Federal truck driving rules come under scrutiny

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - A Wal-Mart semi-truck driver is due in court on Wednesday for his role in a deadly chain reaction crash in New Jersey

The truck slammed into a limo carrying comic Tracy Morgan this weekend. Comedian James McNair was killed in the crash.

The collision is putting new focus on safety regulations for semi-truck drivers across the nation.

Bryce Gerdman and his son Ethan are in Minnesota to pick up a load from Roseville on Tuesday. Bryce said he is careful to follow to the federal rules.

"I sleep whatever the (Department of Transportation) dictates," Bryce Gerdman said. "They want 10 hours at least. That's what they get."

Federal law limits truckers to 11 hours of driving after 10 hours off and a maximum of 60 hours behind the wheel in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.

If prosecutors are correct and the trucker who hit Morgan's limo was up 24 hours, that's far from normal, according to the president of the Minnesota Trucking Association.

"There's a huge disincentive to not follow the driver rules," said John Hausladen.

He said truckers' logs are subject to inspection by both state and federal officials.

"They go out into trucking companies. They pull records, and they compare their time sheets to where they think they should be."

"I don't know why you'd want to risk it," Bryce Gerdman said.

He said much has changed in the 14 years since his truck was built.

Volvo is among the manufacturers that is creating trucks that sense a pending collision. They first warn the driver and then apply the brakes automatically.

Jim Derse, a salesman for Nuss Truck & Equipment in Roseville, said 35 to 40 percent of the vehicles his company now orders "have the minimum of the front end avoidance system."

But smarter trucks are no substitute for common sense.

"I know after I do 11 hours of driving, I'm ready to pull off," Bryce Gerdman said.

Bryce and Ethan are from eastern Wisconsin. Ethan is riding with his dad on his first week off school.


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