Drivers in the trucking industry have difficult jobs with minimal pay, long working hours, bad living conditions and a lack of sleep that often produces emotional stress. Unfortunately, trucking accidents can be catastrophic to innocent victims when the trucker behind the wheel is abusing stimulants, drugs or alcohol.
Like intoxicated or high motorists driving passenger cars, the impaired trucker’s coordination and control of their vehicle is severely restricted when traveling at any speed. However, when the impaired trucker is driving at excessive speed, the results are often deadly. This is because their vehicle becomes a weapon of mass destruction that can cause injury, take lives, and destroy property. Inebriated truck drivers are involved in some of the nation’s worst traffic accidents that claim the lives of thousands of individuals every year.
Information gathered in a 2012 international review noted that younger truckers who are paid substantially less than older, more experienced drivers had the greater potential of abusing substances and alcohol while on the job. The study indicated that truck drivers frequently use cocaine, marijuana, speed (amphetamines), and alcohol separately or in combination.
Drugged Driving Increases
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released nationwide data from a new study on drunk driving and drug use of truckers in the United States. The Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use survey conducted in 2014 showed that the number of truckers using alcohol declined by almost 33 percent over the last seven years. However, the study indicated there was a significant increase in illegal drug use including marijuana by truck drivers nationwide.
A Higher Standard
An individual holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL) including truck drivers, bus drivers, and other professionals is held to the highest standards concerning impaired driving. In recent years, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) established these standards to ensure public safety and minimize the potential of serious accidents that threaten the life and well-being of innocent victims. Commercial drivers must follow FMCSA regulations that include:
- Truckers are considered drunk with a field-tested 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration level.
- Commercial drivers are not allowed to get behind the wheel of their truck within four hours after using alcohol.
- Truckers can be required to submit to a random alcohol test after being involved in an accident or when law enforcement reasonably suspects an alcohol policy violation.
- Drug testing of commercial truckers is allowed as a hiring condition for employment, following a crash or as a condition to return to duty after violating regulated drug policies.
Typically, drug testing involves screening for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, PCP (phencyclidine), and opiates. If the trucker is pulled off the road due to law enforcement suspicion of a DUI, the trucker faces severe penalties if they refuse to submit to a field sobriety test. Unfortunately, many truck drivers using drugs and alcohol are not detected until a catastrophic event happens.
When law enforcement pulls a “using” truck driver off the roadway and notifies their employer, the trucker can lose both their commercial and non-commercial driving privileges. The CDL commercial truck license can be disqualified for various reasons that include:
- A serious traffic violation after the first offense
- Major offenses
- A violation of an “out of service” order
- An offense occurring at a highway-railroad crossing
- A violation of implied consent laws
Common Trucker Violations
When truck drivers cause accidents while operating their vehicles while drunk or high, they are often charged with a crime, face a licensed suspension, or the potential of having their license revoked.
Common major violations caused by drunk or high truck drivers involve:
- DUI/driving under the influence of alcohol
- Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs (controlled substances)
- Driving negligently that results in a fatality
- Participating in a hit-and-run way or a drunken truck driver flees the scene of the accident
- Operating the commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content 0.04 percent or higher
In addition to criminal charges, drunk or high truck drivers who cause an accident that injured or killed others can face civil legal ramifications. In nearly every incident, an impaired truck driver will be required to provide financial compensation to any victim suffering injuries or damages, or to surviving family members of a victim who lost their lives in the accident.