The driver of a Wal-Mart truck that plowed into a limo bus carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and several others in New Jersey pleaded not guilty to criminal charges amid allegations that he had not slept for 24 hours before the crash.
According to a CNN news report the truck driver, Kevin Roper, faces vehicular homicide and assault by auto charges in the June 7 pileup on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured SNL and “30 Rock” star Morgan.
Three others in the limo bus at the time of the accident were identified as comedian Ardie Fuqua, Jeffrey Millea, and Harris Stanton.
Police stated in a criminal complaint that Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.
Investigators said Roper failed to notice traffic slowing in front of him and struck the limo bus in spite of trying to swerve out of the way.
Wal-Mart issued a statement saying it believed Roper “was operating within federal rest guidelines,” but said it would take full responsibility if an investigation shows that its truck was to blame.
Truck Driver Sleep & Rest Regulations
Under federal law, commercial drivers including large truck drivers, shall not work more than 14 hours for any shift – 11 of those driving.
Federal regulations require truck drivers to have breaks between shifts. These regulations are there in place to prevent situations where drowsy truck drivers cause devastating crashes.
Under New Jersey law, a driver can be convicted if there is evidence that he had been sleep-deprived for 24 hours when the accident occurred. However, proving that he was sleep-deprived is critical to get a conviction.
If convicted, the truck driver in this case could face up to 10 years in prison.
Evidence & Ongoing Investigation
Collecting key pieces of evidence is very important in truck accident cases. In cases involving a fatigued truck driver, it is critical to get access to the driver’s logs.
All truck drivers and trucking firms are required to, under federal law, maintain records of when the drivers work and then they take their rest breaks. It is illegal to fabricate these records or manipulate them.
Truck companies are also required to keep vehicle maintenance records. In addition, truck drivers’ cell phone records could be valuable in determining whether any in-vehicle distractions caused or contributed to the crash.
An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to help preserve these important pieces of evidence before they are lost, destroyed or misplaced.