The U.S. Department of Transportation took nearly 300 commercial truck drivers off the road in June for violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s drug and alcohol policies.
The two-week enforcement blitz targeted motor carriers in violation of federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. In all, 128 companies face enforcement action. The feds were also looking to identify commercial bus and truck drivers who jump from carrier to carrier in order to avoid drug testing and reporting requirements.
“All drivers and their passengers deserve to be confident that bus and truck drivers are safe and sober,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
A total of 287 drivers face fines and may be barred from operating a commercial motor vehicle. A 2/?p=1007 study by FMCSA found drug use was the most common cause of trucking accidents — Prescription or illegal drug use was involved in 26 percent of trucking crashes.
Fatal accidents involving large trucks jumped nearly 10 percent in 2010, according to statistics released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even as the overall number of motor vehicle fatalities has declined nationwide, more trucks on the road increases the risk of an accident for everyone. USDOT reports there were 7.8 million heavy trucks on the road in 2000, compared to 10.7 million in 2010. Alabama trucking accidents claimed 105 lives that year.
Because of the risks these big rigs pose to motorists, commercial truck drivers are held to a higher standard. Under Alabama DUI law (Section 32-5A-191), commercial drivers can face a drunk driving charge with a blood-alcohol level of .04, half the .08 drunk-driving limit set for the rest of the motoring public.
Of course, proving whether drugs were involved can be a more complex process. In fact, now that 14 states have legalized medical marijuana, there are new cases addressing whether drivers under the influence of cannabis should be treated differently if they have a medical marijuana prescription. And even when a drug is present, it doesn’t necessarily mean a driver was under the influence at the time of the accident. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can remain in a person’s system for 30 days, long past the time when a user could be considered under the influence.
These are just a few of the complex considerations that our attorneys deal with when representing clients who were seriously injured or killed in tractor-trailer accidents. More than three-quarters of trucking accident victims are occupants of passenger cars, pedestrians or cyclists. Occupants of the large truck are much less frequently injured.
Another critical component in trucking accident claims is identifying all of the responsible parties. This can include the trucking company, the truck driver, truck leasing or maintenance companies, associated insurance companies, and even the owner of the freight being hauled. In still other cases, a defective truck, or a defective vehicle component may have caused an accident or exacerbated injuries.