Transportation Policy

Did Federal Trucking Regulations Influence Tracy Morgan's Car Crash?

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Tracy Morgan
David Shankbone

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

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  1. The Federal Motor Carrying Safety Administration

    … is entirely staffed by people who have never driven long-haul shifts for a living.

    1. Look, driving is for the little people. Planning and regulating, that’s for TOP MEN. No one who ever started out as a poor truck driver can make transition to TOP MAN.

  2. I drive down I95 S early in the mornings on days that I drop my wife off at work. At that time of the morning, 6am or so, there is a surprising amount of traffic, but it is mostly trucks and they drive like maniacs, way over the speed limit, which is 65, changing lanes without signaling and weaving in and out of other lanes. My goal on that road is that no matter how fast or slow I have to drive or how often I change lanes, is to stay as far away from those guys as possible, at all times.

    1. In NY and CT and probably some other nearby states, trucks aren’t allowed on parkways, such as the Merritt Parkway in CT. So we used to always use that instead of 95 because…no trucks. Or instead of taking the Bruckner Expressway in or out of NYC, take the Saw Mill Parkway because…no trucks. Does Maryland have “no trucks” highways?

      1. Yes, but going the route I need to drop wifey at work and go to my job, the only way to avoid 95 is to use roads where the speed limit is no more than 45mph and there are traffic lights. It increases the time a lot.

        In the afternoon when I go back to pick her up and head home, I will sometimes take the back way, as we call it, or I will just stay on 95 since it’s not as dangerous, more traffic but that means no one can drive 90+ MPH and cut across all 5 lanes with no signal.

        1. One of the things that totally messed me up when I moved to Washington was the lack of the “minor” highways. Around Seattle there are a few (99 is a godsend sometimes), but go a bit farther out and you’re looking at usually just one highway. I remember the first time I was coming back from a trip on I-5 and got jammed up in traffic. So I thought, “I’ll just look at the map, find a lesser highway just like I would have in CT or NY, and take that! Ha ha, suckers!”

          Then I looked at the map and…there were no lesser highways. It was I-5 or surface streets. I couldn’t escape. I didn’t like that.

          1. I don’t know if driving there is the same as it is in Portland, but the first time I drove around Portland, it totally freaked me out. I could not for the life of me, figure out why everyone was driving the same speed, obeying traffic laws, and everyone would let you merge into a lane any time you tried. I thought I had slipped into a parallel universe. Surely, these creatures driving the cars could not be human. One thing for sure is that they were NOT from the east coast of the USA.

            1. Yes, Portland is just as bad as Seattle. The Pacific Northwest drivers are, on average, the worst drivers I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. What you saw as them obeying traffic laws and driving the same speed actually turns out to be things like two drivers on a two lane road driving at exactly the same speed right next to each other, so that you cannot pass them if you want to go faster. And they’ll do this for miles and miles. Or them getting jammed up because the guy several cars ahead is turning left into traffic, and not even bothering to realize that the right lane is wide open if they would just look. Or the unexpected, totally nonsensical random lane changes for no reason. Or the driving directly in your blind spot with absolutely no realization that they’re in a blind spot. The list goes on. People are very aggressive drivers in the NE, but it gets traffic moving. Not so here. You can get stuck in traffic here for virtually no reason at any time. Oh look, a simple merge? Massive traffic. Cop pulls a guy over? Traffic. The sun is shining right into one direction’s windshield? Traffic. It’s raining? Traffic.

              1. There ought to be a law (just kidding) that trucks can only use the right lane…EVER. No passing at all. EVER. Punishable by pain of death. And I mean EVER. If there is a car broken down in the right lane, the trucks sit there until the tow truck comes and clears it.

                Oh, and make it legal to shoot at any truck not in the right lane.

              2. “exactly the same speed right next to each other, so that you cannot pass them if you want to go faster. And they’ll do this for miles and miles.”

                You see that everywhere. I absolutely loathe those types of drivers. Especially the ones in the left (express) lane reserved for PASSING. Worse, you manage to get in front of them including several cars and they REMAIN in the lane.

                There’s no excuse for such blatant disregard for driving etiquette.

                Quebec is probably worse than Washington in that here, people are so aggressive they don’t even want to do a complete stop in A SCHOOL ZONE sometimes.

