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Once Again, Commercial Driver Fatigue Found to Have Caused Fatal Crash

Earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board released its Report on the cause of the June 7, 2014 Walmart tractor-trailer crash on the New Jersey Turnpike involving the limousine occupied by Tracy Morgan and several other passengers. Morgan sustained a serious brain injury in the crash and another passenger, James McNair, was killed.

At the time of the crash, the Walmart tractor trailer was travelling 65 mph in a 45 mph work zone. The commercial vehicle failed to slow and then stop before crashing into the limousine.

The NTSB investigated the crash and concluded that the driver of the Walmart truck was at fault for causing the accident. Specifically, the Board determined that the driver, Kevin Roper, was not only speeding, but fatigued while driving. Records revealed that Roper had been awake for more than 28 hours before the crash, and that he had driven 12 hours in his personal vehicle before he started his job on the morning before the accident. Apparently, Roper traveled from his home in Georgia to a Walmart facility in Delaware immediately before he logged in for duty driving the Walmart truck. Although he had been awake for 28 straight hours and had been driving for 13.5 hours at the time of the crash, the NTSB found that no federal commercial driving law was broken since Roper was still a half hour short of his 14- hour duty limit. Roper was charged with vehicular homicide and assault by automobile. He pleaded not guilty.

According to the NTSB, Walmart advised it would develop a “fatigue management program” that would educate drivers about the need to be well-rested before reporting for duty. There have been suggestions that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopt a similar program and require fatigue management measures for commercial vehicle carriers.

The NTSB report contained recommendations designed to improve nearly every group that was directly or indirectly involved in the crash, including:

  • Commercial Carrier Firms: 1) Develop a fatigue management program for drivers; 2) Require commercial drivers to live within 250 miles of the place they report for work or require that they be at the starting point of duty at least 9 hours before their shift begins.
  • National Limousine Association: 1) Urge limousine passengers to wear seatbelt restraints; 2) Require limousine drivers to give passengers a pre-trip safety briefing.
  • Limousine Manufacturers: Require that passenger compartments have at least two exits.
  • Emergency Responders: Require minimum standard training on triage procedures.

Seems like easy, common-sense measures that would have improved safety, prevent injuries and saved lives.