The 2014 commercial trucking accident that left comedian Tracy Morgan in critical condition and another man dead involved a driver from one of the largest multinational retail corporations in the world: Wal-Mart.
This has prompted questions on the larger scale about truck driver safety and trucking industry regulation. Shouldn't such a well-known, established corporation have better control over the practices of its workers? Who is regulating the hours for these commercial drivers?
Federal transportation officials point the finger at companies who pressure workers to meet deadlines and make deliveries. But the companies point their finger right back, claiming that new regulations restrict their drivers and cause them to get their driving hours in a small window. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a number of regulations in place that limit the amount of time drivers may operate their vehicles before taking breaks.
Truck Accidents Caused By Lack of Sleep
Both sides continue to debate who the guilty party may be, but meanwhile thousands of innocent drivers are put in danger every day as they drive on near trucks. Sleep-deprived driving has become far too common a cause of deadly accidents. These fatal accidents can often involve large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles.
Reports show that drowsy driving is a leading cause of crashes and highway fatalities, making the matter even more of a debate topic. According to statistics, every year an estimated 30,000 people are killed on highways, with accidents involving trucks claiming responsibility for one in seven of those fatalities. Because of the sheer size and weight of these massive transportation vehicles, truck drivers who operate their vehicles while fatigued sleepy put others on the roads at disproportionate risk.
Complicated issue comes with proving driver fatigue. Though the United States Department of Transportation has enforced new rules on estimated percentages of drowsy driving, advocates insist that accidents are still underreported. Truck drivers are hesitant to admit drowsy driving, especially when facing potential criminal charges.
Improving Driver Regulations & Minimizing Accidents
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman shared that the truck involved in the truck accident involving Tracy Morgan was outfitted with GPS and logging technology that records how many hours a driver has been on the road, which can help better monitor drowsy driving. Equipped with this information, the company claimed that they believe their driver had not gone over federal guidelines. Still, prosecutors claimed that the driver had not slept in more than 24 hours, making fatigue a major cause of the accident.
After Tracy Morgan settled the suit against Wal-Mart in the summer of 2015, the driver still faced criminal charges. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash revealed that not only did Roper fail to slow down immediately before the crash, he had also not had any sleep in 28 hours prior to the crash.
In other measures to decrease the number of accidents caused by drowsy driving, many trucks are now outfitted with anti-collision technology that is designed to alert drivers if they are swerving into other lanes and slow down the truck automatically if traffic up ahead is slowed or stopped. While this new technology could serve as a major solution to the drastic accident statistics, it still does not address the root of the problem. Driver fatigue will continue to play a huge role of controversy in the trucking industry, especially as more and more innocent individuals become victims of devastating accidents.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, seek legal counsel from Arnold & Itkin right away. Our firm can review your case to determine if driver fatigue played a factor. Call (888) 490-0442 today.