Local reaction to deadly truck driving crash, in New Jersey, tha - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Local reaction to deadly truck driving crash, in New Jersey, that also injured comedian Tracy Morgan

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FLINT (WJRT) - (06/11/14) - The truck driver charged in a deadly highway crash, that also injured comedian Tracy Morgan  this weekend, had reportedly not slept for a full day before the wreck.

Kevin Roper pleaded not guilty to death by auto charges, Wednesday afternoon. He was driving a Walmart truck early Saturday when he allegedly swerved to avoid slowed traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike and plowed into Morgan's limo.

"The minute you get in that truck, you got to recognize that," said student Chris Gullette, training to be a truck driver at Baker College of Flint. "It's like turning on a switch. You got to know that and you have to recognize the difficulty and different maneuvers you have to do."

Gullette, of Mt. Morris, just finished his first term.

"They always say, 'Have a backup plan. Have a plan. No matter where you're at, have a plan.' In case something happens where you'll be able to know what you're going to do and safely maneuver that vehicle without harming anybody," Gullette said.

"(It's an) 80,000 pound bomb," said Phillip Whitmer, Baker College of Flint, dean of transportation technology.

Whitmer said the focus isn't just on how to handle the trucks.

"They know they have to be personally safe as well. There are a lot of things we do at the school here to ensure that, in addition to hours of service," Whitmer said. "We have a doctor that comes in that talks to them about fatigue."

"Drivers are allowed to operate 11 hours in a 14 hour period," said Michigan State Police Lieutenant Steven Horwood. "The trucking industry takes safety very serious. We're finding much more compliance than we ever had before in the past."

Just last week, police participated in an annual, nationwide road check operation.

Horwood said, in three days, state police completed more than 1,000 vehicle inspections, resulting in more than 400 traffic tickets - equipment and regulatory, too. Of those, he said, about 25 drivers had hours of service violations.

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