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Police: Walmart Trucker Awake More Than 24 Hours Before Crash

June 9, 2014

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UPDATED -- The truck driver for Walmart who faces multiple charges in the early Saturday morning crash that severely injured comedian and actor Tracy Morgan had not slept for more than 24 hours, according to court documents filed by police.

Kevin Roper faces multiple charges in the incident that happened along the New Jersey Turnpike when his rig ran into the back of a Sprinter limo carrying Morgan and several friends. The resulting chain reaction crash killed one person and left two others, in addition to Morgan, critically injured.

According to police in Cranbury Township, where the crash happened, Roper was operating the truck “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours,” though they aren’t saying if he was asleep at the wheel or not. Published reports say Roper failed to slow for traffic ahead and tried to swerve to avoid causing the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

Soon after the crash, Walmart said it would take full responsibility if it is determined its truck caused the incident. “This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation,” said Walmart President and CEO Bill Simon.

On Monday morning, Morgan was reportedly more responsive and showing signs of improvement after undergoing surgery for injuries that included broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg and a broken femur, though he is expected to be hospitalized for several weeks.

Late Monday, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves issued a statement about the crash because "the issue of highway safety, and in particular the safety of the trucking industry, has been at the forefront of the national conversation for several days," he said.

"First, as always, our thoughts are with the victims of this tragedy and their families. Every crash on our highways is a tragedy and that's why the industry places safety as our highest priority," said Graves.

He went on to address  several issues regarding the hours-of-service rules and driver fatigue generally.

"The hours-of-service rules, whether they are the current regulations, the pre-2013 rules, or the rules with changes we hope to see as a result of Congressional action , only place limits on driving and on-duty time and require that between work periods drivers take a minimum of 10 consecutive hours off-duty," Graves said. "But they do not dictate what drivers do during that off-duty period. No rule can address what a driver does in his or her off-duty time. The industry, including ATA, our member fleets, our state associations and the millions of safe, professional truck drivers on the road today, strongly believes that drivers must take advantage of their off-duty periods for rest and that drivers should not drive if they are fatigued."

According to Graves, "Good public policy and good regulations stem from good research and good data." He said this is why ATA supports "a suspension of the controversial and unjustified restrictions on use of the hours-of-service restart provision, which alters driver sleep patterns and puts more trucks on the road during more risky daylight hours."

Graved added, "It is also why we support mandatory use of electronic logging devices to track drivers' compliance with the hours of service requirements.  In addition, it is why we support more aggressive enforcement of traffic laws to combat distracted and aggressive driving as well as restricting the speeds of large trucks to 65 mph with mandatory electronic speed governors."

Graves noted that driver fatigue, "while an important safety issue, is a causal factor in less than 10% of all truck crashes, and ATA believes we need to do far more to address the other 90% of crashes."

Update adds ATA statement.

Comments

  1. 1. James [ June 10, 2014 @ 04:31AM ]

    Just like the ATA to bash truckers and claim we need more mandates. I thanks Wal-Mart is on elogs and nowhere have I heard speed was a factor. A ELD can't drive the truck and a truck running 65 mph will still do massive damage in stop traffic.

  2. 2. stanley [ June 10, 2014 @ 04:42AM ]

    Electronic logs would not have done anything to stop this accident from happening. It does not know if the driver was sleeping or not during his or her ten hour break. It will cause more accidents than it prevents. It is being force upon drivers by people who could not drive a truck if they had to. It is all about getting more production out of the equipment and driver. It's all about money, not safety.

  3. 3. McGruff [ June 10, 2014 @ 05:53AM ]

    Ok Mr. Graves, if 65 MPH speed limiters become mandatory, several of your ATA members will be forced to turn their trucks down. FedEx and UPS trucks travel significantly faster than 65 MPH. How will the slower speeds affect their profits?

  4. 4. Robert [ June 10, 2014 @ 06:09AM ]

    The title of the story is Driver Awake more than 24 hours before crash and yet no where in the story does is tell us how the authorities know that. How about we get rid of the fluff and get back to real reporting.

  5. 5. Willy [ June 10, 2014 @ 06:34AM ]

    ATA seems to be speaking out against the trucking industry. The deregulated trucking industry is so over regulated it is more appealing to be rouge than compliant. I think flying planes is less regulated and pays better.

