The Bay area trucking community is responding to allegations that a Walmart big rig driver didn't sleep for more than 24 hours before he slammed into a luxury limo, critically injuring an NBC star and killing his friend.
"No driver should be up that long," said Randy Wilson, a co-owner operator of a truck out of Pinellas County.
Prosecutors charged the driver, 35-year-old Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Georgia, with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto in connection with the New Jersey accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his close friend James McNair.
Federal regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of driving during a 14-hour work day, with no more than 70 hours a week on the road without extra breaks.
"With regards to news reports that suggest Mr. Roper was working for 24 hours, it is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations," said Brooke Buchanan, Walmart spokeswoman, in a release issued late Monday. "The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing and unfortunately we can't comment further on the specifics."
Earlier in the weekend, Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon issued an apology.
"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," Simon said in a statement. "The facts are continuing to unfold. If it's determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility."
In December 2011, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published new safety requirements for commercial truck drivers which ultimately reduced the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week from 82 hours within a seven-day period to 70 hours. It also required truck drivers to take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving more than eight hours as well as other rules. Companies had to comply by July of last year.
"Fatigue is a big concern of ours because for the very basic reason that commercial transportation is mostly 24/7 hours and humans are not," said Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
The president of the American Trucking Associations thinks it boils down to personal responsibility.
"No rule can address what a driver does in his or her off-duty time," ATA President and CEO Bill Grave said, in part. "We support 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. 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."
He also claimed fatigue is a factor in fewer than 10% of all truck crashes.
"ATA believes we need to do far more to address the other 90% of crashes," Grave stated.