Impaired Truck Drivers Lead the FMCSA to Revamp Its Drug Testing Policies

Scene of a car accidentOn December 31 of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a public statement that it was going to maintain its 50 percent random drug testing rate through 2015 for commercial bus and truck drivers. According to the FMCSA, positive test rates for drugs and alcohol were still too high to lower random testing rates. The FMCSA’s decision to maintain high rates of drug and alcohol testing is not surprising, as drugs that include alcohol and stimulants can drastically impair commercial drivers.

According to the FMCSA, the new policies will also affect background checks for drivers who have failed drug tests. The new policy will establish a database that will make it easier for commercial carriers to background check employees before hiring them. Before the changes, drivers who had failed drug tests could cover up their employment termination by leaving gaps in their resumes, keeping other companies from finding out.

The FMCSA requires commercial carriers to drug and alcohol test drivers under many different circumstances, which we will cover. However, for the FMCSA to live up to its purpose of protecting the safety of other motorists, it is important that it continues to develop policies that will catch commercial drivers operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

How Does the FMCSA Carry Out Drug Tests?

In 1991, the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act required Department of Transportation agencies to drug and alcohol test their employees. Drugs tested for include marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and PCP. Commercial carriers carry out unannounced random testing, but they can also test based on reasonable suspicion, after an employee has returned to work from a leave of absence, before the hiring process, after an accident and for a follow up test.

Drivers are barred from drinking alcohol within four hours of the time they begin driving. According to existing FMCSA rules, a commercial driver cannot have a blood alcohol (BAC) content of above .04, half of the BAC allowed for the public.

How Are Impaired Truck Drivers a Risk to Motorists?

Truck drivers are ten times more likely to be the cause of an accident – due to driving errors that range from fatigue, speeding and drug use. An FMCSA study found 44 percent of truck accidents were due to truckers taking prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. In 2013, 2,095 drivers failed alcohol tests and another 1,240 failed drug tests.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk drivers are four times more likely to be involved in an accident with a BAC of .08 and 12 times more likely with a BAC of .15 percent. Alcohol is not the only substance that can cause a danger to the public, powerful stimulants truckers use to keep themselves awake can cause hallucinations and psychosis.

For over 70 years, Spevack Law Firm has represented the people of New Jersey in litigating personal injury and wrongful death claims. Truck accidents can leave survivors with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. If you have questions regarding your accident, reach out to us for a free consultation.

Spevack Law FirmMiddlesex County Injury Attorneys

Did You Know? According to the FMCSA, over the last two decades, truck accidents have increased by 20 percent.



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