Walmart has for a long time prided itself on the safety of its huge fleet of tractor trailers around the US. Now, however, the company is facing serious questions about safety, after a high profile wreck involving a Walmart truck that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed one of his companions. That crash occurred on the NJ Turnpike last weekend.
It turns out that the truck driver, Kevin Roper, 35, had not had any sleep for more than 24 hours before the wreck, which occurred at 1 am June 7.
Walmart noted in a statement that it thought that its driver was in full compliance with federal regulations, which require that drivers work no more than 11 hours straight, followed by 10 hours of rest.
Walmart’s CEO noted in a statement this week that the firm will take full responsibility for the crash, if investigators conclude that was the cause.
Walmart has always made a strong point of focusing on the safety of its fleet, as well as its efficiency. Last year, the company gave a new truck to a driver who had logged three million safe miles of driving.
The truck that was in the wreck did have a system to warn the driver of stopped traffic ahead, and that system would automatically slow it down.
This did not help in the incident, where Roper allegedly did not see traffic slowing down in front of him. He swerved before slamming into a Mercedes limo bus that carried Morgan and his companion James McNair, who died in the crash.
There has been considerable pressure building on federal regulators to enact tougher restrictions on truck drivers, to limit the number of hours they can drive before resting. According to John Lannen, the executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition based in Arlington, Virginia (VA), driver fatigue is a serious trucker safety matter, and steps should be taken to correct the problem soon, because lives are at risk.