                1. I…I don’t want to do a complete stop in a school zone either.

                  The side-by-side thing can be unreal. I’ve been on I-5 (I think?) in Oregon where it was only two lanes per direction, and had only two other people on the road…and they were both driving right next to each other at exactly the same speed (a few mph under the speed limit, of course), and just. Kept. Doing it. For miles and miles and miles, even though I got up right behind the one in the left lane to indicate I wanted to pass. Didn’t matter. Obliviousness and their lemming-like driving habit of using cars next to them to pace themselves made that an excruciating experience.

                  1. Is it obliviousness or some bizarre feeling of civic obligation to contain faster, potentially lawbreaking drivers?

                    There are very few very urban spots in New Mexico, which means thousands of miles of four-lane highways across the state. Only rarely do you get that sort of behavior. Slow drivers, sure, but they keep to the right.

                    1. It’s obliviousness. There is a pathological laziness in a majority of the drivers out here, where they just want to put the least possible effort into driving, and this results in obliviousness. Knowing exactly what’s around you requires a little effort, as does figuring out why the car in front of you has stopped unexpectedly, or realizing that that guy next to you is going to need to merge in a moment, and so on.

                      This effect can be seen most of all on weekends and holidays. The drivers become even more retarded when there is the slightest excuse to drive with even less effort put in. I am not the only non-native to notice this. Every transplant here that I talk to about driving, especially from the Northeast, notices the same thing.

            2. Portland is a special sort of driving hell. I84 is extremely curvy, which results in slow downs because driver’s lines of sight are so terrible. It so curvy, I often wonder what blighted neighborhoods were taken out with 84’s creation. I405 South goes from 6 lanes down to two! 26/405 exchange is a mess. Don’t worry about surface streets, they’re just as bad. Everybody talks about how everyone “loves” their neighborhood, and everyone “hangs out” in their neighborhood. People “love” their neighborhood because it’s damn near impossible to travel anywhere in a reasonable amount of time.

              Merging is an extremely foreign concept to these people. In other areas, it is you put on your blinker, I give you space, and you merge. Portland drivers put on their blinker, I give them space, they make sure they have space, they make sure they have space, they make sure they have space, and then maybe, just maybe, they start merging.

              1. Or you put on your blinker so that they give you some space and you can merge…and their oblivious asses don’t even notice the blinker and after you force your way in they get indignant.

                The obliviousness of PacNW drivers is really fucking scary sometimes. They have no fucking idea what is around them, ever. And they have no idea of the dimensions of their cars. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched someone try again and again and again to back into a parking spot or go around another car and just have no clue where the edges of their car is.

    2. The tractor trailers here invariably drive too slowly and do not change lanes when they need to get out of the way of faster traffic.

  3. As usual, it wuz the feds wot done it.

    Government regulations absolve people of personal responsibility. The driver could never guess that he might have been a danger driving a truck in a sleep deprived state and done something about it because the gummint.

    1. Also, the DEA had a hand in it because they forbid the use of stimulants (“crank” as it was called in the Dave Dudley days) which would have kept the driver alert.

      1. There’s an upside and a downside to crank. Yeah, you can stay awake for days at a time, but the last few hours aren’t exactly quality.

        1. “But sir, what about your ring? Don’t you have the Schwartz, too?”

          “Naw, he got the upside, I got the downside. See, there’s two sides to every Schwartz.”

        2. I’ve seen drivers taking that stuff and know whereof you speak.

          1. It’s schedule IV and there are no piss tests for it. Yet.

    2. I think I told this short story one time here, a long time ago, but your post reminded me of it.

      I once had a friend, long time resident of the Peoples Republic of Murlan, and we somehow during a conversation, chanced into the realm of politics.

      She told me she was a Republican. I said, I’m a libertarian.

      She freaked out, I mean freaked fucking out. She screeched ‘Are you totally crazy!? You can’t just let people do whatever they want to!’

      I said ‘Yeah, I know, they need ‘people’ to tell them what to do.’ She glared at me. That was our last conversation about politics.

      1. I don’t think people need someone to tell them what do, but I do say people are responsible to realize they could be a danger to others and act to minimize that danger.

  4. I have to occasionally write programs that deal with these exact trucking regulations.

    I had a big argument with a customer who said I should change the program because a driver isn’t required to start his shift at the same time every day anymore. (Mind you, my programs don’t actually schedule drivers, they merely estimate the drive time to estimate the validity of the arrival date/time of the truck based on the departure date/time.)

    I told them any law that violates Circadian rhythms is bad law and I would never change the program for free because the idiocy of the law will make itself known and I would have to un-do the changes in short order.

