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What to Know about Truck Drivers and Substance Abuse

Posted on August 15, 2019

Driving around large commercial trucks can be daunting. The last thing you should ever have to worry about is a truck driver being drunk or on drugs behind the wheel. Unfortunately, we know that substance abuse is a major safety concern for truck drivers, just like other drivers on the roadway. However, crashes caused by impaired truck drivers are much more devastating than regular passenger vehicle crashes.

Today, our Tampa truck accident lawyers want to discuss substance abuse and truck drivers, including the federal regulations in place to prevent this type of behavior.

What are the regulations?

Commercial vehicle drivers who fall under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations are subject to drug testing requirements. The FMCSA regulates all commercial trucks and drivers that operate interstate carrying passengers or property. The FMCSA, along with the US DOT, requires that all persons subject to commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements and their employers follow their alcohol and drug testing rules. This includes:

  • Pre-employment testing before permitting a CDL driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Post-accident drug and alcohol testing if there was disabling damage to a vehicle, bodily injury, or a fatality.
  • Random drug testing of CDL drivers throughout the year.
  • Testing of CDL drivers if the employer has reasonable suspicion they are on drugs or impaired by alcohol at work.

There are also requirements for return-to-duty testing for drivers who have failed a drug test as well as follow-up testing for those who have violated DOT regulations.

Why does this matter?

Due to the size and weight of commercial motor vehicles, both the state and federal authorities want to ensure drivers are drug-free and not impaired by alcohol while driving. While the blood alcohol level for regularly licensed drivers in Florida is .08%, the limit for CDL drivers is .04% while they are performing their duties. Under no circumstances should a Florida CDL holder be impaired on drugs at the time of a crash.

Tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. It is not uncommon for our Florida truck accident attorneys to see the following injuries as a result of these crashes:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Loss of or damage to a bodily organ
  • Dismemberment or amputation
  • Other injuries that inhibit a person’s daily activities
  • Significant disfigurement

When we turn to the latest year of data available from the FMCSA, we can see that:

  • There were 148,000 people injured and 4,761 people were killed in large truck crashes.
  • Looking at commercial bus incidents, there were 25,000 people injured and 274 people killed.

Commercial vehicle drivers have tough jobs

Commercial vehicle drivers face many challenges, including long hours, stressful work environments, and time away from their families. All too often, commercial vehicle drivers turn to various substances to get them through a shift or to help them relax. Some of the substances most commonly used by truck drivers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opioids

Alcohol and marijuana both increase a driver’s sleepiness and alter their ability to focus on the roadway. Amphetamines and cocaine are often used to keep CDL drivers awake, but they can cause hallucinations, changes in perception, agitation, vertigo, and more.

A truck driver who has been abusing alcohol or drugs that causes damages or injuries could be held liable for their negligent behavior, both criminally and civilly.