Maryland State Police the driver of a tractor trailer fell asleep at the wheel striking a tanker truck near the Liberty Heights Road exit on 695 Wednesday night. 30-year-old Jermon Bryant suffered injuries but was able to escape his rig before it became engulfed in flames, the driver of the tanker truck was not injured. “Truck driving fatigue is an issue that has been talked about at the local, state and national level,” Maryland State Police Spokesperson Ron Snyder said, “Whenever we hear that from our commercial vehicle enforcement division, that’s a factor that is always examined.” MSP says Bryant was within his permitted hours of drive time, a max of 11 within a 14-hour shift. Still, they say charges are pending as police continue to examine why Bryant fell asleep.
“The fatigue has just got to mount,” trucking safety advocate Ed Slattery said, “It becomes more and more difficult to be safe. “There is perhaps no one who understands that more than Slattery. In 2010 his wife Susan, a Stevenson University professor, was killed and his son Matthew critically injured after a trucker fell asleep and hit them. Slattery has since become a national advocate for trucking safety and points to a near 30 percent increase in fatalities caused by large trucks on American roadways since 2009. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, injuries like the one this Bryant sustained last night are also up 57 percent from 2009 to 2015. Safety groups like Slattery’s Truck Safety Coalition point to the rolling back or failure to implement safety rules to combat trucker fatigue. “What we know is that these fatalities are rising year over year regardless. To then stymie the FMCSA ability to then make sensible rules is just going to make them rise all the faster,” Slattery said.
And that is a problem he and other safety advocates are fighting hard on Capitol Hill to change. Wednesday night a prime example; while the accident was lucky to avoid fatalities, a sleepy driver unwittingly turned a tractor trailer into a deadly weapon on the beltway. ABC2 News reached out Bryant’s employer, JB Hunt Transport Services but the company has yet to respond.