New Drug Use Trends Among Commercial Truck Drivers

Safely operating a large commercial truck is complicated and often challenging, so you would expect that drivers want to have a clear head when they are on the road. Unfortunately, many truck drivers choose to get behind the wheel while they are under the influence of drugs. Whether the drugs are substances like heroin, cocaine, or marijuana or are prescription drugs, use and abuse of these substances can and do lead to devastating collisions that cause serious injuries to other motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.

In accordance with regulations set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers must pass a drug test before they can obtain or renew their commercial driver’s license. In addition, truck drivers must also undergo a drug test after any collision1 when the following circumstances exist:

  • The accident resulted in a fatality; OR
  • The driver received a citation for a moving violation in relation to the accident AND the accident either resulted in injury requiring medical attention or in enough damage to a vehicle that a tow truck was required to move the disabled vehicle.

While these substance tests can reveal whether a driver was impaired by alcohol or certain drugs, they do not test for all intoxicating substances.

Rise in synthetic marijuana use among truck drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has noted a rise in synthetic marijuana use among commercial drivers in recent years. Synthetic marijuana can often be purchased legally depending on the state and is marketed as “safe” for use with results similar to the effects of marijuana. However, many users of this substance have had serious and unpredictable effects, including severe mental impairment, cardiovascular issues, acute kidney failure, and more. Some individuals have even died form using synthetic marijuana. Despite being more easily accessible, this type of substance can be extremely dangerous, especially for commercial drivers.

Recent fatal collision

In September of 2014, a truck driver crossed over an Interstate median and slammed into a school bus2  transporting the women of the softball team from North Central Texas College. Four players died and more sustained serious injuries. The truck driver claimed he was distracted, though the NTSB claimed the driver was impaired by synthetic drugs. The driver faced four counts of first-degree manslaughter and will likely face liability in wrongful death and personal injury claims, as well.

After the collision, the NTSB recommended to the FMCSA3 that the organization should take action regarding the troublesome trend of truck driver abuse of synthetic drugs. Some of the specific recommendations included:

  • Conducting a study into the prevalence and patterns of synthetic drug use in the commercial trucking industry.
  • Coming up with a proposal to curb this drug use among truck drivers.
  • Consider including synthetic drugs in the substances tested for in pre-licensing and post-accident drug testing.
  • Work together with industry leaders and groups to assist trucking corporations in finding solutions for synthetic drug use among their employees

It may be some time, however, before any formal initiatives are put in place by the FMCSA or before any regulations have changed specifically regarding synthetic drug testing. This does not mean that injured victims do not have the right to hold impaired truck drivers accountable for their actions and obtain financial recovery for all of the accident and injury-related losses.

Contact an experienced Clearwater, Florida truck accident attorney for help

Truck accidents can be devastating whether they are caused by drug or alcohol impairment, distracted driving, aggressive driving, or other dangerous and negligent behaviors. No matter what caused your truck accident, the resulting legal claim can be complex as you must prove negligence in order to recover for your likely serious and costly injuries and losses. At the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida, we have represented the rights of many individuals who have been the victims of commercial truck accidents. We understand how to build a case and present evidence to support your claims. We offer free consultations, so please do not hesitate to call at 727-451-6900 to speak with a qualified truck accident lawyer today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756