    In practical terms I’ve had trucker friends of mine say that thanks to electronic tracking, they are forced off the road 20 miles from their home base where they previously drove the ten miles and finished up (and fudged the log a little). So now they’ve had to call their wives to come pick them up so they could sleep in their bed instead of in the cab. And thanks to technically still being “on the road” they are forced to take another day off for mandatory rest because of the zero-tolerance policy. The ATA backs all that shit so they can go fuck themselves too.

  5. Every AMTRAK long distance train that is cancelled would take at least a hundred trucks off the interstates, plus save the taxpayers a bundle. But, no……trainz!!

    1. Ummmmm, Amtrak doesn’t carry much bulk cargo. However im sure CSX is all over it…. Or did I just walk into a SARC Spread Cannon?

      1. I can’t figure out why CSX engages in direct-to-consumer advertising. Their commercials are very informative, but I don’t get the point.

        1. So when you are rounded up onto the trains, you’ll remember those nice CSX ads.

          1. Joke’s on them. I don’t care that they can move me 400 miles on 1 gallon of fuel.

        2. Because railroading is still highly regulated, they get in political fights from time to time (vs. shippers, FRA, EPA, trucking, want subsidies, etc.) and need public support, or at least not have public hostility. Most people have little contact with private railroads for the past 40 years except for being inconvenienced from blocked crossings or train horns.

          That and the standard “We’re green” PR work.

      2. Amtrak leases space on CSX rails, but has to pull over for freight, so it’s probably sarcastic, as the freight still has priority.

        1. “pull over” – divert to secondary track so freight can use primary, usually involves stopping on that track until primary is clear.

        2. Amtrak has scheduled times in their contract. If they stay on time, they have priority over freight trains. The coast to coast “rail bridge” double stack trains and Amtrak trains go at 79 MPH (other than the NE Corridor) and they generally move together, then followed by the slower mixed freight or unit trains (coal, etc)

          If an Amtrak train is waiting for a freight train, it fell behind schedule and missed its window. Once the Amtrak train gets late, their problem cascades. There isn’t enough slack in the schedule to “catch up”. If they get late enough, the crew runs out if hours, forcing an unscheduled crew change.

          To show just how little this matters, there is only a single train a day now between Chicago and New York over the former New York Central – and that train is split at Albany between a part of the train going to Boston and part going south to New York.

          The United States is not Europe. GM convinced the country in 1939 that turnpikes and monthly car payments are freedom. We still pretty much believe that

      3. Every Amtrak train takes up the “slot” of one potential freight train on America’s crowded freight routes. One less railfan/scenery gawker subsidized train and the railroad could add one 100+ container freight train.

        1. Railroads are a private business, not government agencies

          Amtrak was created in part because the land grants given to railroads to fund their construction required as a condition that the railroad would provide passenger service in perpetuity. Remember the main railroads were built 50 years before automobiles and asphalt roads.

          Amtrak let the railroads “off the hook”, shifting that obligation to the government. Railroads were then free to sell off the mineral rights and then claim poverty to creditors

  6. I really truly couldn’t give a flying fuck about how some dude in a limo got injured in a car crash.

    BUT…I also ripped my radio out of the car when the story was spun in DANGER – WAL-MART HAS LOTS OF TRUCKS ON THE ROAD – THE NEXT ONE MIGHT KILL YOU

    What the sweet fuck. I only had the radio on to listen to the weather report and I had to get bombarded by peak retard.

    1. Yeah, Walmart, they’re so evil. No way you are in any danger from the other million trucks screaming down the highway, ONLY Walmart trucks.

      1. And should people try to play that card, Walmart will just use nondescript trucks owned by third party shell companies. Walmart stepped right up and didn’t try to hide that it was a company owned truck involved in the accident. I would expect nothing less from the company that employed Hillary Clinton on its Board if Directors for 6 years.

  7. Not to downplay the stupidity and inflexibility of such complicated regulations, but still, recognize that you’re impaired and do something about it.

    1. You can’t.

      Your vehicle is electronically monitored. If you aren’t moving when you are supposed to be moving, they will check traffic congestion reports. If you say you are impaired, that is grounds for dismissal.

      1. The guy’s job is doing him hella good right now, isn’t it?

        1. Wait ’til we get H1-B truck drivers.

          1. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some illegals now and that freight companies are whooping for amnesty.

  8. Willin’, bitchez. You’re welcome.

    1. Willingly sugar free’d, player.

  9. Also, one of my customers recently eliminated their private trucking fleet. I think these rules were part of the reason.

    H&R readers can figure out that this was an intended consequence of the new rules. JB Hunt and Yellow lobbying power at its most destructive. I’m sure some of the larger pooling operators threw a few bucks in, too.

