Earlier this month, a now infamous truck accident killed comedian James McNair and left Tracy Morgan and two other men critically injured. In the weeks that followed, police said that the truck driver that hit Morgan’s limo bus had been awake for more than 24 hours. The driver of the Walmart truck recently pled “not guilty” to charges including vehicular homicide and assault by auto. On Monday, June 9, a Walmart spokeswoman said in a statement that the company believed the driver was operating within federal hours of service regulations, specifically shifts of no longer than 14 consecutive hours, with only 11 behind the wheel.
Last year, federal regulations changed, allowing truckers to drive no more than 70 hours in a 8-day workweek, instead of the previous 82 hour maximum. A trucker who reaches the 70-hour max must rest for 34 hours before restarting his workweek. The 34-hour restart must include two periods of time from 1am to 5am. Truckers also may not drive more than 14 hours a day.
Hours-of-service regulations are created to prevent truck drivers from driving while tired. Recent estimates place the number of yearly fatalities caused by truck accidents at 4,000. Seventy-three percent of those fatalities are people in vehicles other than the tractor trailer. Driver fatigue is thought to be a contributing factor in 20 percent of truck accidents.
Morgan was left with a broken leg, broken nose and broken ribs after the limo bus he was riding in was hit from behind by a tractor trailer on Saturday, June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Another comedian, known by his stage name Jimmy Mack, was killed in the accident. Two other people in the van were also seriously injured.