Tracy Morgan's Saturday limo crash is putting a spotlight on federal trucking regulations mandating nap times for long haul drivers. Police say the Walmart truck driver who plowed into the back of the funnyman's limo had not slept in 24 hours.
While it may seem like forcing fatigued drivers to take breaks would help keep them from dozing off at the wheel, federal regulations that went into effect about a year ago cause time-and-money-maximizing drivers to take breaks when they may not need them and then drive when they're tired.
Drivers all run on different sleep schedules, some of which can make adherence to the rules trickier and more costly. For example, if a driver's required 34-hour rest period ends in the middle of the afternoon, he or she must wait even longer to restart their workweek because the rest period did not include two consecutive nights as the regulations require.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed an amendment that would eliminate this rule.
Both opponents and proponents of the amendment are using the attention surrounding the Tracy Morgan crash to advocate for their positions.
The executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told NBC News:
If the regulations are so strict that a driver can't stop and take a break or take a nap when they need to, then I don't know how you can conclude anything other than the regulations have made highways less safe.
The Federal Motor Carrying Safety Administration (FMCSA) opposes the amendment and says the regulations increase safety and reduce crashes caused by fatigued drivers. The Obama administration opposes the amendment as well.
But the American Trucking Associations disagrees. The group's president released a statement addressing Morgan's crash in which he said the rules mess with a driver's normal sleep pattern and put more trucks on the road during riskier daylight hours. The statement also said that no federal regulation can dictate what a driver does during their time off, but the group strongly believes that drivers should rest when they're not working.
The amendment to ax the rule will now go to the Senate floor for a vote.