Trucker fatigue in national spotlight in light of deadly accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan

The issue of truck driver fatigue is now in the national spotlight after a deadly crash over the weekend that killed one person and critically injured three others, including comedian Tracy Morgan.
 
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Prosecutors said the Wal-mart truck driver, Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga., had been behind the wheel without having slept for more than 24 hours, when he rear-ended a limo carrying Morgan and six others. 
 
The tragic collision happened while Congress is debating whether to suspend certain federal regulations put in place last July to reduce driver fatigue. Safety advocates say rolling back any of these regulations puts people's lives at risk.
 
At the center of the debate is the "restart" rule. Current law limits truck drivers' maximum work week to 70 hours. They may continue driving only if they rest for 34 consecutive hours. It must include at least two periods of rest between 1 a.m.and 5 a.m., which is when studies show people get the most restful sleep.
 
An amendment proposed by Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, would suspend these restrictions and allow truckers to work more than 80 hours per week.
 
Local safety advocate Ed Slattery is calling for Congress to reject Collins' amendment. His wife was killed and his two sons were critically injured after their car was rear-ended by a sleep-deprived truck driver. 
 
"It's not a republican issue, it's not a democratic issue," Slattery said. "It's a family values issue, because my family has been pretty destroyed because of a trucker that fell asleep at the wheel."
 
Collins' amendment passed the Senate Appropriations committee last week. It would need to pass the full Senate and a similar version would need to pass the House in order for it to go to the president.
 
Trucking groups and shipping companies have thrown their support behind Collins' amendment, saying that a year suspension of the restrictions would allow for the issue to be studied more comprehensively. Slattery and other trucking safety advocates say they plan to fight it every step of the way. 
 
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