Truckers and Stimulants Are a Dangerous Combination
Ever wonder why you’re always hearing about a shortage of truck drivers in the United States? The answer is simple really: Truck driving is a hard profession that requires long hours of hyper-vigilance. Unlike a typical day job where you can take quick breaks as needed, step outside to answer a phone call, or even zone out on occasion, a truck driver simply can’t relax for a second without potentially costing a life. For these reasons, certain truck drivers turn to stimulant drugs to keep them focused and awake on the road. Driving under the influence of drugs, however—even stimulants—is still a DUI offense and likely to cause serious injuries to other Florida drivers.
National Trucking Regulations
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distraction due to impairment such as fatigue is one of the leading causes of large truck crashes. However, studies show that truck drivers are increasingly turning to stimulating substances like amphetamines and cocaine as a means of helping them stay awake during long hours on the road. Use of these drugs can lead to the following symptoms while driving:
- Agitation, which can lead to road rage
- Hallucinations, which can lead to serious accidents
- Hypertension, which can lead to illness and accidents on the road
As a result of the increase of stimulant use and truck accidents due to fatigue, federal commercial vehicle regulations now include truck-driving limits intended to prevent fatigue, illness, and in turn, stimulant use. Commercial truck drivers must adhere to three types of hours-of-service regulations:
- The 14-hour driving window – Truck drivers get a 14-hour “window” with which they can drive for as many as 11 hours
- The 11-hour driving limit – A truck driver may only drive 11 hours during that 14-hour window
- The 60/70-hour duty limit – A driver may not operate a truck for more than 60 hours within a seven-day period or more than 70 hours within an eight-day period
- The 34-hour restart – If a truck driver wants to restart his 60 or 70-hour clock, he must take 34 consecutive hours off duty, including sleep. If the driver does not take the allotted time off, some hours left in the week may not reset.
These regulations apply across the entire trucking industry and to the individual driver, not a trucking company itself—so a trucker can’t cheat by working for more than one company or more than one part of the trucking industry. Furthermore, off-time does not include resting in the truck at a rest stop or riding as a truck passenger. Because regulators may experience difficulty tracking drivers, and truck drivers may feel the temptation to circumvent them and return home more quickly, contact a Florida truck accident attorney who understands these complex regulations if a truck accident injured you.
FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing
Stimulant use makes operating a large truck extremely dangerous because the weight and force of even a slow-moving truck will transfer to a smaller vehicle to a greater extent than in a car vs. car accident. Truck accidents, in other words, result in more serious injuries to the passengers of smaller vehicles. For this reason, the FMCSA requires mandatory drug and alcohol testing for anyone holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Furthermore, the Department of Transportation charges all employers with implementing its drug and alcohol regulations for commercial drivers. This means that if a truck driver violates these regulations, an injury victim may hold the trucking company vicariously liable for the violation if it failed to follow testing procedures that could have prevented its drivers from endangering the public.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries
If a large truck crash injured you and you believe the truck driver was under the influence of stimulants, speak with your Tampa Bay truck accident lawyer about filing an insurance claim. The minimum liability insurance requirements for most commercial vehicles depend on the registered vehicle’s weight and can range from $50,000 to $750,000. However, many commercial trucking companies will carry insurance policies well in excess of the state minimums, because they wish to avoid personal lawsuits for your injuries. Accordingly, the higher the risk of operating the commercial motor vehicle—its weight and cargo—the higher the minimum Florida insurance requirements rise. If a Florida truck accident injured you, making a claim with a commercial insurance policy is much different from making a claim with a traditional motor vehicle policy. Typically, your attorney will take the following steps:
- File a claim with your insurance company both to initiate liability determinations and take advantage of your no-fault benefits
- File a claim with the liable insurance company, that is, the truck owner’s insurance
- Gather evidence related to your claim, including the police report, photographs, and witnesses statements
- Prepare your medical records and claims information for review by the insurance adjusters to determine whether they will settle your claim out of court
- If they will not settle your claim, your attorney will likely need to file a personal injury case
In traditional commercial motor vehicle cases with serious injuries and clear liability, the commercial motor vehicle insurance company will normally make you an offer to settle the case within its policy limits.
Contact a Clearwater DUI and Truck Accident Attorney Today
When it comes to truck driving, the more stringent regulations applicable to commercial vehicle drivers may help your attorney prove to the court that the truck driver’s distraction caused your injuries. For example, if the trucker drove outside the hours of service window, tested positive for drugs or alcohol, or reports show the use of a handheld device at the time of the accident, you may have a strong negligence case. If a truck driver who was under the influence of stimulants injured you or killed a loved one, contact the Dolman Law Group today. We have the personal injury and truck accident lawyers you need in the greater Tampa Bay area, and can analyze your claim in accordance with federal trucking regulations. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or write us online for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765