What to Know About Truck Drivers and Substance Abuse

Whether for recreational use or, more likely, to combat driver fatigue, substance abuse is so rampant in the trucking industry that employers of semi-truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are required by law to regularly test their employees.  Even though these same laws require limited periods behind the wheel for 18-wheeler drivers, motor carriers emphasize delivering loads “on time” rather than safely, and big rig drivers are losing money by being off-duty, no matter how necessary rest from the wheel might be.

Types of Substance Abuse

Commercial vehicle drivers use illegal stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine regularly to stay awake, but prescription and non-prescription stimulants keep drivers from feeling drowsy behind the wheel even though their reaction time is still severely impaired from fatigue. Some 18-wheeler drivers feel that driving on drugs like marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol, but the longer-lasting effects of illicit drug use over alcohol use alone means that is not true. Even limited consumption of alcohol can reduce a driver’s ability to perceive his surroundings or impair his reaction time, which are crucial for operating a vehicle that weighs tens of thousands of pounds. In fact, the federal government sets the legal limit for commercial truck drivers’ blood alcohol concentration at .04 percent BAC, half of the legal limit for other motorists.

Thanks to strict regulations on employer testing of truck drivers for substance abuse, the percentage of accidents with commercial vehicles involving driver intoxication as a contributing factor has been dramatically reduced since the 1990s. However, driver fatigue continues to account for at least 30 percent of all trucking accidents, and substance abuse is often either the cause or questionable remedy for driver fatigue. In the unfortunate event of an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, injuries can be devastating or potentially fatal, and trucking companies dedicate considerable resources to denying their liability, even if their driver was impaired.

Despite better regulation of substance abuse through testing in the trucking industry, driver impairment still needs to be considered as a cause for a trucking accident.  No matter what a trucking company claims about the liability of their drivers in a crash involving one of their vehicles, driving under the influence is a violation of the law and makes the driver automatically negligent.

Investigating Substance Abuse

One place to start the investigation is the crash report made by police who come to the scene. Sometimes an 18-wheeler driver is cited for impairment on the scene, which can be a “smoking gun” to a potential jury if an insurance company puts liability into question. Oftentimes, just talking to the officer on the phone or at the station can uncover details that the crash report did not describe, such as open alcohol containers, prescription bottles, or even illicit drug paraphernalia. Another resource for fact-finding might be the tow truck operator who towed the tractor-trailer from the scene. Perhaps they saw a few beer cans rattling around the cab.

If an accident occurs from driver impairment, not only was the driver obviously negligent for operating a commercial motor vehicle under the influence, but their employer may also be liable for negligently supervising their driver or failing to comply with federal standards for drug testing.

Nationwide Truck Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured by a driver who chose to put the safety of other motorists at risk by driving under the influence of a prohibited substance, the nationwide truck accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help you seek the compensation you deserve. Our trucking attorneys  are experienced in cases where commercial drivers have severely injured or even killed other motorists due to their negligent driving. Call 800-863-5312 for a free consultation.