Driver pleads not guilty in Tracy Morgan crash charges, HOS argument brims

| June 12, 2014

Walmart driver Kevin Roper has pleaded not guilty to the vehicular homicide and assault by auto charges filed against him in the June 7 crash that killed comedian James McNair and critically injured actor Tracy Morgan.

The complaint filed against Roper said he had been operating recklessly, and several news outlets have reported since the crash that he had not slept in 24 hours, though he had reportedly taken the proper off-duty time per federal hours-of-service regulations.

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Walmart President and CEO Bill Simon said in a statement company representatives were “praying for the family and friends of the passenger who lost his life in the terrible accident in New Jersey. Our hearts go out to everyone involved and we hope those who were injured get the care that they need and make a full recovery.”

Simon further acknowledged the involvement of a Walmart truck and pledged that, as facts unfold, “if it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”

The crash took place at approximately 1 a.m. Saturday morning. Regarding several news reports that suggested the driver had been awake working for 24 hours prior to the accident, Walmart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan issued a statement Monday, June 9, saying that “it is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations. The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing and unfortunately we can’t comment further on the specifics.”

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The high profile incident placed “the issue of highway safety, and in particular the safety of the trucking industry … at the forefront of the national conversation,” said a written statement from American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves, who also took the opportunity to express condolences to “the victims of this tragedy and their families…. Every crash on our highways is a tragedy and that’s why the industry places safety as our highest priority.”

Graves also stressed in his statement the nature of the hours regulations, noting that they “only place limits on driving and on-duty time and require that between work periods drivers take a minimum of 10 consecutive hours off-duty.” He emphasized that “they do not dictate what drivers do during that off-duty period.”

Graves also affirmed his support for the Senate’s recent action to try to suspend some of the hours of service rule changes from 2013.

The Teamsters this week, however, came out in opposition to rolling back the rule change, using the Tracy Morgan crash as support for its position.

Click here to read more about the Teamsters’ and ATA’s positions. 

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  • DavidMac

    I was detailed by JB Hunt Transport to pull Wal-Mart trailers out of Marcy NY and shuttle them around (about 13 years ago). The Wal-Mart dispatchers demanded we run a full 10 hours, then take a break. As everyone knows, there is very little legal truck parking available around the NY/NJ/Eastern PA area, but Wal-Mart didn’t really care about that. On the plus side, they did NOT require us to violate the HOS regulations or even to coerce us (as some companies do).

  • MissKitty

    If this had been a non public figure crash with injuires, a fatality, and a Walmart truck, it would’ve made the local news and been over. But, because it had “personailty” involved, it has become a media mecca – what a shame.
    Let’s get ALL the facts before before we put the WalMart driver in jail for the rest of his life.
    If everyone who drove tired, ill, or distracted, in one 24- hour period, the roads would be just about empty.

  • L.G.

    All this talk about the drivers H,O.S. and the other hoopla ought to wait and see who was at fault first!

  • Kast55

    The news paper as always exaggerating.

    Feel sorry for the driver but, he knew that his job with Waltmart was a precious price that not too many drivers are allow to possess.

    In addition to been lucky to get the job and having a super clean record you have to live near or close by their center of operations.

    Where I am from I have never seem an advertising for Waltmart drivers. And I do have a 15 years experiences and a super clean record.

    Like they say “in a blink of an eye”.

  • David Ebnet

    As far as I knew Walmart runs E-LOGS a driver could never be tired running those! I mean shouldn’t we all have a machine telling us when we are too tired to drive. God forbid the driver who is actually doing the driving be able to make that decision

  • martymarsh

    It would be obvious who is at fault, but Walmart would never let him drive that long so if he was awake for 24 hours it was on his own and it wasn’t driving.

  • LoveeBear420

    How is it obvious who was at fault? The original report stated that they came up on stopped traffic. This report states the driver was operating within his hours of service regulations. Yes, he may have been awake for 24 hours but still that doesn’t put him at fault for the accident.

