A Wal-Mart truck driver has been charged in the fatal New Jersey traffic accident that left comedian Tracy Morgan critically injured. According to a criminal complaint filed Monday, that driver had not slept in more than 24 hours.
Now this accident is shinning a spotlight on trucking rules and regulations.
Scott Rush is always hitting the road sometimes driving hundreds of miles at a time. His routine includes driving from Florida to West Virginia, Ohio and up to Canada.
“We’re out here just trying to make a living like everybody else,” said a father of two four-year-old twins.
He said no matter where he goes or how far he travels he always makes safety his top priority, especially if he feels tired.
“I usually try and find the first rest stop. Sometimes it is 300 miles away, sometimes it is 20 so you can at least take a couple hour nap so you can refresh,” said Rush.
However, there are many truckers who don't pull over. They choose to load up on energy drinks or caffeine instead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates about 100,000 crashes happen each year because of this.
“I think some of them try and stretch it. It just seems that every time you look on the news or on the Internet you see tractor trailer crashing or rolling over,” said Christian Watts, who lives in Scott Depot, West Virginia.
According to federal law, those driving commercial trucks are restricted to only driving 11 hours a day after spending a minimum of 10 hours off duty. Truck drivers are also limited to a 70-hour work week and required to take a 30 minute break during the first eight hours of a driving shift.
“You hear the old stories, the old guys saying how they did it in the old days. Where it wasn't as safe, the equipment wasn't as safe. It wasn't as regulated,” said Alan Herbst, a truck driver from Michigan. “Now that the money has come up and safety regulations are a little harsher, everyone is a little more keen on the rules.”
However, those driving and resting rules may be suspended in the near future. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has passed an amendment that would undo those required break periods.
The 70-hour cap on a driver’s workweek has drawn criticism from the trucking industry when the regulation took effect last July. Since then, the industry has been lobbying for the rules to change.