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.