Will Truck Drivers Face Stricter Drug Testing?
For years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enforced regulations for drug and alcohol testing of commercial truck drivers in the United States. These regulations are a constant battle between the need to eliminate impaired driving in the commercial trucking industry and truck drivers’ reasonable expectations of privacy. Yet as America’s opioid epidemic claims more and more lives, many safety advocates feel the time has come for more comprehensive drug testing protocols. These tests could help reduce the number of fatal truck accidents in Florida.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you need the guidance of an experienced Clearwater truck accident attorney. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group help victims across Florida protect their legal rights to compensation for injuries and financial losses sustained in truck accidents.
Drug Testing Regulations for Commercial Truck Drivers in the United States
The current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations require an employer to obtain a driver’s negative drug and alcohol screening before a commercial driver’s license holder may operate a commercial motor vehicle. Employers must also conduct drug and alcohol screening after any accident involving a human fatality. If a citation is issued to the CDL holder, the employer must also screen after an accident involving bodily injury requiring medical treatment away from the scene or disabling damage to any vehicle requiring a tow away. Random testing must also be conducted throughout the year. Even independent owner-operators are not exempt from this requirement and must participate in driver consortiums that randomly assign screenings to participants.
Other situations also require drug and alcohol screening. When any reasonable suspicion arises that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may be immediately tested. Drivers who test positive (or refuse to test at all) must undergo an official “return to work” process with a substance abuse professional qualified by the Department of Transportation. These drivers must test negative before they can be certified to return to driving duty. The substance abuse professional may also require the driver to obtain additional negative drug and alcohol screens for up to four years after the driver’s return to duty.
The Push for Stronger Testing Requirements
With so many provisions for drug and alcohol screening of commercial truck drivers, it would seem that the checks in place are sufficient. But the sad reality is that impaired truck drivers continue to cause devastating and fatal accidents. The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (also called the Trucking Alliance) has announced a new initiative specific to opioid impairments in commercial drivers. Trucking Info reports that efforts are focused on passing a congressional bill to require applicants for safety-sensitive jobs in the trucking industry to verify that they have had no illegal drug use or opioid addiction in the past thirty days. These efforts have also focused on hair follicle drug testing, which is able to capture a longer view of past drug use than blood or urine tests. Unlike bodily fluids, which can flush out toxins within days or hours, hair follicles can retain evidence of drug use for weeks or months.
But will hair follicle testing be effective at preventing impaired truck drivers from causing accidents? The country of Brazil provides an interesting test case. In 2016, a law took effect that required commercial drivers in Brazil to pass a hair follicle test before renewing their driver’s license. More than one million Brazilian drivers have either failed these tests or simply refused to renew their licenses since the law took effect.
When an impaired driver gets behind the wheel of a heavy, loaded commercial truck, many parties may potentially be held legally responsible for damage caused. First, the driver can be held personally liable, but many drivers do not have the assets or insurance coverage to pay for the full extent of a victim’s injuries. Second, an employer may be held vicariously liable for the negligence of its driver, such that transportation companies, truck owners, or other commercial trucking employers can also be held liable for damages caused by an impaired truck driver. Because commercial trucks are so heavy and large, they are more likely to cause serious injuries – or even death – when involved in collisions. This is why federal regulations require commercial vehicles to maintain higher insurance coverage than passenger vehicles.
Third, in some cases, outside parties may also be liable, such as when a defective part causes an accident. This would give rise to a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle or braking system. A passenger vehicle may also have a defect that contributes to injuries in an accident, such as defective airbags or seat belts. This would give rise to a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the airbags or seat belts.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help victims identify and prove all legal causes of their injuries. They can also help victims ensure that all defendants are held liable for their own negligence and that no outside parties who may be liable are overlooked.
Protecting the Legal Rights of Truck Accident Victims
It is important for victims of truck accidents to hold drivers and transportation companies accountable for their negligence. This accountability encourages a change in habit that can protect other innocent victims from being injured – or killed – in a similar truck accident. The experienced truck accident attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have decades of experience in helping truck accident injury victims protect their legal right to compensation. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, call our office at (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Clearwater personal injury attorney today. We fight hard to help truck accident victims protect their legal right to compensation.