Commercial truck drivers have one of the toughest jobs, usually characterized by grueling schedules, low pay and monotonous hours behind the wheel. Most drivers are expected to work 11 consecutive hours each day – a tiring schedule that invites the use of stimulants and other medications simply to make it through a shift. The physical and mental exhaustion of being a big rig driver is responsible for not only high burnout rates in the industry, but increasing numbers of serious injury-causing accidents in California and across the nation.
Anecdotal evidence has shown that drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines) –as well as fatigue—plays a significant role in hundreds of interstate accidents involving 18-wheelers and tractor trailers. Drivers may take illicit substances in an attempt to ease their boredom, or to keep themselves alert on long, cross-country hauls. Unfortunately, both prescribed and illegal medications can adversely affect their reactions times, motor skills and ability to drive safely. While amphetamines can keep a driver from nodding off, they have been shown to cause everything from hallucinations and vertigo to extreme agitation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has special regulations in place for drivers of all commercial vehicles. In addition to pre-employment drug screening and random tests, there are also post-accident drug test requirements for truck drivers in certain scenarios.
Post-accident drug testing for commercial truck drivers
According to federal law, employers are required to test truck drivers for controlled substances as soon as possible following a crash.
This regulation applies to commercial truck accidents that meet the following requirements:
- If the truck accident resulted in any fatalities
- After a truck accident that results in serious bodily injury requiring immediate medical treatment AND the truck driver is cited by police
- If any vehicle is disabled and towed from the accident scene
Within 32 hours of the accident, drivers are tested for the presence of amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana, Phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, and opiates (painkillers like Oxycontin, codeine and methadone). These urine-based drug tests, whether conducted by state, local or federal officials, must comply with all FMCSA requirements.
Various studies conducted over the past decade on drug use among truckers have shown that addiction is a major problem. Drivers resort to cocaine, alcohol, amphetamines and cannabis to combat fatigue, loneliness and boredom. According to one study, more than 90 percent of the drivers admitted to drinking on the job, while 82 percent reported use of amphetamines.
In cases where a driver tests positive for alcohol or illicit substances that leads to an accident, litigation is not uncommon. The commercial truck driver and/or his or her employer may face liability for the personal injury or wrongful death of any victims.
Consult a truck accident attorney in Los Angeles
If you were involved in an accident with a commercial rig and believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Salamati Law Firm can help you determine if you have a claim for damages. Get insight from legal experts who understand drug testing laws and will safeguard your rights.
Call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a qualified Los Angeles truck accident lawyer today.
More Resources on Drug Testing for Truck Drivers:
- AllTrucking.com, Drug Testing at Trucking Companies: What You Need to Know http://www.alltrucking.com/faq/drug-testing-trucking-companies-what-you-need-know/
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, What tests are required and when does testing occur? https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/drug-alcohol-testing/what-tests-are-required-and-when-does-testing-occur
- American Addiction Center, Truck Drivers https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/truck-drivers/