  6. 6. Keith [ June 10, 2014 @ 12:19PM ]

    Bill Graves and the ATA are the most vocal proponents against the trucking industry as a whole and only wish to level the playing field for the largest carriers whom they represent.
    I also must take exception to his using a tragic situation to expound his political philosophy.
    EOBR's now called ELD's and electronic limiters for speed control will not make any real difference in how drivers utilize time of,, become distracted or in any other way fail to maintain control.
    Walmart and most other large companies currently utilize the EOBR devices and have speed limitations on their vehicles and yet if one were to really dig into the specifics those companies that utilize these devices and require drivers to proceed on a set schedule no matter the weather or driver fitness are the one who have the most accidents and other issues.
    I do think we would be safer and more efficient if the politicians and those without any real knowledge of what being a truck driver is really about would stay out of the rule making process and listen to those who do understand the mechanics of the real world of transportation then we would all be better off.

  7. 7. Steve [ June 10, 2014 @ 01:20PM ]

    As for the Walmart truck accident, I cannot comment with any degree of certainty since there are not enough facts at this point. All I can say is that it is tragic. As far as this article however, it appears that the ATA represents nothing more than extensive government regulations on the trucking industry as a whole. Their own comments prove as such! I for one would be interested in seeing truck accident statistics pre / post deregulation. I'd bet that there were fewer accidents pre deregulation. To start with, fuel was less than $1 per gallon, tires, parts and everything else needed for trucking were much lower. Add to that, rates were much much higher. Since deregulation we've had NAFTA, CARB, and cut throat rates working against the AMERICAN TRUCKER. In other words, we are forced to work longer and harder in the post deregulation era to just BARELY SURVIVE. I ask....... Is there any wonder?

  8. 8. Ruben Madrid [ June 14, 2014 @ 08:25AM ]

    Well guys I'm impress with you all, ATA is not a trucking association and maybe it is but not for Us small guys.
    Wish they let us sleep when we need to do it not when they want us to.

  9. 9. Thomas Watercott [ June 14, 2014 @ 08:25AM ]

    Everyone is saying the driver hadn't slept in excess of 24 hours prior to the accident but no ones reporting on how they know that, let's stop blaming the truck driver and wait until a thorough investigation is done and we have the facts, shame on the media for publishing rumors as fact and get us the facts & the whole story.

  10. 10. Steve [ June 14, 2014 @ 09:00AM ]

    I want to see more adaptive cruise, stability control, collision avoidance mandates, and FLEXIBLE HOS, some days I need little sleep, some days a lot of sleep. ALSO I agree Thomas

  11. 11. Doyle [ June 14, 2014 @ 09:51AM ]

    I'm sure Wal-mart uses elogs and speed limiters, so the only way the driver didn't get sleep is if he was doing other things during his break other than sleeping. What's the chance of him falling asleep the exact time the traffic stops? I think his view was limited and he was distracted by his phone or reaching for something or looking at the car beside him, and the babysitter and the slow truck most likely have nothing to do with it.

  12. 12. mark [ June 14, 2014 @ 12:27PM ]

    Bill Graves you need to be FIRED for your crazy talk 65 mph and e logs wall wart had both look so what now your NOT for the trucker that's why I'm not a member of ATA EVERYONE NEED TO JOIN OOIDA THERE THERE FOR TRUCKER GRAVES YOIR AN IDIOT

  13. 13. Tom [ June 14, 2014 @ 02:28PM ]

    Mr Graves comments were to trucking in general not specifically to the walmart crash so calling him an idiot and crazy nullifies your comments. This is tragic to have this happen in which this and all drivers are ultimately responsible for their actions.

  14. 14. Gilbert Garcia [ June 14, 2014 @ 08:50PM ]

    Mr. Graves, why your in the position you are in, only God knows.... Just like your friend Anne Ferro, you have no clue what your talking about. The rules that are in place now is what's pushing drivers to go go go go.... You think that the ONE SIZE FITS ALL approach is going to work for the trucking industry? You think that an ELOG is going to prevent any one from dieing on the road? Wishful thinking... I really think you should be releaved of all your duties ASAP. If you really want to know the trucking industry and what we go through on a daily basis, go get your own truck and hit the road.... You won't last six months.... YOU AND THE REST OF THE PEOPLE ON THE LEFT WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT THIS INDUSTRY IS ALL ABOUT!!!!!!!

 

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