It takes a significant amount of skill, experience, and good judgment to safely operate an 18-wheeler. Large commercial trucks are more difficult to maneuver than smaller trucks and cars. When fully loaded with cargo, 18-wheelers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In the hands of an impaired driver, such a large vehicle can wreak havoc on Texas roadways.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are about 5,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year that involve large trucks. In 2018, approximately 664 out of 3,642 traffic fatalities in Texas involved large trucks. Alcohol and drug impairment is a leading cause of serious and fatal truck crashes.
How truck drivers are affected by drugs and alcohol
Alcohol and many recreational and prescription drugs affect the brain and body in a way that makes it difficult to safely operate a large truck. Impaired drivers experience:
- Poor judgment of what's happening on the roadway
- Slowed reaction time
- Loss of muscle control
- Release of inhibition
- Decline in cognitive and motor functioning
It doesn't take much to cause impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, alcohol impairment can start at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as low as 0.02 percent. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications such as pain killers and muscle relaxers can also cause impairment.
Truck drivers are among those who are the most at risk of drowsy driving. That's because they spend more time on the road than most other drivers. It only takes a small amount of impairment to cause them to doze off behind the wheel.
Federal rules truck drivers must adhere to
The FMCSA has established several federal rules pertaining to alcohol and drug impairment. When it comes to alcohol, truck drivers must not operate commercial motor vehicles with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher (§382.201). Trucking companies are also prohibited from allowing truck drivers to drive while impaired.
Truck drivers are also prohibited from using alcohol while on duty (§382.205) or four hours before driving (§382.207). Trucking companies can be held accountable if they knowingly allow truck drivers to consume alcohol while on duty and a crash occurs as a result.
The FMCSA also requires trucking companies to administer pre-employment testing for controlled substances (§382.301), as well as post-accident testing within 8 hours for alcohol and 32 hours for controlled substances (§382.303). Throughout the course of a driver's employment, trucking companies are required to administer random testing for alcohol and/or controlled substances (§382.305) and reasonable suspicion testing (§382.307).
Top three controlled substances found in truck driver drug tests
The FMCSA conducted a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse of positive drug test results collected between September 2019 and May 2020. Approximately 19,849 positive drug tests were found during that time and the top three controlled substances included:
- Marijuana — 10,388 drivers tested positive
- Cocaine — 3,192 drivers tested positive
- Methamphetamines — 2,184 drivers tested positive
Contact our Texas law firm for help with your truck crash case
Truck drivers and the companies that employ them have a duty of care to other drivers. When they fail to do the right thing, they put lives at risk. Motorists who survive truck crashes often sustain severe injuries that require months or years of medical treatment and rehabilitation. Common injuries related to truck crashes include:
- Head injuries
- Bone fractures
- Neck, back, and spine injuries
- Facial injuries
- Crushed limbs
If you were injured in a crash caused by an impaired truck driver, you may be facing a heap of medical bills and be out of work for a long time. The attorneys at Tracey Fox King & Walters understand the financial and emotional devastation negligent truck drivers cause to crash victims and their families.
Our legal team can launch an aggressive investigation into the truck driver and trucking company. If the truck driver or trucking company violated any federal laws, we'll find out and use that evidence to help you build a strong case.
In addition, we'll fight to help you recover every dollar owed to you in damages. This includes medical costs, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and death benefits if you lost a loved one.
Our law offices are located in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio and we serve injured motorists across the State of Texas. Contact us online or call us to set up a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.