Truck Driver Fatigue
Just when we were growing complacent about truck driver safety, famous comedian, Tracy Morgan, was critically injured by a Wal-Mart truck driver. The truck crash that killed comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and injured Tracy Morgan and three other passengers may give new urgency to a long-running debate over federal rest rules for commercial truckers. (The driver of the Wal-Mart truck reportedly had not slept for 24 hours.)
Only three days before this commercial trucking accident, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), successfully pushed through an amendment peeling back recent reforms aimed at curbing trucker fatigue. Currently, federal regulations permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel. Drivers must have at least 10 hours off between work shifts to sleep. Trucking safety advocates hope that the fatal truck crash will motivate Congress to reject the amendment proposed by Sen. Collins.
Federal data show Wal-Mart trucks have been involved in 380 crashes in the past two years. The crashes have caused nine deaths and 129 injuries. The company has 6,200 trucks and 7,200 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and they drove 667 million miles last year.
Perhaps more tragic, is the fact that if Tracy Morgan was not involved in the accident, we would not be having this discussion. Good people die every day as a result of commercial driver negligence. This sentiment is shared by Daphne Izer who started Parents Against Tired Truckers in 1994, the year after her 17-year-old son was killed, along with three friends, in a crash involving a truck driven for Wal-Mart. “People die every day in accidents, but you never hear tell because they’re not famous.”
According to Parents Against Tired Truckers, U.S. truck crashes kill about 4,000 people each year and injure 100,000 more, at a cost of some $87 billion annually.
Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that the company “will take full responsibility” if authorities determine its truck caused the accident. Let’s hope Wal-Mart keeps its word.
We have discussed truck driver fatigue before, but the warning of the Supreme Court of Virginia bears repeating:
These trucks, sometimes inordinate in size, measurably monopolize our highways and add to the peril of their use, and it is in the light of their potential destructiveness that a high degree of care is but ordinary care. Boggs v. Plybon, 157 Va. 30, 160 S.E. 77. Automobiles may not be in themselves dangerous instrumentalities but freight cars which operate along the public highway, intended for the common use of all the people, are.
Aronovitch v. Ayres, 169 Va. 308, 318, 193 S.E. 524, 526 (1937).
If you or someone you know has been severely injured in a trucking accident, call Cuthbert Law Offices. We are available for emergencies 24 hours a day at (804) 485-2555.