A major cause of truck accidents in Illinois causing death or serious personal injury is the use of alcohol and controlled substances by truck drivers while operating their vehicles. Pursuant to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, certain commercial truck drivers are required to be tested for alcohol and drugs. In addition to alcohol the federal regulations require testing for the following drugs: marijuana, cocaine / crack, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine (“PCP”).
The truck driver is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, for testing positive for any of the drugs listed above or for registering a Blood Alcohol Concentration (“BAC”) of 0.02 or greater, are not permitted to drive a commercial truck or perform other “safety-sensitive functions” for at least 24 hours, and may not return to work without further testing.
All commercial truck drivers must possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and additional tests apply to such truck drivers throughout their employment. For instance, prior to being employed, the truck driver must submit to a mandatory drug test, which tests for controlled substances.
During employment, an employer may give a drug test to its truck driver employee under “reasonable suspicion” to believe that the truck driver has used alcohol or drugs. Random drug and alcohol testing is also required by the Department of Transportation under certain circumstances.
Further, after a fatal truck crash or truck accident where someone is killed, the truck drivers involved must submit to a drug and alcohol test. In addition, drug and alcohol tests are required for commercial truck drivers who receive a moving violation citation in a truck crash that results in personal injury and medical attention to someone involved in the accident, and where a vehicle is towed away from the scene. The alcohol test must be conducted within 8 hours and the drug test must be conducted within 32 hours of the crash.
Clearly, these regulations are designed to prevent commercial truck drivers from drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs, resulting in hundreds of fatal truck accidents every year.
In May 2008, the United States Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) published a report for the Secretary of Transportation to consider in revising the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) rules. The title of the report was, “Improvements to Drug Testing Programs Could Better Identify Illegal Drug Users and Keep Them off the Road.”
The GAO report notes that, despite the mandatory federal regulations, many trucking companies have no drug testing program whatsoever. The report also found that many truck drivers who use drugs can avoid testing positive by consuming over-the-counter products that mask the positive test results.
Some of the recommendation of the Report is for states to take an active role in suspending the CDL’s of truck drivers who fail an alcohol or drug test, and for the FMCSA to be given additional authority over the drug testing procedures of various trucking carriers.
This is an issue of public safety to reduce the number of catastrophic truck accidents in Illinois caused by negligent and reckless truck drivers and trucking companies.