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Tracy Morgan Accident Shows Risks of Truck Driver Fatigue

June 20, 2014

Comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a serious collision earlier this month, suffering a broken femur, several broken ribs and a broken nose. The former cast member from “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” was riding in a limo bus that was struck by a tractor-trailer along a congested area of the New Jersey Turnpike. AP News reported the driver of the big rig had not slept for more than 24 hours before the collision. The trucker faces criminal charges, including one count of death by auto for the death of comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair as well as four counts of assault by auto for injuring Tracy Morgan and three other people.

The tragic truck accident is being blamed on a fatigued driver, and is drawing new attention to a recent action by the Senate Appropriations Committee to weaken regulations on truck-driver rest periods that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had passed. It is also an important reminder of the tremendous risk when any driver, but especially a truck driver, is overtired.

A drowsy driver may be just as dangerous as an intoxicated driver, and the fatigued driver can be held legally liable for compensating victims if he causes an accident. Personal injury lawyers in Illinois at Coplan + Crane, Ltd. can help victims to take legal action to pursue a claim for monetary damages.

Fatigue Can Cause Deadly Crashes

The trucker blamed for the Tracy Morgan crash was driving for Wal-Mart at the time of the accident. He reportedly failed to slow down when there was traffic ahead in a construction area and ended up being forced to swerve in order to avoid hitting the backs of the vehicles in front of him. When he swerved, the semi hit the back of Morgan’s chauffeured limo bus.

The President of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has stated that Wal-Mart will accept full responsibility if authorities determine that the truck caused the wreck. The accident is still under investigation, but criminal charges have already been filed against the trucker and the complaint indicates he hadn’t slept for more than a day. The basis for this assertion has not been revealed.

Federal regulations impose limits on the number of hours that truckers can work, and Wal-Mart says the company believes that the driver was following the rules. Under the current FMCSA guidelines, truckers can work as long as 14 hours per day but may drive only a total of 11 hours during this 14-hour period. Drivers have to take at least 10 hours off between their shifts to sleep. The FMCSA also has imposed a mandatory rest break of at least 34-consecutive hours (called a “restart period”). The restart period must occur after a driver has driven for at least 60 hours over the course of a week and it must include at least two overnight periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

It is this mandatory rest-period provision that the Senate Appropriates Committee voted to undermine. The Appropriations Committee passed an amendment suspending the 34-hour restart period, despite the fact that this was specifically designed to reduce the dangers of truck driver fatigue.

A Chicago accident attorney can help after an injury. Call Coplan + Crane, Ltd. at 800-394-6002 or visit to schedule your free consultation.