The Wal-Mart truck involved in the accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in his limo bus had a system designed to slow the truck’s speed and notify the driver of stopped traffic ahead, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said Monday.
The company has been putting the safety systems – which include forward-looking radar and interactive cruise control – on its trucks since 2010. It was unclear whether that system was working at the time of the crash early Saturday in New Jersey.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan confirmed that the driver of the truck involved in the accident, Kevin Roper, was a company driver and not a contract employee.
According to the criminal complaint, Roper was operating the truck “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident.” But Wal-Mart said the company believes Roper was operating within federal regulations, which require drivers to work no more than 14 hours – 11 of them driving – for any shift.
“The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said Wal-Mart is consistently recognized as having one of the safest private fleets in the country, with an accident frequency of 0.342 per million miles traveled, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Wal-Mart drivers get annual safety training, and the company has 65 drivers who have driven 3 million miles or more without any accidents.
Wal-Mart trucks have been involved in 380 crashes in the last 24 months, according to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Nine people have been killed in those crashes; 129 have been injured.
According to the agency, which ranks company fleets based on its inspections, Wal-Mart is in the top 10 percent of similarly sized fleets on measures including vehicle maintenance, driver fitness and drivers’ use of controlled substances. It is in the top 0.5 percent for compliance with hours-of-service rules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is among the agencies helping with the investigation.
Wal-Mart has 6,121 tractors for hauling trailers and 7,175 drivers. They drove 667 million miles last year.
The Bentonville, Arkansas, company is the fourth largest private carrier in the U.S., after Coca-Cola, Pepsi and food service company Sysco, according to Transport Topics, an industry newspaper.
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