At the same time that Congress is considering whether to relax work rules for freight haulers, a truck driver's lack of sleep is being blamed for the highway crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed Connecticut resident James "Jimmy Mack" McNair.
Walmart trucker Kevin Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead on the New Jersey Turnpike and then swerved to avoid a crash.
Instead, his rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian McNair and injuring Morgan and three others.
Authorities said that Roper hadn't slept for more than 24 hours before the accident.
This comes at a time when a proposed change to federal regulations would effectively let drivers put in as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel.
The change is backed by the trucking industry and opposed by safety advocates and the Obama administration.
An amendment that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would repeal a requirement that drivers take a 34-hour break, including no driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on two consecutive days.
"This regulation dumps concentrated amounts of commercial traffic onto the highway system at 5:01 a.m. Monday, when people are trying to get to their offices and their businesses ... and deliver children to schools," says Phil Byrd, chairman of the American Trucking Associations.
The senator and trucking industry officials said it is safer for truckers to drive at night when there is less traffic.
Those who oppose the change point out that nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Do you want to share the road with a tired trucker? We didn't think so.
Copyright New Britain (Conn.) Herald. Distributed by the Associated Press.