The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on its findings in the fatal high-profile Walmart crash that killed comedian James McNair and severely injured actor Tracy Morgan, concluding Walmart driver Kevin Roper was traveling 20 mph over the posted 45 mph speed limit.
But the driver was within federal hours-of-service limits, the report notes, saying Roper went on duty 13 hours and 32 minutes prior to the crash and the driver had driven 9 hours and 37 minutes, according to the electronic logging device on the truck. Both of those figures are within the 14-hour on-duty and 11-hour drive-time limits, respectively.
The June 7 crash came days after the Senate Appropriations Committee added an amendment in its annual DOT-funding bill to suspend some of the 34-hour restart provisions of the 2013 hours-of-service rule, sparking a debate about the HOS amendment and opposition in the Senate from some members, who plan to propose another amendment to kill the Appropriations Committee’s amendment.
Debate about the measures is ongoing this week on the Senate floor.
The crash happened near Cranbury, N.J., on the New Jersey Turnpike in a construction zone, NTSB says in its report, and the 2011 Peterbilt driven for Walmart Transportation by Roper crashed into a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter van carrying McNair, Morgan, four other passengers and a driver.
The tractor and the Sprinter subsequently hit four other vehicles, but none of the passengers in those vehicles required hospital visits.
Roper was piloting his truck and trailer 65 mph for 60 seconds prior to the crash, NTSB says, according to information obtained from the truck’s ECM.
About nine-tenths of a mile south of the crash’s location, warning signs notified northbound traffic of lane closures and speed drops — from 55 mph to 45 mph — ahead.
Roper has been charged with counts of vehicular homicide and assault by auto, but he has pleaded not guilty.