  • martymarsh

    So if traffic is stopped it is ok for you to keep going?

  • tvl

    This is another example of the b s 14 hour time clock for truckers. Driver may have been up 24 hours . What he does on his time is not the isue . If it wasnt for the run your ass off time clock we are on now by the idiots in washington that has never drove a truck he could take a few hours nap if he needed to. But nooooo . They think you are safer because you are on a clock and can only drive 11 hours . The truth is you have to run your ass off for 11 hours . Dont matter if you want to take a nap . Cant dont have the time to nap eat use restroom ect. . Get someone in charge who has a little sence and trucking experance .

  • mormon

    Of course he was within his alloted HOS. All the big companies keep track of your recap and will try to max out your 60 in 7/70 in 8 days. What happened to being able to make a decent living at 40 hours a week? Why are we allowed to work past 40 hours and not recieve overtime?

  • Willbgone

    Walmart admitted that the accident was the fault of their driver. I’m not putting down drivers cause I myself have been driving since 99 and I’ve seem many accidents involving trucks and many many more that just involved 4 wheelers. Truck drivers are safer drivers in my opinion and the ohs rules are crap! I agree, get someone in the gov that has actually driven a truck with perferably 10+ years otr and the trucking ind will become a whole lot safer and there won’t be such a shortage for drivers. No one wants to drive anymore because of all the dumb regs placed on co’s and drivers and I myself and thinking of hanging it up. As soon as I hit the powerball!! :)

  • martymarsh

    I remember the lottery coming out when I was around 21, well I played all the time and still do, but I also had to drive a truck for 39 years, but I do wish you luck.
    But yes we are over regulated and under paid, but I also believe not everyone was meant to drive truck, when you can see that most people drive their cars like they don’t have a clue, and then they get in a truck? They can’t handle 2 tons and then we give them 40, something has to give.

  • Israel

    The Driver did not stop for standing traffic. Then caused a Multi-Vehicle crash. That makes him at fault automatic.

  • FrustratedPatriot888

    I believe the woman who used to be associated with the FMCSA was I’ll advised to make comments regarding the reasons of the crash. If she was indeed previously with the FMCSA, she would have know to keep her mouth shut until the investigation was completed. Her remarks just add fire to the smoke regarding the new HOS and their validity! Open mouth…insert foot!

  • Dave Nichols

    The lap dog media has been orderd to dig up every truck involved crash that can be reported on. fmsca is in a battle in congree to proceed with elog mandate and keeping the stupid 168 hr rule
    I am very sure all walmart trucks run elogs and dispatcher can see immediatley if any of them are ir did violate any log rules.

  • Dave Nichols

    most crash inpections they do do not assign blame on any vehicle. the has always provided a nice tidy sum of laundered campaign cash.from lawyers who run up big bills making someone (usually who has the most insurance and deepest pockeys)

  • Erik Lane

    Allways the truckers fault no matter who caused the accident

  • guest

    Walmarts spokesmen says “our hearts go out” and they “HOPE” everyone Crushed by their insane driver gets “help”??? He can BET Walmarts Wallet will go out…to everyone inolved and they wont have to worry about a damn thing after the Lawsuits fly. These chintsy Cheapescates….are running OUTLAW..and they are damn sure going to be pursued to the ends of the earth for MONEY by New York Accident Lawyers…..hahahhaha…good luck Walmart..your case is buried already…under the published evidence….They are going to Pay till green Ink is coming out of their Coal Black hearts…….Crooked Shysters hiring lunatics…….their “safety director” has got to be taking some heat for this major blunder…….Clowns………Jerks.

  • martymarsh

    I certainly would not give them to many points for integrity but they don’t let their drivers run over the clock. They were involved in 380 crashes with nine fatalities in the last 2 years so they can’t afford to break the law. I don’t like them any better than you but that still don’t mean they are breaking the law. They also don’t hire people with bad records, you can be involved in a wreck with your own car and that disqualifies you from getting a job there. As a matter of fact their drivers do better than most and they do it running legal.

