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6/10/2014 11:30:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Turnpike Crash Cited by Opponents of Relaxed HOS Rules

The deadly New Jersey Turnpike crash that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan is emboldening opposition to efforts in Congress to loosen limits on how many hours truckers can be on the road.

Police say the driver of a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. truck hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours when his tractor-trailer struck a limousine van, whose occupants included Morgan. Two days earlier, a Senate committee voted to suspend federal hours-of-service rules for truckers that had taken effect last July.

At least four other accidents under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board involved circumstances in which truck drivers struck slower traffic ahead, Don Karol, director of NTSB’s highway safety office, said in a Web post. The latest accident raised enough concern that the agency, which examines only a small fraction of highway accidents each year, sent a team to investigate.

ATA RESPONSE: Graves talks safety on CNN.

“This just tells you this is a widespread problem, and we need to be taking steps to correct it and not make it worse,” John Lannen, executive director of the Arlington, Virginia-based Truck Safety Coalition, said in an interview.

Driver fatigue is one of the issues NTSB has raised in previous accidents, and it has prompted recommendations to restrict the hours drivers can be at the wheel, Karol said.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington-based group that works with the insurers, is drafting a letter to members of the House of Representatives asking them not to support the Senate amendment provisions, according to Cathy Chase, vice president of governmental affairs for the group.

The main federal regulation requiring truckers to take an extended break after reaching weekly time limits would be suspended for one year under the amendment adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The regulation, which set a 70-hour cap on a trucker’s workweek, had taken effect July 1 and immediately drew criticism from the industry.

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By Alan Levin
Bloomberg News

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