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Trucks parked at the rest area off I-684 southbound in Bedford on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. / The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- The fatal crash that injured "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan and killed a beloved local comedian has fueled debate here over the issue of tired truckers.

Comedian and community volunteer James "Uncle Jimmy Mack" McNair, 62, died in the multivehicle crash Saturday on the New Jersey Turnpike caused, authorities said, when a truck driver who hadn't slept in more than 24 hours plowed into a limousine bus belonging to Morgan, McNair's longtime friend.

Morgan, 45, suffered serious injuries, including broken bones, and remained hospitalized Tuesday. Three others were also hurt.

"That driver should have slept at least seven to eight hours and because he didn't, we lost a good man," said Carlos Ortiz, a worker at the Salvation Army store on Peekskill's Main Street.

"Jimmy was known all over Peekskill," said Ortiz, 52. "I've known Jimmy for two years and I had no idea he was friends with Tracy Morgan or worked with him. He never bragged about it. He was a very humble man."

McNair and Morgan, a "Saturday Night Live" alumnus, were returning from a comedy show in Delaware when the bus was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer driven by Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga.

"I think it's just awful," said a Deborah Effie, who volunteered with McNair at the soup kitchen for five years. "The driver should have slept. Right now, I'm grieving more for his family - his son and his daughter. This should not have happened at all."

More than just the Peekskill community was talking about the accident. Truckers all over were aware of it, said Jerry Holmes, a driver from Indiana.

"If you was anyplace at all, you heard that," said Holmes, stopping at the Interstate 684 rest area in Bedford on Tuesday, as he hauled cabinets to Maryland.

Truckers said it seemed clear that the driver who struck McNair and Morgan should have gotten more sleep.

"That was bad on his part," said Pennsylvania truck driver Rocky Singh, 35, in the Bedford stop, checking the oil in his 75-foot truck.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets strict limits on how long drivers can spend behind the wheel. Commercial truckers are required to keep a log of their sleep, and time spent driving, loading and unloading.

Truckers can't drive more than 11 hours each day without rest and may not work more than 14 hours, including driving and nondriving, in any 24-hour period.

Congress is considering a proposal to loosen the rules, effectively allowing drivers to put in as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel. The current limit is 60 or 70 hours a week depending on the type of company employing the driver.

The proposal is backed by the trucking industry but opposed by safety advocates and the Obama administration.

Contributing: Peter Kramer of The Journal News



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Tracy Morgan crash puts focus on trucker hours

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