What a commercial truck driver does when he or she is off duty and away from the job “is critically important,” says National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart, with the underlying implications of those words being clearly understood from the larger context of Hart’s message.
What Hart is really driving at is this: Commercial drivers need to pay more attention to unwinding and resting — that is, actually sleeping — when they are not in their rigs behind the wheel.
The NTSB centrally conveyed that message in recent public statements delivered by Hart relating to a high-profile truck accident last year involving a Wal-Mart driver.
That driver was overly fatigued, an agency investigation concluded, which was a central reason he didn’t heed obvious warning signals in a construction zone and slammed into a limousine van carrying actor and comedian Tracy Morgan.
One of Morgan’s friends died in the accident. Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple broken bones.
Crash investigators concluded that the driver hadn’t slept in well over a day and had already been on the road for close to 14 hours when his truck slammed into the van, which was traveling at a slow speed. NTSB officials estimated that the truck was traveling at about 65 miles per hours at the time of impact.
Wal-Mart reached a settlement with Morgan earlier this year in a civil lawsuit that was filed by the comedian. The company apologized to Morgan and stated that the crash would be a catalyst for fundamentally improved safety policies governing its drivers.
Reportedly, about 4,000 people die in the United States each year in accidents involving trucks.
Source: Bloomberg, “Tracy Morgan crash blamed on truck driver fatigue, NTSB says,” Alan Levin and Jeff Plungis, Aug. 11, 2015