The June 7th truck crash that claimed the life of James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan and three other passengers has given new urgency to a long-running debate over federal rest rules for commercial truckers. According to the criminal charges against the driver of the Wal-Mart truck, Kevin Roper, he had not slept in 24 hours before he struck the limousine bus carrying Morgan, McNair, and others. Mr. Roper has been charged with vehicular homicide for reckless vehicle operation causing the death of McNair, and recklessly causing serious bodily injury for the injuries to Morgan and others. The crash occurred at about 1 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, 2014 on the New Jersey Turnpike when Roper drove the Wal-Mart tractor trailer into the rear of the limousine bus.
The American Trucking Association has been lobbying Congress to ease federal rules that limit truckers’ schedule to 70 hours in a period of about two weeks. Prior rules allowed 82 hours during the same time period. The new rules imposed last summer by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration also require a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a driving shift. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, has even weighed in on the subject, stating “whether behind the wheel of a truck, or automobile or motorcycle, if you’re that tired, you need to pull over and get some sleep.”
Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, disputed that Mr. Roper was working for 24 hours. “It is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations,” she said. The National Transportation Safety Board is also “gathering factual information” about the accident. Keith Holloway, a spokesman for NTSB, said the board doesn’t investigate private companies like Wal-Mart; however, he indicated that Wal-Mart’s driver protocols shall be strictly scrutinized.
Tyrone Gale, Morgan’s driver, said the former Saturday Night Live star cried for help but he was unable to assist him after the vehicle overturned. Morgan is currently in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
If you or someone you know have been injured or killed due to the negligence or wrongdoing of a trucking company, 18-wheeler driver, or commercial vehicle, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.