The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse operated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued its summary report for the first year. In 2020, the Clearinghouse received 1.4 million pre-employment queries, 2.7 million limited queries, and 136,806 full queries. Approximately 1.6 million drivers and 197,000 employers registered in the Clearinghouse, which recorded more than 56,000 drug and alcohol violations for the first year. Many violations occurred in the final two months of 2020, and 45,000 drivers lost their jobs due to violations.
Types of Clearinghouse violations include:
- Suspected cheating on drug tests
Out of the drivers who lost their jobs, 34,000 have yet to complete the return-to-work program. This could be a sign that truckers with drunk driving and drugged driving violations are choosing to leave the industry rather than enter treatment programs. Impaired driving is dangerous, illegal, and a threat to everyone on the road. When the driver is operating a huge commercial tractor trailer, the threat increases because of the size and weight of the truck and potentially dangerous cargo. A truck accident causes more damage than a standard car accident. Injuries from a truck accident are much more likely to be life-altering or fatal.
Operating a truck requires skill and expertise, and a truck driver who uses alcohol or drugs while driving has diminished decision-making capabilities. With the establishment of the Clearinghouse, employers, licensing agencies, and law enforcement authorities have a way to track drug and alcohol violations by drivers operating commercial vehicles.
How Does the Clearinghouse Work?
While truck drivers who commit drug and alcohol violations are required by regulations to inform new employers of their record, many do not and are able to simply start over by moving to a different state. The Clearinghouse aims to prevent this by enabling employers and the FMCSA to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and helping drivers get the required evaluation and treatment they need.
Employers, state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs), and state law enforcement personnel can get real-time information about commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders’ drug and alcohol program violations. The establishment of the Clearinghouse was hailed as a major safety win for both the commercial motor vehicle industry and the general public. Commercial drivers with positive test results are no longer able to conceal them from prospective employers, making the roads safer for everyone.
Who Must Use the Clearinghouse?
Under the Clearinghouse, the following entities must report drug and alcohol violations by current and prospective employees:
- FMCSA-regulated employers
- Medical review officers
- Substance abuse professionals
- Third-party administrators and other service agents
Additionally, employers are required to check the Clearinghouse for drug and alcohol violations for all current and prospective employees before allowing them to operate a CMV on public roads. They must also query the Clearinghouse annually for every driver they currently employ.
Impaired Driving and Truck Accidents
A semi-truck with a trailer can weigh 35,000 pounds empty and 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. It takes skill and training to maneuver such a complex vehicle and bring it safely to a stop. In hazardous road conditions and complex traffic situations, truck drivers will need to employ their judgement and reflexes to make quick decisions. An impaired driver has a reduced response time, slower reflexes, and impaired judgement. They may also have a falsely heightened sense of their own driving abilities. The consequences in a truck accident are often devastating. A large truck can damage several other vehicles simultaneously. Since truck drivers sit higher and in a reinforced cab, the more serious injuries are inflicted upon the occupants of the other vehicles.
Truck driver work involves many solitary hours on the road at odd hours, the stress of deadlines for delivering cargo, and the physical demands of loading and unloading goods. A driver may turn to the use of controlled substances, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or alcohol to deal with the challenges of truck driving. Some drivers use certain drugs to help them stay awake on the road for long periods of time, but these drugs can have dangerous side effects, like erratic and agitated behavior. The Clearinghouse should have a major impact on the ability of employers to confirm that they are putting safe and sober drivers behind the wheel.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured in a Truck Accident?
Liability is often hard to establish in a truck accident. There may be multiple parties involved, including the truck driver, trucking company, the company shipping the cargo in the truck, companies manufacturing truck parts, and others. There are many complicated laws regulating the trucking industry as well as state and local laws. Anyone injured in a truck accident is usually going up against the teams of lawyers that trucking companies and their insurers employ to deal with accidents caused by their drivers.
Due to the complex nature of truck accidents, it is advisable for a victim to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. A good lawyer should be able to investigate the following on behalf of the truck accident victim:
- Determine the cause of the accident.
- Police reports, including any breath, blood, or urine tests performed after the accident.
- Results of random drug testing done by the trucking company.
- The trucker’s personal and professional driving records, including any prior drunk driving charges.
- Hours of service records indicating how long the truck driver was on the road before the accident.
- Maintenance log books for the truck involved in the accident.
- Black box data from the truck as well as driving video recorded in the truck leading up to the accident.
- Testimonies from eyewitnesses.
Gathering as much evidence as possible will help build a strong case for compensation for injuries suffered in a truck accident. Legal strategies may include bringing suits against the truck driver, the trucking company, or manufacturers of defective parts if a mechanical failure was an issue. Damages may include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost potential future income, disability, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the truck driver was found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol and showed reckless disregard for the safety of other motorists on the road.
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Fight for Victims Injured by Impaired Truck Drivers
Truck drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol can cause serious accidents with devastating consequences. If you were injured in a truck accident, contact a Virginia Beach truck accident lawyer. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will fight to get you the compensation you need to recover from your injuries. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.