FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A semitrailer driver slamming into comedian Tracy Morgan’s limo has launched a national conversation about truck driver fatigue. The accident left one man dead and Morgan seriously injured. According to court documents, that driver hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours. He pleaded not guilty to charges Wednesday.
In 2013 alone, Indiana State Police troopers handed out hundreds of violations for laws designed to keep tired drivers off the road.
Philip Alvarez has been a truck driver for about 10 years. While he was on his way to a four-hour break Wednesday, NewsChannel 15 caught up with him at a Goshen Road truck stop in Fort Wayne. He explained why drivers take the wheel, even if they are fatigued.
“If the wheels aren’t turning, we’re not making the money, plain and simple. So some of them will take the risk and unfortunately some others have to pay for it,” Alvarez said. “If they get stopped by the state troopers, [police] will go tooth and nail through your logs and your cab and they’ll find receipts and they’ll find a way to get you if they really want you.”
Across the U.S., commercial truckers are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. According to federal statistics, state troopers found 837 violations of that law across Indiana in 2013.
Commercial truckers also aren’t allowed to drive more than 70 hours in eight days. There were 137 violations of that law across the state.
Truckers aren’t allowed to drive fatigued either. Though this is a more subjective law, there were 35 violations of it across Indiana.
“Some of the cases I’ve heard of is a driver not being focused at all and actually falling asleep sitting there talking with our officer while they’re conducting a traffic stop,” said Tyler Utterback, a first sergeant with the ISP commercial vehicle enforcement. “You get sometimes that obvious.”
Some violations require trucks to go out of service for a period of time. Still, Alvarez said there can be pressure to deliver a shipment on time.
“Well, you wave a 500 dollar bill in front of somebody they’re going to try and go for it. That’s all I can say about that,” Alvarez said.
So far in 2014, two semitrailer drivers have pleaded guilty to causing fatal crashes on U.S. 30. At least one of those didn’t take his required rest time.