities occur in the cars: 98 percent of the deaths occur to car occupants, according to Advocates.

Ron Wood, a Naval Academy graduate who lives in Washington D.C., lost his mother, sister and three nephews in 2004 when a truck driver who had been driving for 35 consecutive hours crossed the median and hit their SUV head-on. He's been fighting for stricter regulation of the trucking industry ever since.

"My response to the Tracy Morgan truck crash is that it's been 10 years since my family was obliterated, and we're not any safer," he said Monday. "It makes me angry. I met with Senator Collins ... and told her how upset I was. ... This amendment can't pass. It pushes us backward in the safety community, and it's upsetting that we're losing people every day to these fatigued truck drivers."


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  • 91 Comments
      r_dezi
      • 6 Months Ago
      Trucking industry is corrupt to the hilt these days. They hire unqualified drivers to underpay them and low and behold we trucks that flip over on the on/off ramps of freeways day in and day out... in my neck of the woods anyway because the need for drivers is so great.
        RJ
        • 6 Months Ago
        @r_dezi
        Agreed. Trucking has turned from a skilled trade to a minimum wage "steering wheel holder". All thanks to the modern economical model of globalization / mega corporations and cut-throat competition. The days of mom and pap owner operators are a thing of the past.
      BlackandMild
      • 6 Months Ago
      I was hit by a 18 wheeler from a well known trucking company here in Georgia. The guy got in the left turn lane with the left turn signal on and then made a right turn across 3 lanes of traffic right into me.......I was staring at a huge chrome bumper and grill before I blacked out- No drugs nor alcohol were found in the truck driver's system, but the truck driver's eyeballs were beet red from lack of sleep. Georgia has a very large trucking presence here because it's the cross road that links the North, South, East and West via major interstates. I welcome the creation and/or strengthening current laws that will help protect both citizens and the truck drivers from corporate greed-
      Todd Blankenship
      • 6 Months Ago
      The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin(FMCSA) rules for driving are..a driver can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14 consecutive hour period. The driver must also take a mandatory 30 minute break within the first 8 hours of his on duty shift. Then, the driver must take a 10 consecutive hour break before being eligible to drive the truck again. WalMart trucks along with many, many more large carrier trucks are equipped with satellite tracking and electronic logging devices(ELD). The ELD'S record every mile the truck is driven, along with the time and date. It records the GPS location, average speed and fuel economy. It will also show what gear the truck was in and show if the cruise control was on. These ELD devices stop drivers from driving more than allowed per shift. Also, WalMart vehicles are governed to a speed of about 68mph. Now, here is the problem to report and investigate...the current rules force a driver to drive when fatigued. The driver is forced to drive as much as he can in that 14 hour period. This 14 hour clock cannot be stopped, even when the driver stops for breaks. This rule needs to be amended to allow the driver to stop when fatigued, yet not interfere with his amount of time he can drive.
        SloopJohnB
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Todd Blankenship
        It's clear the driver defeated the rules anyway…..WalMart pays through the nose. This driver should also be incarcerated for defeating the rules. It's no longer just a evade the rules to make a living anymore than the schedulers with the VA were evading the spirit and the letter of the rules for scheduling veterans in order to make the statistics look good.
        kevsflanagan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Todd Blankenship
        I'll tag on also that companies need to realize this and adjust shipping times from location to location accordingly. I tend to always hear that truckers are on a set time limit to deliver goods and get penalized if they are late.
          wilkegm
          • 6 Months Ago
          @kevsflanagan
          If nothing less, they need to hit certain dock times, otherwise they have to sit on the load and lose money.
      Hernan
      • 6 Months Ago
      Mercedes Attention Assist already exists for longhaul trucks! Making this mandatory (and super loud) should be a good first step. http://new-actros.trucks-mercedes-benz.com/en_GB/Driving%20dynamics/details/Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems/Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems[2]/Attention%20Assist/zoom.html
        Hernan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Hernan
        Not sure if the URL got cut there... http://new-actros.trucks-mercedes-benz.com/en_GB/Driving%20dynamics/details/Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems/Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems[2]/Attention%20Assist/zoom.html
          Hernan
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Hernan
          http://new-actros.trucks-mercedes-benz.com/en_GB/Driving%20dynamics/details/Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems/ Assistance%20and%20safety%20systems[2]/Attention%20Assist/zoom.html
      RobG
      • 6 Months Ago
      How about we just get ALL the trucks off the road? Well, nearly all of them. Move these transportation duties to the railroads where they belong. Then have local truck deliveries using large box vans, NOT semis. That way the drivers live locally and can work normal shifts. Then we no longer have 80-120,000 lb trucks destroying our roads, causing traffic jams, etc.
      axton72op8
      • 6 Months Ago
      im not a truck driver but it seems like putting two drivers in a truck would greatly reduce the number of rest stop hours and get deliveries to the destination faster.
      INCREDIBLE BOB
      • 6 Months Ago
      OK -- there need to be rules But truckers have a point that they should be allowed to drive at night, as long as they have good rest.
      wilkegm
      • 6 Months Ago
      Seems like high time for companies like Freightliner to leverage some of the driver alertness tech Mercedes has been marketing in their passenger cars.
      davinp
      • 6 Months Ago
      Train engineers and conductors have mandatory rest periods. As such, they can only work a specific number of hours. If rail regulations have this, why don't they have truck regulations.
        b.rn
        • 6 Months Ago
        @davinp
        I think they do. Just because there are regulations, doesn't mean people follow them.
      MVM
      • 6 Months Ago
      In the European Union a truck driver must make a pause of at least 45 minutes following a driving shift of 4h 30m. Said driver must not drive for more than 9 hours a day and it is mandatory that he has 12 hours of rest per day. And he must have at least 24 hours of weekly rest. Companies - not the drivers - are liable for any breach to these rules and fines are particularly heavy. But then again that's Old Europe...
        lne937s
        • 6 Months Ago
        @MVM
        And most European countries have a speed limit of 90 km/h (54 mph) and typically have speed limiters. Kinetic Energy is 1/2 Mass X Velocity squared. As such, a truck going 50 mph would have to dissipate approximately half as much energy through braking as a truck going 70 mph. As the brakes are not perfect machines and semis are limited by things like jack-knifing, that 70 mph truck will take more than twice as long to come to a stop. Combined with a longer time before coming upon the crash, this means that a tired driver can have dramatically slower reaction times and still avoid a crash. If the semi in the Tracy Morgan crash was not going as fast, there is a good chance the crash wouldn't have happened.
          lne937s
          • 6 Months Ago
          @lne937s
          To clarify, 90 km/h is the limit for semis, which are restricted to the far right lane, except for passing.
        kajohns1964
        • 6 Months Ago
        @MVM
        Good for countries that you can drive across in 4 1/2 hrs.
          wilkegm
          • 6 Months Ago
          @kajohns1964
          Do you know what the difference is between driving across and EU country in 4.5h vs driving across a US state in 4.5h?
      Tony
      • 5 Months Ago
      There is a very simple solution to improve truck safety--removing trucking's exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
      bugeyebill
      • 6 Months Ago
      they are forceing truck drivers to drive tired with the 14 hour rule. if you did,nt get a good nights sleep you can,t stop and take a rest break because you have to get all your driveing don in the 14 hours they allow. back in the day when trucking was enjoyable you could break up your sleep time so you could rest if you get tired. these people makeing these new stupid laws have probably never drove a truck.so they dont know what it like to be out there.trying to make a living.
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