  10. Is there any way for these long-hauls to become a thing of the past?

    Construct more local distribution centers with their own personalized airport. You’ll still need drivers, but they won’t have to endure 48 hour shifts.

    1. But then what about pilot fatigue?!? The FAA will have to step in!

      1. The trucker who hit Tracy’s limo has been completely railroaded over the whole “pilot fatigue” thing.

        He went off about it on twitter.

        http://www.mediaite.com/online…..-im-fcked/

        1. His lawyer probably needs to tell him to shut up.

    2. Cars are still best shipped by sea, rail, and truck.

    3. Is there any way for these long-hauls to become a thing of the past?

      We already have it in the white house:

      Illinois Central Planning.

      1. Is there any way for these long-hauls to become a thing of the past?

        Self-driving cars.

        1. Self-driving tractors: 2025

  11. In other “unintended consequences” transportation-related news:
    London cabbies protest Uber and jam up the City — Uber sign-ups increase 850% in a day.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/n…..30061.html

  12. I’m still chuckling about the existence of federally-mandated nap times.

    1. Most notable: They fucked it up. They fucked up naps. Just think about that.

      There are people who want those same top men running everything.

  13. Sort of OT: Europeans are so retarded that tens of thousands of them are protesting Uber and snarling traffic. Sample:

    “For years the government has slapped new fees onto taxis and imposed more constraints ? everything from car colors to, now, GPS tracking,” FNAT’s Annet said. “The least we’re asking for is that our competitors get the same tough love.

    http://business.financialpost……=f6c3-bc8e

    Fuck Europe.

    1. I will second that.

    2. “Tough love?” Seriously? Is this Stockholm Syndrome?

    3. Do people, when faced with differential regulations, when lobbying for a ‘level playing field’, ever simply lobby for the regulation’s *removal* instead of lobbying for its increased application?

    4. “Tough love” is in the ass without lube, right?

  14. http://www.theroot.com/article…..cence.html

    The truck driver: “The police all of a sudden make a determination I was up for 24 hours (sounds good and sells papers) also covers their ass”

  15. OT: Venezuela finally collapsing.

    http://nationalinterest.org/fe…..sing-10637

    I called a left leaning acquaintance a while ago who only watches NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and LPB. A few months ago I had mentioned Venezuela and how shitty it is there and she was shocked. She told me how she had seen on teevee that it was an agrarian paradise. I informed her then that they were starving and had no toilet paper. I told her a few days ago that they now had no drinking water. She was aghast as that contradicted everything she had heard about the place.

    Today I asked her if she had been seeing any news from there. She said no, nothing. Nada.

    If the proggies here are deliberately ignoring the fruit of their darling Chavez’s labor, then they know full well what progressivism/socialism/fascism leads to. That they continue pushing it says what about them?

    1. It says what we already knew: what they’re pushing for isn’t what they claim to be pushing for. They’re driven by hate, class envy, and jealousy, and they’re only interested in seeing the objects of their hate torn down. All the rest is just a lie to try and sell it and get useful idiots on their side.

    2. It says a lot of things that you already knew about them. Kinda funny that a lefty dipshit of the Marxist variety I know was criticizing the Honduran free city link I posted on FB as a potential “Lord of the Flies scenario”, when Chavez’ Venezuela is turning into that as we speak.

      When I tried to figure out what LPB is, before I remembered you’re in Louisiana, my mind went to “Libertarian Public Broadcasting”.

    3. I cut my teeth as a sixteen year old reading Greg Palast’s book lauding Hugo Chavez for having bucked the IMF, among other things. I wonder what he’s saying about Chavez’ paradise.

      I know, I know, it’s the wreckers, kulaks, capitalists, and CIA.

      1. No, actually, it’s the Kochs.

        Christ, I was a precocious shithead for spouting his stuff.

        1. Jesus, that guy is the personification of the lunatic fringe. When authoritarian regimes fall apart and their core supporters are exposed it always turns out to be guys like that.

          1. It’s the Kochs all the way down, Suthen.

            I’ve been tracking a tube of black putrid ooze, a toxic viper slowly slithering 2000 miles across the belly of America, swallowing all water aquifers, politicians and reason in its path.

            The XL Keystone Pipeline.

            The upshot? Oil sought by the Kochs is a toxic tool to subjugate third-world sources of petroleum (“oil colonies,” as he so dramatically puts it). Oil produced under Chavez’ magisterial guidance is the purest water of liberation.

