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Controversy building – again – over truckers’ hours of service

Last week, a tanker truck rolled over on Interstate 17. Drivers heading north from Phoenix either sat in traffic or took alternate routes for hours following the crash. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the accident occurred when the tanker drifted into another lane and the driver overcorrected. The driver was apparently not hurt, but officials estimated that several thousands of gallons of used motor oil — highly flammable used motor oil — spilled onto the highway.

AZCentral.com reported that the road reopened shortly around 1:30 p.m. It had taken nine hours to clean up the spill and to move the truck off the highway. Even without the official report, we can figure out that the driver drifted into that other lane around 4:00 in the morning.

It’s important to note that no one has accused the driver of any wrongdoing. No one has suggested that the accident was anything but an accident, a common driving mishap. No one has said anything about hours of service and mandatory rest periods for truckers. But, in light of the highly publicized crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan, it is hard not to drift into that lane.

Morgan was listed in critical condition for days following the accident on June 7. Two other occupants of his vehicle were injured, and another, the comedian James McNair, was killed. The driver of a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of Morgan’s limo van, triggering a six-vehicle accident. The truck driver now faces criminal charges; police say he had been awake for 24 hours.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary investigation found that the truck had been speeding for at least 60 seconds before the collision. The NTSB also noted that the driver’s logs for June 6 showed that he had not exceeded the 11-hour driving limit or the 14-hour shift length imposed on truckers by federal law.

But the NTSB has a few more questions. We’ll get into those in our next post.

 

Sources:

AZCentral.com, “I-17 reopens north of Phoenix after oil spill closes freeway for 9 hours,” Corina Vanek (The Republic), June 26, 2014

CNN, “NTSB: Truck in Tracy Morgan crash was speeding, driver neared rest limits,” Alan Duke, June 19, 2014

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