A drunk truck driver is a massive liability, putting everyone in danger around them while they are on the road. Commercial motorists are expected to be more professional about how they handle themselves behind the wheel. However, even with random drug and alcohol testing, nearly a third of all big rig traffic fatalities (around 10,000 annually) are caused by a commercial motorist who is under the influence. This suggests some significant flaws in the system, as industry members apparently cannot adequately monitor their employees for alcohol usage. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that approximately 1 percent of all random testing produces a positive result. However, an independent study published by a Brazilian university found that the actual rate of alcohol usage among U.S. commercial motorists was about 12.5 percent. Industry experts have a couple theories as to why this gulf may exist.
For one, a drunk truck driver may be fired as soon as they are found to be inebriated on the job, but that rarely stops them from picking up another position. Known as job hopping, all the big-rig operator has to do is approach another motor carrier and apply for a job while omitting any troublesome work history. It is frighteningly simple to pull off and works much of the time. Another reason for the discrepancy in results may be due to owner-operators who refuse to adhere to the FMCSA’s guidelines. With so many commercial motorists to oversee, it’s easy for many to slip through the cracks and abuse alcohol outside of the FMCSA’s watchful gaze.
When a drunk truck driver is involved in an accident, the results are often terrible. Commercial vehicles are much heavier than passenger vehicles, so even if the big-rig operator is alert and does everything possible to minimize an accident’s impact, major injuries are common. When the operator is reckless, these injuries are typically worse.
If victims manage to survive the deadly encounter, they may have to recover from the severe physical trauma that may include broken bones, burns, lacerations, and organ damage. Commercial vehicles often carry hazardous materials, and if they spill during an accident, they can expose other crash victims to noxious fumes or chemical burns. Perhaps the worst outcome, though, are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs affect the brain or spine, and they often involve lifelong complications. These can include motor disorders, speech disorders, chronic pain and nausea, and even changes in behavior. Anything worse than a mild TBI is usually impossible to recover from, and the effects can be profound enough to make work impossible. In the worst cases, the victim may not even be able to take care of themselves or may require around the clock support.
But no matter how severe the injuries are, every victim has a right to compensation. At the very least, it may keep the defendant from hurting someone else in the future.