  16. Why would anyone admit to being up for 24 hours after an accident? How would/could anyone prove such a thing.

    Pretty stupid on this guy’s part. He’s fooked!

    1. Hey Francisco. I found out recently that a former colleague of yours lives down the road from me. B-1 pilot for 20+ years. I figure, how many of those can there be? You probably know the guy.

      He is a complete Misanthrope. He lives at the end of a dead end road in the middle of nowhere, gated up his property and put ‘No Trespassing’ signs on every tree and fence post, and the sheriff has been out to talk to him 2x about running people off with the gun he wears even to bed.

      I like him. He is my kind of jerk.

      1. There are two kinds of jerks in the world, Tuco: the jerks who want to be left alone and the jerks who won’t leave you alone.

        Also, a sheriff showing up to a residence to discuss firearm habits with the occupant, without bringing the SWAT van and twenty of his closest friends kitted out in tactical gear? Twice?

        How… rustic.

        1. It is Grant Parish, Louisiana. It is rustic. And the Sheriff is a good guy.

      2. Funny. The age group should be about right. Ask him if he remembers “Yadman” (my callsign).

        1. I will let you know.

  17. Is there nothing the full evil, paternalistic, interventionist, punitive arm of the state doesn’t effen ruin or destroy?

    1. I say again: They fucked up naps.

  18. The Obama administration opposes the amendment as well.

    Well, that tells me everything I need to know.

  19. Forcing someone who is used to working nights to sleep three hours a night twice a week is going to fuck them up.

    Of course, nobody’s making them sleep, but to get the same number of work hours in they have to drive more during the day. And most likely they will spend the hours between 1 AM and 4AM hanging out at a diner rather than actually sleeping. Which just extends they work-day by 3 hours, for not good reason.

    It’s like if the government mandated that my employer give me 3 hours of R&R in the middle of the day, twice a week. I’d end up spending that time surfing the web, and then have to work until 8.

    And then I won’t get as much sleep since I will get home later and have less time to eat and shower and so on. So then I *will* end up taking a 3-hour nap in between 1 and 4, but only because my sleep cycle is royally fucked.

    What would happen is I would end up with a pattern of sleeping between 1Am-6AM, getting up and going to work from 8 to 12, taking a 2.5 hour nap , then working from 4-8 PM. But that’s not a healthy sleep pattern. That’s going to fuck with your concentration and your physical health too.

    1. Never mind that the other 3 days, when my body want to take it’s 2.5 hour nap, I don’t get the break. So then I end up with an afternoon slump, and my 2.5 hour name is never really stabilized, so I’ll never actually get a decent rest during it.

      Fuck these people. They have no idea how sleep patterns work.

    2. The worst schedule I ever worked anywhere was in the Navy. Those of us working it were fucking zombies all the time, never fully awake, but never quite tired enough to sleep when we needed to. It was 3 days(0600-1400), 3 eves(1400-2200), 3 mids(2200-0600) and then 72 hours off; lather rinse repeat. It also sucked royally for accomplishing anything in one’s personal life like grocery shopping, socializing, or banking and was an unmitigated disaster in trying to find a babysitter. There was no finer schedule ever devised by man for nuking a person’s circadian rhythms.

  20. We are pretty lucky at our company – we are encouraged to do self assessments when we are called to drive, and if we feel we are not 100% we can bow out. Of course, if you do it too many times, they will fire you for not keeping yourself fit for duty, but it works. All our trucks are governed and detuned, with black boxes that monitor your speed and driving habits. Violations are emailed in real time to dispatch. It sounds kinda nightmarish, but .. I dunno, if we were allowed to push the rules, we would do it all the time. Driving is the most dangerous thing we do, and we do a lot of dangerous things. Seen way too many traffic fatalities in our business to want to be “that guy” who wipes out someones kids.

    1. No you wouldn’t. You’d push the rules to the point of practicality, not the point of absurdity.

      1. MMmm – I guess you’d know better than I…

  21. What scenario should permit a driver to go 24 hrs straight?

    1. Driving? I can’t think of any.. But in the oil field, if you log ten hours sleeper time, that counts as a reset on your DOT 24 hour cycle. It’s not uncommon for someone to work it and pencil whip the entry to allow them to drive back home/base. Saw that once last winter.. Bad snowstorm caused the relief crew to be shut down at the hotel, but out at location we kept working.. weren’t relieved till the next day (ended up being a 26 hour shift). We did get two hours of down time, thanks to the company man’s largesse. Then you gotta get chemi’s back to base to be refilled. Funfunfun…

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