Trucking accidents are a serious issue across the United States, with 3,921 people killed and 104,000 injured in large trucking accidents in 2012. In 2013, the state of Texas had the highest number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes across the nation—381 occupants of other vehicles killed, and 111 occupants of large trucks killed. The National Transportation Safety Board of the United States has been studying truck drivers, particularly the issue of drug use among those truck drivers. Most truck accident fatalities involve passenger vehicle drivers (79 percent), but when drug use is involved, the fatalities of the truck drivers, as well as those of other drivers, is even higher.
Truck drivers spend very long hours behind the wheel of a large commercial truck—a job which brings isolation and tediousness. This can lead to abuse of both drugs and alcohol. A full 85 percent of truck drivers surveyed said methamphetamine drugs were easily obtained at most truck stops. Use of methamphetamine can allow drivers to stay awake longer, logging more miles, and getting a bigger paycheck at the end of the month. Unfortunately, while drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine can help drivers stay awake, they can also result in agitation, altered perceptions, slowed reaction time, vertigo and even hallucinations.
Despite laws which came into effect in 1988 when the Safety Board made drug screening mandatory for all trucking companies with more than 50 employees, drug abuse remains an issue among truck drivers. Under the 1988 law, a full half of all truck drivers would have received a drug test during any given year. While there was a gradual decline in positive drug tests among truck drivers over the next few years, trucking companies soon began exhibiting noncompliance with the rules, resulting in an increase in drug use among truck drivers once more.
Because of the noncompliance issues, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a proposed rule in 2014, which would establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all national commercial driver’s license holder. This clearinghouse could improve roadway safety in one important way. It could make it simpler to determine whether a truck driver is forbidden from operating a commercial vehicle for failure to comply with mandatory drug and alcohol testing or failure to comply with the company’s drug and alcohol regulations.
U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, indicated that safety was the highest priority. Up to this point, there has been no single federal repository which recorded positive drug and alcohol tests by CDL holders. Such a repository would ensure trucking companies would have the ability to search the database and ensure the driver is safe. The proposed rules would also require trucking companies to record information about a truck driver who failed a drug test, refused to submit to a drug test, or successfully completed a substance abuse program, making him or her legally qualified to return to duty.
HOW MANY TRUCK DRIVERS DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE?
Unfortunately, regular studies and drug tests on truck drivers by the NTSB, reveal the following:
- More than one-third of all truck drivers who die in a trucking accident test positive for an illegal drug;
- The drugs truck drivers use the most often include:
- Methamphetamines or amphetamines;
- Cocaine, and
- Other stimulants.
Drug use by truck drivers is considered the second-largest contributing factor in truck accidents by the NTSB. Among the truck drivers who are involved in a trucking accident with fatigue as a primary factor, 33 percent also test positive for drug use. Finally, truck drivers who are separated or divorced, tend to test positive for drug use more often than those who are married.
MORE THAN HALF OF ALL TRUCK DRIVERS ACROSS THE GLOBE ADMIT TO DRIVING WHILE DRINKING
It is important to note that most studies rely on what the drivers admitted to, while only about a dozen of these studies were based on physical drug testing. Across the globe, although about half of the truck drivers surveyed admitted to drinking and driving, while about 30 percent admitted to using amphetamines, these numbers are likely considerably higher. At least ten or more of the studies linked drug use among truck drivers to other factors, such as:
- Younger truck drivers;
- Inexperienced truck drivers;
- Truck drivers with longer routes which involved more nighttime driving;
- Drivers who work for small or medium companies, and
- Drivers who have previously been involved in an accident.
In the end, truck drivers are held to a higher standard that others on the highways. As an example of this, a commercial truck driver can be charged with DUI for a BAC of 0.04 percent, rather than the 0.08 percent standard to which other drivers are held. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that truck drivers are not allowed to use alcohol within four hours of their shift.
REQUIREMENTS FOR TRUCKING COMPANIES REGARDING DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE AMONG DRIVERS
Trucking companies are required to have individuals undergo drug and alcohol screening both before hiring as well as during the course of employment. As well as random drug testing, a trucking company can require an individual to undergo drug or alcohol screenings whenever there is a suspicion that a driver is using alcohol or a controlled substance. Additionally, trucking companies must do the following:
- Trucking companies must provide educational materials regarding drug and alcohol prevention to all truck drivers;
- Trucking companies must have an established drug and alcohol policy in place;
- Trucking companies must obtain signed release and permission forms from all truck drivers regarding drug testing;
- Trucking companies must have a designated company official who is in charge of the company’s drug and alcohol policy;
- Trucking companies must be aware of which employees who should be tested for alcohol and drugs, and supervisors must be trained to administer reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing;
- Trucking companies must be aware of the procedure used when an employee tests positive for alcohol or drugs, and
- Trucking companies must have an established contract in place with a drug and alcohol collection service as well as a medical review officer.
If you have been in an accident which was the result of a truck driver who was driving under the influence of drugs, it is crucial that you speak to a knowledgeable Texas truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
CONTACT A HOUSTON TRUCKING ACCIDENT ATTORNEY TODAY
If you or someone you love has been injured in a trucking accident in Houston or anywhere in the state of Texas, call a Board Certified personal injury attorney specializing in trucking accidents to evaluate your potential claim.