There may be some significant changes to the trucking industry following the tragic accident involving Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike. However, innovative changes in trucking safety following a catastrophic accident with a celebrity are nothing new.
In the 1960s, Jayne Mansfield, a movie star and pinup model died in a horrific car accident when her vehicle rear-ended a semi-truck at high speed. All adult passengers seated upright in Mansfield’s car died instantly in the crash from head injury as the vehicle slipped under the tractor-trailer. As a result, today’s semi-trailers are equipped with Mansfield Bars that provide a protective barrier to drivers and passengers in rear end collisions.
Because of Mansfield’s celebrity status, her gruesome death in the collision made national news. In response to the nation’s horror, The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) made technical improvements requiring the installation of a Mansfield bar on the back of freight trucks.
Unfortunately, in the decades ahead, the requirements for the safety bar became lax, where now nearly every truck on the highway is exempt from the requirement. The position of the Mansfield bar on new tractor-trailers is high enough to allow a small vehicle to go under it.
Another Horrific Accident On The Highway
In June 2014, Kevin Roper, a trucker driving a Walmart 18-wheeler on the New Jersey Turnpike, failed to brake in time and rear-ended a vehicle in a horrific crash. The van that was struck contained Tracy Morgan, a comedian and actor, along with other passengers and driver. One passenger was killed and others, including Morgan, were severely injured.
At the time of the collision that caused injuries and a fatality, the Walmart truck was traveling at excessive speeds. The NHTSA calculated Roper was driving 20 miles higher than the posted speed limit. His failure to respond to the slow-moving traffic and posted speed limit signs is thought to be caused to excessive fatigue.
The trucker allegedly had remained awake for the previous 24 hours. Though tired and fatigued, he had less than a half an hour before arriving at his destination in Perth Amboy, where he would be required to stop, having been on duty that day for 14 hours.
Morgan Files a Lawsuit To Recover Compensation For Injuries
As a way to hold Walmart and the trucker accountable for their negligence, Tracy Morgan has filed a lawsuit against the defendants. An additional defendant in the lawsuit includes the manufacturer of the automatic collision detection technology installed in the truck that failed to stop the vehicle in time.
At the time of the accident, stories concerning the length of time the trucker was allowed to drive each day became headline news, because of the celebrity status of Morgan. Federal rules regulating the trucking industry have long touted how new truck driving behavior rules and technology are making the roads safer. Morgan’s accident shined light on the inaccuracies of that conclusion.
Injuries and Death: Common Results From Truck Driver Negligence
While nearly everyone in the nation was horrified of the accident involving a Walmart truck and Tracy Morgan’s van, nearly 4,000 individuals die each year in collisions involving semi-trucks, and an additional hundred thousand individuals suffer serious injuries. This is because truckers often drive fatigued when moving 80,000 pound loaded vehicles along the nation’s highways.
When a trucker drives while feeling drowsy, their ability to react to any roadway emergency is greatly diminished. Because of that, even a simple accident can be catastrophic or deadly.
Federal Trucker Regulations
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is in charge of setting rules and regulations outlining how long a truck driver can operate their vehicle each day. Before beginning their daily shift, the trucker must have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
While driving, the truck driver can only operate the commercial vehicle for eight straight hours before needing to stop for a minimum of 30 minutes. In addition, operating the truck for a 14-hour shift restricts driving the vehicle for 11 hours or less.
Unfortunately, the amount of time the driver spends behind the wheel often correlates directly to the financial incentive to get the delivery there on time. Truckers are often faced with grueling schedules and impractical deadlines whether they are being paid by the job, the mile or by the hour.
The FMCSA is continuously studying the negative downside to road safety as it correlates to truck driver financial compensation. Many in the trucking industry believe that paying drivers better wages can minimize accidents on the road and provide a safer environment across the nation’s highways. Steps need to be taken now to improve highway safety because one more injury or fatality on the road caused by truck driver fatigue is too many.