  • TruckerBigfoot68

    We drivers are grown adults. We should know that we need to sleep sometime during that 10 hour break. I know when i am done driving for the day that i need to get some sleep and i do. Is it the Government’s Fault that this driver decided not to sleep during his 10 hour break? They can’t hold your hand and then tell you ‘Johnny, now you know you got to go to sleep now’. No it is our responsibility to regulate our selves when it comes to sleep. All these regulations, rules and laws come from individuals like this driver who want to do what they want. We are professionals, we drive machines weighing upto 80,000 pounds and sometimes more. We have a responsibility to control what we can and to deal with situations when the time comes. Some of these drivers we see out there should not be on the road and you know this to be true. How many driver do you see still holding the phone to their heads even though there is a thing called bluetooth? How about seeing them drive down the road watching a movie on the tablet? Just witnessed a Prime driver on the road with his Laptop on the steering wheel playing a frigging game while driving. I wanted so badly to run his ass off the road when i saw that today.

  • TruckerBigfoot68

    Walmart truck drivers can park at any walmart for their 10 hour break.

  • JR

    The way I feel about the E LOGS if the big companys want them to baby sit there drivers let them.Leave the small guys out of it ELOG OR PAPER END RESULT IS THE SAME. Just more money the small guy has to spend buying something the law maker probly owns behind closed doors

  • BRANDY PETERS

    ok for those of you who have no idea of what e logs are you all are a bunch of idiots ….you can not move that truck very far with out setting of that log and second yes we as drivers have to take a 10 hr break it does not say we have to sleep during that time this driver was with in his legal hrs of service ….and third of all walmart does pay there drivers to sleep so with that said ……….UNLESS YOU ARE A TRUCK DRIVER AND KNOW WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT I WOULD JUST KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT BECAUSE IT REALLY MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE AN IDIOIT OR WORSE AS YOU SOME OF YOU WANT TO CALL US……

  • DavidMac

    Yes, that’s correct, but I was told that I couldn’t shut it down for a break unless I ran a full 10 hours, so if I was finished delivering (drop & hook) at a store, and still had an hour to run, I had to leave the store and head for another store/warehouse. I had to shut down enroute for another break; the point was that they pushed us to use ALL legal hours and didn’t dispatch us based on pickup or delivery times, just on how many hours we had left on the 10 hour rule.

  • Tony Fisher

    I’ve worked in the industry for 25 years loved but here In the last 10 years I’ve started to hate it more and more. A lot of company’s claim there not forced dispatch but if u turn down a load or two they fire u. They don’t take u in consideration at all ur just a number or a robot. U take a 10 hour break and sleep get up and run a hour or two then they call after u deliver or pickup and say go back on break and deliver or pickup tonight after u just got up if ur like me u can’t go back to sleep so ur up all day or night then u realize ur breaks over and u have to drive some more then ur tired while u drive and u can’t stop because a lot of company’s will fire u if u don’t do it and u all now that’s true because the load is more important or they tell u drivers are a dime a dozen I don’t care because my life is more important then that load I have a great driving record and have enough experience I can get another job but these younger guys see it as I have to or I can’t get another job and there scared to say no to the boss that’s the problem we have out here that or working with someone with equipment they don’t want to fix

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Blue tooth sucks ! the head piece stays on the dash i still use the hand held , just need to watch out for cops Fyi I had the texting Disabled on my phone service , can’t send or receive texts !

  • Chris Bacher

    If I recall correctly, the 14 hr clock was implemented because cops were too stupid to be able to follow the concept of split break. I had one DOT cop in PA say there was no way to wake up after 4-5 hrs sleep. I said, “Alarm clock”. He informed me there was no such thing for trucks. $600 fine. Another thing they refuse to realize is, YOU CANNOT MANDATE SLEEP

  • Carl Sandberg

    How about throwing in a comma or period in that run on sentence?????

