Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 10, 2014

Morgan crash underscores danger of tired truckers

(Continued)

The industry "strongly believes that drivers must take advantage of their off-duty periods for rest, and that drivers should not drive if they are fatigued," he said in a statement.

Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper had had no sleep for more than 24 hours before he plowed into the back of Morgan's limo bus about 1 a.m. on Saturday, according to local authorities. Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury Township and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. Instead, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured Mercedes limo bus, authorities said.

McNair was killed and Morgan, 45, a former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, and two other companions were hospitalized in critical condition. Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.

Scientists say sleep deprivation affects behavior much like alcohol, eroding judgment and slowing reflexes. In several accidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, commercial drivers suffering from lack of sleep have driven straight into vehicles clearly visible to them without applying brakes or applying them too late because they failed to grasp what they were seeing.

Accidents involving tired truckers also tend to have larger numbers of deaths and severe injuries because of the damaged inflicted by trucks weighing tens of thousands of pounds, according to investigators.

The provision added to the transportation spending bill by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and supported by the trucking industry, rolls back regulations governing driver hours that were put in place last summer by the motor carrier administration.

Before the regulations were put in place, long-haul truck drivers could start each work week after 34 hours off duty. After the regulations were put in place, drivers could still start a new work week after 34 hours off, but they can no longer do that every week.

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