When truck drivers use drugs and put the public’s safety at risk, their employers don’t always know. A trucking company typically does not have any right to know when its employee has been arrested for drug use.
As an example, police officers recently arrested a truck driver when they found him unconscious in the cab of his rig. The trucker admitted to heroin use. But, because he didn’t have the keys in the ignition, he didn’t face charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
The driver was charged with another offense, however: disorderly conduct while intoxicated. His employer never knew of the charge, and the state where he held his commercial driver’s license was not notified.
The story gets worse. Just 10 days later, the driver renewed his commercial drivers’ license. A couple of weeks passed by after that, and the trucker jackknifed his rig. He had overdosed on heroin and required naloxone administered by emergency workers in order to be revived.
The Trucking Industry is Facing an Opioid and Prescription Drug Crisis
The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report based on 2015 data that showed illegal drug use was a factor in more than 40 percent of vehicle accident fatalities. In spite of the concerns that arose because of this report, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (a federal law protecting patient privacy) continued to prevent trucking companies from learning about its drivers who may have been prescribed medication, making it unsafe to drive a truck.
In the midst of a current opioid crisis that has much to do with addiction to prescription drugs, the trucking industry is heavily impacted. Truckers are becoming addicted to prescriptions they obtain legally – Percocet, Oxycontin and general opioids – and they’re turning to heroin when their prescriptions expire and can’t be refilled.
Do We Need Broader Drug Testing Regulation and Enforcement?
In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the body responsible for regulating drug testing in the commercial trucking industry. Each individual state is charged with enforcing compliance.
There are several scenarios in which truck drivers can currently be subject to drug testing:
Pre-Employment – When new commercial drivers’ licenses are obtained. A driver must be tested and receive a negative result before being able to operate a commercial motor vehicle on the road.
After an Accident – Commercial drivers are required to be alcohol and drug tested when they’re involved in an accident that involves fatalities, or if they get a traffic citation due to involvement in a vehicle-disabling or injury-related crash.
Random Drug Testing – To maintain possession of a commercial vehicle license, a trucker is subject to random drug testing even when off-duty and at home. If notified of a random drug test, the truck driver must immediately respond to the designated testing location.
In addition to these situations, a truck driver can be tested for drugs if a Department of Transportation supervisor has reasonable suspicion of drug use. Follow-up drug tests are mandatory if a substance abuse professional signs a return-to-duty report that includes the test as a requirement.
Despite all of these times in which a trucker can be tested for drugs, truckers who are using drugs often slip through the cracks. Federal agencies are in charge of setting regulations for trucking companies and state agencies follow through with enforcement. But between the 2 agencies, there are compliance mishaps and missteps, poor communication, and a lack of transfer-of-information between the two.
Even though trucking companies require their drivers to disclose arrests, this does not always happen. The lack of compliance all around leaves dangerous drivers on Texas roads and on public roads all over the country. This leads to injury and even death.
If you’ve been injured or have had a loved one die because of a truck driver’s’ negligence, Patterson Law Group wants to help. Fill out the form on this page and one of our attorneys will be in touch with you promptly.