  • amdriven

    From my perspective, the new HOS rules are great. And work well. For those of you who don’t know what the old rules were, think on this. Drivers were only required to take 8 hours off between shifts. Think about it. 8 hours to eat 2 meals,(One before bed and one after you get up, like most regular folks do) shower and commute to and from work (if you were a local driver). Spend a little time with family (if long haul that meant time to call home) Unwind from the 10 hours of driving ( instead of that awful 11 hours now). Yes, I like the 10 hours off rule. I get more rest.

  • amdriven

    I don’t know many companies that let their employees take naps at work, do you? Could you imagine walking up to a business and seeing this sign posted, “Sorry, but we are closed for nap time”

  • fed up trucker…

    exactly what I thought if the guy was up 24 hours on his of Duty time and then decided he wanted to get into a truck for pig that’s a bad judgement call but what he does on his of Duty time well thats is prague-ative I mean you can’t federally govern somebody on their of Duty time especially for out of the truck and other own personal residence

  • fed up trucker…

    and then you have the the media talking about federal regulations and if you go back and recap some other and other stories are the comments they had on truckin they don’t even know what they’re talking about the media and all man see grace was on a time to talk about and out there from CSA rules and how many hours in she don’t even know what she’s talking about nobody understands a Federal Motor Carrier rules except for us the Care Bears the truckers the companies that you don’t provide 70 percent of all goods order delivery in this country go figure

  • fed up trucker…

    I hate talk to text.

  • martymarsh

    I haven’t seen an argument yet about the 10 off with the exception of some light sleepers that has to sit thru it. But under the old rules you could stop and take a nap and then finish out your driving day and you were legitimately tired and ready for the time off. Now you fight thru your tour and if you are tired you don’t dare take a nap and by time you have to stop you have caught your second wind and can’t go to sleep. Our bodies, not the government tells us when to go to bed, to suggest that anyone can regulate rest is a joke. I don’t have much of a problem with the 10 off myself, it’s the rest that disturbs me.

  • Gary

    Walmart Safety Record
    Unsafe 2.9
    HOS. .5
    DF. 9.0
    CS. 0
    VM 4.8

    Most of you would kill your Momma for these numbers

    Oh yeah 0.2 for OOS Roadside.

    I guarantee Walmart will not be held accountable for this accident because they didn’t do anything wrong.

  • Terrie

    I’m not sure if that was the same driver with the laptop on the steering wheel or not but my husband told me that he had passed a driver doing that also. He has also passed some with their leg propped up on the dash reading.

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  • JPMINN

    I thought the Walmart trucks already had all the BS soon to be federally mandated “SAFETY” controls in place in their trucks.?? Guess all that safety crap really worked in this case, huh? But lets mandate it for everyone anyway…..

  • gw

    This all falls on this particular driver shoulders, because he is the one who made the choices! This was probably the beginning of his week, he drove from Georgia to Delaware to go to work. Then try to work the full day. This has nothing to do with the 14-11, or any other DOT regulations. “HE CHOSE” to take that chance and he lost. It won’t matter what kind of regulations are put in place, it still comes down to the driver knowing his limits and making the right decision. The blame game can go wild and wide spread, but we all know the final choice is ours. GMO

  • guest

    I have seen laptops being used..even one lady watching her Soap Opera on a portable television up on the dash….many tmes the foot up on the dash area…cruise control on…

  • http://www.truckertwotimes.com/ Truckertwotimes

    How would anyone know how long the driver had been awake? Unless the driver said so???

  • harleygirl

    Because you’re not an hourly employee just like salaried position don’t receive overtime.

  • Just a guest

    You are exactly right!!! And if it had been a car that hit them would have been over and done!!! AND reporting being up 24 hours BEFORE they knew for a fact and reporting too much too fast that is not true!!!

  • guest

    This “driver” is typical of the “replacements” they are hiring as skilled drivers LEAVE trucking. lol

  • guest

    An experienced Hand would NOT do what this imbicile did….he has Limited experiece and was Hired By the Jerks at Walmart…..
    This was monumental stupidity.

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