A deadly New Jersey Turnpike wreck involving a tractor trailer and a limousine carrying former Saturday Night Live comedian Tracy Morgan has increased pressure on Congress to not loosen limits on how long truckers can drive before taking a break.
Police in New Jersey say that the driver of a Walmart truck had not slept for at least a day when his truck slammed into a limousine van carrying Morgan and a companion, who was killed. Just two days before, a Senate committee voted to waive hours of service rules for truckers.
There have been at least four other wrecks that involved a truck smashing into the rear of a slow moving vehicle.
According to John Lannen, the executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition based in Arlington, Virginia (VA), this is a widespread trucker safety matter, and steps should be taken to correct the problem and not make it even worse.
Driver fatigue is one of the top issues the NTSB has raised in earlier crashes, and it has prompted new rules to cut down on the hours that drivers can be behind the wheel.
The main federal rule that requires truckers to take a long break after reaching a weekly time limit would be suspended for a full year under an amendment adopted by the Senate committee. This regulation set a cap of 70 hours on the workweek for truckers. It took effect last July and got much criticism from the industry.
Truck crashes caused almost 4000 fatal crashes. It was thought that the new hours of service rule would stop about 1400 truck crashes from happening. This would have saved up to 19 lives and avoided 550 injuries.