Driver fatigue is linked to a horrific traffic truck accident recently that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan, and killed one person in his car. The accident once again spotlights the urgent issue of truck driver safety, especially the need to establish rules that limit hours of service.
According to reports, the driver in this case was so drowsy that he was unable to control his speed in response to slow-moving traffic ahead. As a result, he veered out of control, and crashed into a limo carrying the actor and members of his staff. Morgan sustained critical injuries, and will need extensive hospitalization, rehabilitation, and therapy.
The National Transportation Safety Board has begun an investigation into the accident. The Board will soon come out with its report, and is likely to point to the role of driver fatigue in this accident.
The truck driver is facing criminal charges linked to the semi accident, but this accident once again spotlights why we need to revisit the issue of truck driver safety. Recently, a Senate committee actually voted to modify trucker safety laws that were enacted last year. The changes were proposed by Senator Susan Collins, and as a result the rules that restrict the amount of time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel are temporary suspended. This includes the rule that prohibits truck drivers from being at the wheel between 1 AM and 5 AM before the start of their next work week. That rule was part of a package of regulations that went into effect last summer, with the goal of helping reduce truck driver fatigue.
The trucking industry has been adamantly opposed to any regulations that would reduce the number of hours worked by truck drivers because the industry claims that it will suffer millions of dollars in losses as a result of those restrictions. Yet, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the regulations could save as many as 19 lives, and prevent 516 injuries and as many as 1,400 truck accidents every year.
Truck drivers are already at a much higher risk of fatigue, because of the duties they perform. They drive long hours all alone on endless stretches of highway. And the risk increases when they are forced to work for longer hours by a trucking industry that wants to maximize profits at the cost of truck driver safety. Longer hours and greater fatigue results in the amplification of accident. It’s not just the truck driver’s own life and safety that are at risk, but also the lives of other motorists around the truck.