Trucker in Tracy Morgan Crash: Lay Off, It Was an “Accident”

Kevin Roper, the Walmart trucker who reportedly slammed into a limo bus carrying several comedians early Saturday morning, is having his say on Twitter. He wants the world to know that the crash that killed James “Uncle Jimmy Mack” McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan and three others was an “accident.”

Roper asserts that he was not drunk or high and that he wasn’t charged at the scene because he wasn’t guilty of any crime. He referred repeatedly to his “ACCIDENT,” underlining the reason why Streetsblog and an increasing number of other publications refer to such events as “crashes” or “collisions.”

Note: The Twitter account under the handle @Kevinmoneytalks describes its user as “Trying to win more than lose! Driving trucks for a living #Walmart,” but we don’t have any independent verification that these tweets were indeed authored by the same person who was driving the truck that hit the comedians’ limo. According to news reports, the Twitter account previously included the phrase, “Move or get hit!” in the description, but that’s been removed.

The sad thing is, Roper is right about one thing: Without the media spotlight brought on by the involvement of celebrities, he probably would have gotten “a few traffic tickets.” As he said, he wasn’t immediately charged with anything. That’s how the justice system views these crashes: unavoidable acts of god, the unfortunate collateral damage of the “freedom” afforded by car culture.

No matter whether Roper was drunk, high, or tired, he failed to notice that traffic had slowed down and slammed his tractor-trailer into another vehicle, and that act caused loss of life. Operating any vehicle — especially one as massive as a tractor-trailer — requires serious attention and concentration.

Although in one tweet he says, “i wish it was me and i can’t express how horrible i feel,” all his subsequent tweets are defensive and exculpatory. After all, killing someone in traffic is just an “accident.”

  • This is what’s wrong with the US’s current road safety messages. I recently heard a bunch of top people – including the current head of the NHTSA – talk about how it was everyone’s responsibility to keep the roads safe. I’d argue that consistently encourages the people who have a disproportionate responsibility – and tractor-trailer drivers have more than almost anyone – to shirk their responsibility: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/06/an-uptown-ride-hudson-incident-and-why.html

  • Mark

    Shouldn’t be giving this guy a megaphone.

  • Kevin Love

    This sort of criminal negligence causing death is 100% preventable by one simple measure: Carry long distance freight by railway, not truck.

    Of course, truck drivers get massive government subsidies. Railway companies have to pay for maintenance of the railway, but truck drivers get roads provided to them for only a tiny fraction of their true cost.

    Ending government socialism for trucking companies so that they paid for their true costs would result in getting a large number of trucks off the road and their freight onto railways.

    Not only would many lives be saved, but the sharply reduced highway maintenance costs would save billions of dollars.

  • ? It was an accident because it was an accident, therefore it was an accident.
    ? Logic like that, can’t be argued with.

  • Andres Dee

    Next up, a press conference with the head of the trucker association. They’ll claim it was a cyclist’s fault.

  • murphstahoe

    He probably would have gotten no traffic tickets, and a pat on the back for cooperating and not being drunk.

  • Andy Chow

    You should be aware that rail transportation can be risky as well, considering that there are number of oil spills and fire as a result of derailment.

  • Andy Chow

    Transportation safety should be thought as a system. If the driver is determined to drive beyond his legally maximum hours and not getting enough sleep, shouldn’t others who allowed or even encourage such behavior be held accountable.

    Should commercial drivers be better educated about the consequences of not getting enough rest? You should probably know that people who drive trucks generally are not excellent in academics but doesn’t mean they cannot be trained or be educated about safety.

  • anon_coward

    not like rail goes everywhere. and here in NYC people are fighting not to have a freight railhead in their neighborhood

  • thielges

    Sadly “Move or get hit” seems to be the credo of many ultra-aggressive drivers. Fortunately they’re a tiny minority of people on the road. Unfortunately they cross paths with hundreds of other people on the road every day.

    We really need to increase the amount of responsibility expected of everyone on the roads and the responsibility should be proportional to the tonnage being piloted.

  • Andrew

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/airbags/Archive-04/PresBelt/crash_accident.html

    Unfortunately, this is buried in the seat belt section.

  • Kevin Love

    True, but rail is far, far safer than moving the same goods by truck.

  • Kevin Love

    Damn bike lanes!

  • Kevin J

    Attemped murder is only a tickitable offense in a car, the exception being when the victim is famous and the media pays attention.

    Otherwise who’d give a shit some guy named Tracy Morgan was nearly killed by a reckless drawer posting to Twitter he gets into trying hit pedestrians.

    Even people who aren’t famous still have familles, friends and loved ones.

  • This guy is the Chris Bucchere of the trucking world.

    Note to self: Do not publicly broadcast homicidal musings involving vehicles.

  • KillMoto

    Equip each license with a smart chip. Equip all trucks/commercial vehicles with a smart-chip reader. The truck might be able to operate 24×7, but in software it can enforce driver active and rest periods. No driver may operate a given truck > 8 hours in a 24 hour period, period. Tampering with the computer == impound of vehicle.

    If implemented universally, all drivers are fully regulated and presumably rested equally. The price of shipping, in dollars, rises slightly. The price of shipping, in blood, drops precipitously.

  • Andy Chow

    I don’t think we necessarily need more regulations but increased willingness to comply with existing regulations, as well as better regulations that allow flexibility and reflect the realities of the industry.

    My point is that there should be a culture for safety that is understood by both the management and the front line workers, along with independent contractors and companies that give the contracts, and the culture to say no to anything that compromises safety.

