A large truck crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed one of his colleagues recently spotlighted the ongoing problem with truck driver fatigue. The trucker had reportedly been awake for 24 hours prior to the wreck. Just days before that crash, U.S. Senators – spearheaded by Sent. Susan Collins of Maine – moved to weaken laws intended to curb accidents caused by tired truckers, which is the root cause in roughly 1 in 7 large trucking accidents.
Add to that the fact that one in every 10 fatal crashes involves a large truck, and this is reason for serious alarm.
In Maine, our Bangor truck accident lawyers understand there have been a series of major crashes involving large trucks just in the last few weeks.
- In Freeport, northbound traffic on Interstate 95 was snarled in a multi-vehicle crash involving two tractor-trailers and several other vehicles.
- In Moscow, five people were seriously injured after a logging truck driver lost control of the vehicle and overturned on Route 201. The load smashed into an SUV. Authorities believe the trucker’s tire may have blew out as he was rounding a corner. Among those injured was an 11-month-old girl. Four people were trapped in the mangled mass of metal, and had to be extricated by firefighters.
- In Monson, a 37-year-old St. Albans man was killed and several others were critically injured after a dump truck was struck by a tractor-trailer that jackknifed while rounding a turn on Route 15. The tractor slammed into the cab of the dump truck, crushing it.
- In Topsfield, a Langrage man was injured when his tractor-trailer drifted from the highway and rolled onto its side.
- In Danforth, a cement truck driver was injured when his truck rolled over, causing him to become trapped inside.
In the wake of the New Jersey crash and others here locally, Sen. Collins has caught heat from trucking safety advocates, who argue her amendment would suspend portions of the new rules regarding required truck driver rest periods. Specifically, Collins’ amendment, which was approved with bipartisan support, suspends for one year a law requiring truckers to use one 34-hour rest period after working a 70-hour span.
Those challenging this amendment with their own proposal, which goes into effect in October, say Collins’ measure will mean truckers can work up to 12 hours more in a given week – as many as 82 hours, as opposed to the 70-hour maximum currently in place. The ultimate fear is this will push trucking firms to work their drivers harder, forcing them to put in longer hours.
Already, safety advocates say too many protections have been whittled away.
For 70 years, truckers had been limited to 10-hour days. However, in 2003, the Bush Administration increased the limit to 14 hours. That rule is still on the books, along with exemptions in some situations where truckers are allowed to work 14-hour days.
However, the 34-hour rest period requirement was a recent addition intended to help improve highway safety. Suspending it will inevitably lead to more crashes.
In the crash that involved Tracy Morgan, a representative from Collins’ office was quoted as saying that if the initial findings of the investigation are proven true, the trucker would have been in violation of the rules even under Collins’ amendment.
If you are the victim of a Bangor truck accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
High-profile crash pits trucking safety advocates against Collins, June 18, 2014, By Scott thistle, Sun Journal