Federal Investigators Are Looking At Commercial Trucking Safety

Christie Duffy

On 911 tapes released just today– drivers who saw the deadly pile up involving a Walmart big rig called out for help.

Now federal investigators are looking closely at commercial trucking and safety issues. In the wake of the fatal turnpike accident that left one man dead and several people injured. Including actor-comedian Tracy Morgan who remains in critical condition.

Kevin Roper, the driver of the Walmart truck had not slept for 24 hours. Federal regulations say drivers can only be on the road for 11 concurrent hours. And in New Jersey, it’s a crime to get behind the wheel if you haven’t slept in 24 hours.

But Walmart maintains the driver “was operating within the federal hours of service regulations.”

Roper is facing charges and he is expected in court tomorrow.

There are more trucks registered to travel on New Jersey roadways today than at any other point in history. Those that cross state lines fall under federal regulations, including all of the large vehicles involved in this weekend’s crash.

But even as the number of registered trucks has risen to a record 3.2 million in recent years. The NHTSA reports that the number of fatal accidents involving the big rigs declined to 57 between 2009 and 2011.

In an effort to save more lives new federal regulations went into effect last year crack down on the amount of time commercial drivers can be behind the wheel without a break.

The American Trucking Association says some of the restrictions may be having an adverse affect and truckers we talked to today agreed.

“Most drivers are against a lot of the rules they have. These new rules have really changed their system and it’s changed it into a game of beat the clock for drivers now,” said truck driver Tracy Robinson.

But then just last week the U.S. Senate appropriations committee passed an amendment that would loosen those new rules for truck drivers.

Republican Senator Susan Collins sponsored the amendment which passed 29 to one.

“The new federal rules have presented some unintended and unanticipated consequences that are not in the best interest of public safety, truck drivers, businesses and the consumers,” said Collins.

Critics are crying foul on the move to roll back driver rules, especially after this weekend’s high profile crash.

“You know last week senate appropriates. I’ll advised and unsafe,” said Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety President Jackie Gillan.

The proposed commercial driver rule change now heads to the full senate for a vote.