The federal government and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles require commercial truck drivers to undergo regular physical exams and drug tests. These rules are enforced to prevent crashes that injure and kill innocent people, but the problem of truckers operating under the influence persists.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks positive post-crash drug tests for interstate truck drivers. During 2015, the agency found that 21 percent of the drivers had measurable levels of marijuana in their systems. Out of the truck drivers involved in 3,996 fatal crashes, 4.6 percent were found to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the wreck.
The three types of drugs most commonly detected were stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine, cannabinoids, and narcotics such as heroin and opioid painkillers such as oxycodone.
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Just two years before the NHTSA compiled its data, Reuters called attention to a global assessment of illegal and dangerous drug use by truck drivers. Researchers who reviewed published surveys of truck drivers in the United States, Brazil, Australia and a number of other European and Asian countries discovered that 30 percent of truckers used amphetamines.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration makes passing a drug test a nonnegotiable requirement for qualifying to receive a commercial driver’s license with a U.S. Department of Transportation certification. Virginia, like every other state, demands that interstate truck drivers have a current USDOT certification when crossing its borders.
A new drug test is administered at each CDL renewal, and trucking companies are encouraged to operate their own scheduled and random drug testing programs. At each test, urine and/or blood samples are screened for
- Opiates and opioids
- Amphetamines and methamphetamines
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
FMSCA and VDOT also demand drug tests for commercial truck drivers who become involved in any crash that kills a person, sends someone to the hospital with injuries or damages a vehicle so badly that it must be towed away. Perhaps needles to say, failing a drug test after one of these types of serious accidents offers strong evidence for the truck driver being impaired and at fault.
As Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, we encourage strong drug testing programs for interstate truck drivers. The damage an 18-wheeler or other large commercial or construction vehicle can do is simply too great. The operator of such a vehicle cannot be under the influence of drugs.