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NTSB safety wish list reflects truckers are not machines

We live in a 24/7 world. At least some of us do. Truck drivers could be considered among those who don't always follow the typical 9-to-5 routine that most of the rest of us do in Illinois. And as we noted in a post last November, the demands of the 24-hour long-haul industry have a way of leading some drivers to push the envelope on hours of service a little too far.

Clearly, this is not a new issue, and it's back in the spotlight again courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board. The board recently issued its annual "Most Wanted List" of safety issues it would like to see addressed in 2016. Coming in at top of the changes the NTSB says it would like to see is reducing the number of crashes involving tired truckers.

Driver fatigue is not something that is unique to truckers by any means. But as we have noted, truckers sometimes face time pressures that push their window of operation well beyond a normal eight-hour day. And when an accident involving a big-rig truck occurs, the outcomes for the victims of other vehicles are very often catastrophic.

In issuing this year's list, the head of the NTSB specifically called out the 2014 crash in New Jersey in which a Wal-Mart truck crashed into a limousine carrying actor Tracy Morgan. Morgan suffered severe injuries. Another person died. Investigators say the trucker in the case had been awake for more than 28 hours ahead of the accident.

The NTSB list also recommends setting medical fitness standards for public vehicle operators. As the board's chairman noted, the list reflects the problem, "that most commercial transportation is 24/7, but humans are not."

Remember, this is a wish list. The NTSB doesn't have rule-making authority, so it's hard to know what might come from the proposals. What is certain is that when accidents due to negligence occur, victims should make it a point to learn what their rights are for seeking possible compensation.

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