Trucker impairment is a common cause of serious trucking accidents.
Large commercial trucks are vital to our economy. They get the goods we rely on daily from point A to point B. But when they're not operated responsibly, they pose a significant danger to other road users. That's because commercial trucks are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles. They can inflict serious and widespread damage in a single truck accident. Now, couple the size and weight of a large truck with an impaired truck driver. This serious risk has prompted authorities to revoke licenses from "prohibited' status truckers."
When does the new Clearinghouse rule go into effect?
Beginning November 18, 2024, prohibited' status truckers in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse will face revocation of their commercial driving licenses by state authorities. It will result in the downgrading of drivers' licenses until they successfully complete the return-to-duty (RTD) process.
This new enforcement step originates from the Clearinghouse-II Final Rule, implemented by the FMCSA in October 2021. This rule intensifies the responsibilities of State Driver's Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) concerning the Clearinghouse. It enhances the existing federal regulations that already prevent drivers with a "prohibited" status in the Clearinghouse from operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on public roads.
The FMCSA's Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is an online database that tracks drug and alcohol violations of commercial drivers. The establishment of the Clearinghouse in 2020 aimed to enhance road safety. It provides real-time, complete access to drivers' substance use violations, including positive tests and refusals to undergo testing.
This database is accessible to the FMCSA, CMV employers, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs), and law enforcement officials. It ensures that these parties are fully informed about a driver's drug and alcohol violation history.
What does the Clearinghouse require of trucking companies?
Commercial motor carriers must check the Clearinghouse before hiring drivers. They must also continue to monitor the status of their existing drivers annually. The enforces high safety standards in the commercial driving sector by ensuring that individuals with a history of substance abuse are not behind the wheel of CMVs.
The implementation of the Clearinghouse-II Final Rule signifies a significant step in the FMCSA's ongoing efforts to enhance road safety. By enforcing stricter controls on driver licensing and increasing the accountability of SDLAs, the FMCSA aims to ensure that only qualified and sober drivers operate CMVs.
Common substances used by truck drivers
While alcohol has been a long-standing concern in the trucking industry, there are several other substances that have become increasingly common among truck drivers. Here are some of the most common drugs used by truck drivers, along with the associated risks:
- Marijuana (Cannabis): With the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use in some states, its use among truck drivers has been on the rise. Marijuana can impair coordination, slow reaction times, and alter judgment, making it dangerous for drivers. And just because it is legal in some states, it is against the law to operate a commercial motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana.
- Prescription Medications: Some truck drivers may misuse prescription drugs, such as opioids, sedatives, or stimulants. These medications can cause drowsiness, impaired concentration, and even addiction, affecting a driver's ability to operate a large commercial vehicle safely.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications: Common OTC drugs like antihistamines or cough syrups can cause drowsiness and impaired alertness. When used improperly or in excessive amounts, they can pose risks on the road.
- Methamphetamine: This powerful stimulant can enhance wakefulness and focus temporarily. However, its use can lead to severe fatigue, aggressive behavior, and reckless driving when the effects wear off.
- Cocaine: Cocaine is a potent stimulant that can cause heightened alertness and increased energy initially. However, it can also result in paranoia, hallucinations, and impaired judgment, leading to dangerous driving behavior.
- Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice/K2): These synthetic drugs can have unpredictable effects, including hallucinations, seizures, and extreme agitation. Their use can lead to erratic and unsafe driving.
- Alcohol: While not exclusive to truck drivers, alcohol remains a common issue in the industry. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair motor skills and judgment, making it a significant hazard on the road.
It's essential to understand that using any of these substances while operating a commercial vehicle is not only illegal but also endangers the lives of everyone sharing the road. Trucking companies must enforce strict drug-testing policies and provide education on the dangers of drug use to ensure the safety of their drivers and others on the highways.
Indiana truck accident lawyers who fight to win
The FMCSA's effort to take prohibited' status truckers off the road is a significant milestone in road safety. However, the risk of being hit by a negligent truck driver persists. If you were injured or a loved one died in a fatal truck accident, the attorneys at Boughter Sinak, LLC are ready to fight for you.
We're experienced in handling complex trucking accident cases. We know how to investigate negligent truck drivers and the trucking companies that hired them. No matter how much they try to conceal their wrongdoing, we'll work to uncover the truth and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Get a proven fighter in your corner. Contact us online and set up your free consultation today. You can also call our law offices in Fort Wane and South Bend, Indiana.