This Week in Logistics News (June 9-13, 2014)

I’m on my way back from a week of speaking engagements, so I’ll be quick and brief with this week’s news roundup.

Hours of Service was again in the news this week. Unfortunately, it was due to a tragic highway accident on the New Jersey Turnpike involving a Walmart driver, which critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed fellow comedian James McNair. According to a CNN report:

In the criminal complaint, police said [Walmart driver Kevin Roper] had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. He failed to notice traffic slowing in front of him and hit Morgan’s bus despite trying to swerve out of the way, according to authorities.


It’s unclear how they determined the trucker was sleep-deprived.

Walmart issued a statement after the accident, expressing its condolences to the families and friends of those injured and killed, and stating that “if it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”

Because this tragic accident involved a celebrity and a high-profile company, the mainstream media is putting the spotlight on the trucking industry and hours of service — with “sleep-deprived driver” grabbing the headlines. But as noted above, the claim by police that Mr. Roper was sleep-deprived has not been backed up yet with any evidence. And even if he was sleep-deprived, he and Walmart could still have been in compliance with current hours-of-service rules, as American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves makes clear in a statement:

The hours-of-service rules – whether they are the current regulations, the pre-2013 rules, or the rules with changes we hope to see as a result of Congressional action – 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. But they do not dictate what drivers do during that off-duty period. No rule can address what a driver does in his or her off-duty time [emphasis mine]. The industry…strongly believes that drivers must take advantage of their off-duty periods for rest and that drivers should not drive if they are fatigued.

In a blog post this week, Tom Sanderson, CEO of Transplace (a Talking Logistics sponsor) provides his perspective on this incident, including some interesting statistics about Walmart’s fleet and safety record.

The bottom line: let’s wait for all the facts to come out to truly understand what caused this accident. Also, while it’s easy to use a high-profile and tragic accident to underscore one side of the debate, it’s just one data point. All the stakeholders involved with hours-of-service must keep the big picture in mind — including the totality of data available, and where the data gaps are — as they continue to debate this issue.

And with that, have a happy weekend, and a great Father’s Day to all you dads out there.

Song of the Week: “Come Anytime” by Hoodoo Gurus