Federal Investigators Are Looking Into Whether Driver Fatigue Played A Part In The Walmart Tractor Trailer Accident That Killed One And Critically Injured Others Including Actor Tracy Morgan
The tractor trailer accident involving a Walmart truck that killed one comedian and seriously injured several others, including comedian Tracy Morgan is now under federal investigation after reports that the driver of the Wal-Mart vehicle may have experienced driver fatigue after reports he had not slept in 24 hours. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is now joining the New Jersey state investigation of the crash. Although Wal-Mart has reported that driver Kevin Roper was operating the vehicle under legal limits, the company has already released a public apology stating its regret over its involvement in the fatal accident.
Driver Kevin Roper has already been charged with four counts of vehicular assault and one count of death by auto following the accident where he crashed into a limousine van carrying Morgan and several other comedians. According to prosecuting attorney James O’Neill, criminal chargers after an accident are “not routine,” and the criminal charges are currently under investigation. Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon released a statement after the accident stating, “We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation.”
According to the preliminary state investigation, truck driver Roper had been awake for over 24 hours. However, the investigation has not proved if Roper was asleep at the wheel at the time of the crash. Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the NTSB told the Associated Press in a statement, “There were multiple vehicles involved, so we would like to see what issues are at play in this accident. As in all investigations, we will look at the work/rest schedule of the drivers.” Both state police and the NTSB will investigate safety issues both on the part of the truck driver and the limo driver to determine the cause of the accident.[ June 2014, http://www.cnbc.com/id/101741327]
The accident occurred just when U.S. lawmakers were considering ending rules that help prevent truck drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. Last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that suspended the main federal regulation that requires truck drivers to take extended breaks after reaching their weekly driving limits. According to Bloomberg News, this could undo 15 years of effort to reduce highway accidents and fatalities caused by truck drivers asleep at the wheel. However, before the driving cap is removed, the amendment must be approved by the senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. [ June 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-07/wal-mart-says-sorry-after-tracy-morgan-hurt-in-accident.html]
According to Parents Against Tired Truckers, the Teamsters Union, and the Truck Safety Coalition, U.S. truck crashes account for about 4,000 fatalities each year and injure over 100,000 additional people. The cost of these accidents reaches over $87 billion. Road safety organizations hope that the high-profile case will cause the amendment to be rejected. The American Trucking Associations have lobbied to ease the federal rules on driving laws. The current law requires drivers to rest for at least 10 hours after being on duty for 14 hours. A driver is also required to take a 30 minute break after the first 8 hours of driving. The amendment to the current law would relax driving standards to the previous law implemented in 2003. Both the federal and state investigation will look at whether the truck driver did engage in illegal driving and if fatigue played a role in the accident. [June 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/06/09/walmart-trucker-in-fatal-accident-that-injured-actor-tracy-morgan-awake-24/]