  • Andy Chow

    However rail is not a 1 to 1 substitute for trucks. Rail and trucks in a way is like ships and airplanes, which both can travel long distance across the oceans but both modes are different enough that some cargos are more suitably transported by ships and not airplanes and vice versa.

    Also, since rail companies are responsible to maintain their own tracks, they have as much if not more reasons to defer maintenance.

  • In Europe, trucks have to be equipped with a tachograph recording how long the driver has been at the wheel. It’s checked if there’s a crash, to establish whether lack of rest was a factor. It’s an effective deterrent to truckers’ working excessive hours.

    That said, the driver is, of course, denying that he said anything about having been up 24 hours, so maybe it wasn’t a factor in this crash.

  • Eileen

    I wonder how many non-famous people he has killed before that he has so much experience in only getting a ticket for it? From reading some of the other coverage, it sounds like New Jersey law (“Maggie’s law” — http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/A1500/1347_R2.HTM) is unique in that it deems a driver who has been awake for 24 hours and who cause a crash as reckless. So part of his legal problem is where the crash occurred — he’s innocent till proven guilty, of course, but the police and prosecutors clearly think/hope they will be able to show the 24 hours. Anyone know how many cases NJ prosecutors have brought under Maggie’s law? (I tried to research and there are a lot of websites out there warning drivers about NJ law, and some isolated reports of prosecutions, but there don’t seem to be any statistics on numbers of prosecutions.)

  • njudah

    what a loser. hope he gets busted.

  • The US already has a far higher proportion of goods moving by rail than most developed countries. Around 40 per cent of freight by ton-miles goes by rail. That compares with around 8 per cent in most European countries. The US also still has the world’s biggest rail network and it goes to many, many places, albeit not everywhere. Trucking companies are gradually shifting long-distance movements to rail and just moving the goods by truck to and from the rail terminals. So the position is improving. It’s just that there are still a lot of trucks on many streets, particularly in the most heavily-populated areas.

  • murphstahoe

    “You should probably know that people who drive trucks generally are not excellent in academics”

    Aside from “Don’t drive your car if you are falling asleep” is not something that require an A in Calculus or a high IQ…

    I know you are culturally trained to make blanket statements about groups of people (and have made some pretty amusing stereotype statements in the past), but it has been discovered by those who are excellent in academics over time that it’s a completely unproductive strategy. For example I gain nothing by saying that you “are culturally trained” and making a blanket statement about your ethnicity.

  • murphstahoe

    I was on one of the email threads the morning of the Bucchere crash that was later referred to by the media and the DA. Bucchere made the statement in his original tome that he learned a lesson that you should wear your helmet, and someone immediately said “I don’t think that’s the lesson to be learned here”.

    Do you think the “trucking world” has the same reaction to the driver’s tweets?

  • murphstahoe

    For reference. Cop kills two “unknown cyclists” and was potentially asleep at the wheel.

    http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=features/2008/police_california_deaths08

    “He was reported to have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, and to appear
    disoriented after the accident.”

    http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_12688961

    sentencing him to four
    months under house arrest and 20 weeks of community service. Under the
    controversial sentence, Council will not serve any time behind bars in
    return for pleading guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter —
    despite a presentencing report that recommended he be locked up for a
    short period of time, as well as pleas from some of the victims’ friends
    and family.

  • You know, I hope so. Just as some people look at bicyclists and only see fixie-riding anarchists, I’ll bet the trucking world is not monolithic, and that for every Kevin Roper there’s a BJ and the Bear looking to do the right thing.

  • thielges

    This is reminiscent of the time when local bicycling advocate Bill Bliss was killed by an off duty policeman in Colorado. The defense argued that Bill was riding too far to the left. The motorist who hit Bill got off with a slap on the wrist.

    It is hard to believe that Bill was riding unsafely. He was an expert cyclist who had a keen interest in cycling safety. He knew and followed all of the rules. There were no visibility issues and no reasonable excuse for anyone driving safely to collide with Bill.

  • Zmapper

    Have you ever been employed or worked, either directly or indirectly with, or even known CDL-licensed operators? Do you even know what “Hours of Service” restrictions are (hint: not 8 hours)?

    Here is some evening reading material for your convenience:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hours_of_service
    http://www.jjkeller.com/shop/content____bi-hoursofservice-newrule-FAQs

  • Zmapper

    The alleged driver’s Twitter feed is now protected.

    Assuming Roper is the driver involved as alleged, he seems to have forgotten the informal rule about never discussing vehicle incidents with anyone else other than a lawyer and his insurance provider until after court.

  • Is there not an FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) rule governing the amount of time truckers can drive between rest periods? If so, did not this guy violate it? In such a case, it is less of an “accident” than a case of gross negligence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_driver#United_States

  • Alan

    Except there was rail where this accident happened and notice that he said LONG HAUL. Obviously local delivery trucks can be workable but I don’t think any of us have been on a highway with semi truck drivers speeding and otherwise acting dangerously. It’s scary.

  • Andy Chow

    It is not a value statement. I have a CDL myself and know a number of people who’ve gone through trucking school. I don’t think they’re immoral or stupid or whatever. I rather have issues with people who are more educated and work at higher paying jobs that think others should revolve around them.

  • Outcast Searcher

    And of course, you would personally be responsible for the cost of all this. And if not, you’d be happy to reimburse the system when the new government regulation (like so many) works poorly, isn’t properly enforced, etc. — producing little or not results.

    When you’re willing to do that, and have put up the property bond, get back to us.

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