Fatigued semi-trailer drivers are a significant safety risk on our roads here in West Virginia and across the country. Federal regulations limit the number of hours a trucker can be on the road without rest, but some say that these rules need to be even stricter. In the aftermath of a truck accident that left one man dead and critically injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan among others, this issue has landed under a spotlight.
The crash occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike when a Wal-Mart semi-trailer rear-ended a limousine carrying Morgan and six other people. One person in the limo was killed.
The truck driver is facing criminal charges for death by auto and assault by auto, and he has pleaded not guilty. The criminal complaint claims that the driver had not slept for more than 24 hours before the crash.
Wal-Mart has countered that the driver was not in violation of federal hours of service regulations, which require truck drivers to work no longer than 14 hours, with only 11 spent behind the wheel. Of course, Wal-Mart and the driver may be held liable if the truck accident was due to either party’s negligence.
The Associated Press has noted that nine people have lost their lives in crashes with Wal-Mart trucks in the last 24 months alone. Despite this, Wal-Mart says that its private fleet–the fourth largest in the nation–is one of the safest in the country.
The truck involved in this crash was reportedly outfitted with state-of-the-art collision-prevention systems, which make it all the more puzzling why this fatal accident occurred. The truck had a system that was meant to warn the driver of stopped traffic ahead and even slow the vehicle down, but nonetheless the truck seems to have failed to slow down when approaching the limo.
The future of this case and any resulting changes to regulations remain to be seen.