It seems incredible that a truck driver could not know he was putting others on the road at risk by driving for nearly an entire day without a break. But in the recent truck crash that injured actor Tracy Morgan and killed comedian James McNair, that seems to be exactly what happened—and lawmakers seem to be going the opposite way when it comes to preventing these kinds of crashes.
Trucker Was Speeding and Missed Traffic Signs Before Crash
According to CNN, the truck driver who struck Morgan's limo on June 7th, “had not slept” in over 24 hours and committed a number of violations before the crash, including:
- Speeding – According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Wal-Mart truck rear-ended Morgan was traveling at 65 mph—20 mph over the limit—for at least 60 seconds prior to the accident.
- Inattention – The trucker either did not see, or ignored, at least two posted traffic signs before the accident site warning of closed lanes due to construction and a notice that the speed limit had been reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph.
- Fatigue – Federal regulations dictate that truckers cannot drive for more than 11 hours per day. While the trucker in this case was below the limit, he had logged a total driving time of 9 hours, 37 minutes—an amount that could significantly reduce attention span and reaction time.
Congress Considering Lifting the Restrictions on Trucker Hours
In order to keep drivers on U.S. roadways safe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets strict limits on the amount of time commercial truckers can spend behind the wheel each day. All semi and tractor-trailer operators must keep a log of all the time they spend driving, loading, unloading, sleeping, and how long they spent taking rest breaks. In addition to driving fewer than 11 hours each day, truckers cannot work for more than 14 hours in one day, whether they perform driving or non-driving activities.
Many people think these regulations are inadequate, and should be restricted even further. However, companies are lobbying congress to take the opposite action, and have proposed a measure that would raise the maximum of 70 hours a week of drive time and allow truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week. This could mean a considerable increase in risk for those who wince every time a semi changes lanes at the Intersection of I-635 and the Kansas Turnpike.
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