New Jersey Turnpike Crash, Which Killed James McNair And Injured Tracy Morgan, Puts Lax Trucking Regulations Front And Center

The debate about traffic rules and working conditions for truck drivers, sparked by a car crash two weeks ago, which killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured Tracy Morgan and two other passengers, still rages on. The latest report by the US National Transportation Safety Board points out that Kevin Roper, the Walmart truck driver, who stands accused of causing the crash, was going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone just before the June 7 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The board puts this information in the context of Roper’s schedule for the previous day, which saw him leaving a Wal-Mart facility in Smyrna, Delaware, at about 11:30 a.m. before making stops in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Just after midnight on June 7 he left Bristol, Pennsylvania, en route to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, when the crash happened about 30 minutes into his trip. This means that Roper had been driving for a full 13 ½-hour stretch of time at the time of the pileup, which occurred on the notoriously dangerous New Jersey Turnpike.

Federal rules permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel.

Tracy Morgan
Tracy Morgan's condition after the crash was just upgraded from critical to fair this week.

Had Roper continued to his eventual destination in Perth Amboy, he would have been pushing the 14-hour limit if he drove at the speed limit. Newsday reports that on Thursday, a spokesperson for Walmart refused to comment on Roper’s itinerary.

The accident is now being cited in the National Union of Teamsters’ push to retain the tight limitations on truck drivers’ work hours. The current work limit is 60 to 70 hours per week, however the Senate is considering legislation that would extend this to 80 hours.

More: Tracy Morgan's Mother Banned From Comedian's Hospital Bedside

"The NTSB's preliminary findings in this case clearly show that truck drivers are pushing beyond the limits of the current hours of service rules," Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said.

At this point, the Safety Board is also looking into Roper’s activities on the days prior to the crash to determine the amount of sleep he was getting at the time. 

More: Tracy Morgan's "Recovery Is Progressing" After Car Crash, Rep Says

Watch Tracy Morgan and fellow comedians arrive at The Comedy Awards below.



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