June 11, 2014 9:00 AM, EDT

Graves, ATA Respond on Turnpike Fatality

John Sommers II

In the wake of a much-publicized turnpike crash in New Jersey involving a truck and TV celebrity, ATA President Bill Graves appeared on NPR and CNN; he also wrote an opinion piece in USA TODAY today discussing the hours-of-service rules for truck drivers and trends in highway safety.

Graves appeared on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR (hear recorded program here and read transcript here). He also wrote an opinion piece that was published in USA TODAY today.

Graves spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello on June 10, following a June 7 accident that claimed the life of comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and severely injured Tracy Morgan, who starred on “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live.” The Associated Press said Kevin Roper was driving a heavy-duty truck for Wal-Mart Stores and that hit a chauffeur-driven car, in which McNair and Morgan were among the occupants.

Citing figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Costello said driver fatigue is a major problem. Graves said that while fatigue is somewhat of a factor on the nation’s highways, speeding and the lack of enforcement against that are much more significant contributors to traffic accidents. He also said that in a majority of cases where there is a truck-involved accident with a car, the commercial vehicle driver is not considered to be at fault in the accident report.

In USA TODAY, Graves wrote that ATA supports almost all of the hours-of-service rules for truck drivers; "What we take issue with are limitations on how that restart is used and the process employed to implement those new restrictions."

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, and Roper has been charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.