truck driver talking into the radioLarge commercial trucks, such as tractor trailers and semis, present a great danger to other drivers and passengers on the highways and roads in Massachusetts and throughout the country. This is one reason why there are many regulations imposed upon the trucking industry and truck drivers. Despite many regulations, the volume of trucking accidents and severe injuries continue to increase. In an effort to make our roadways safer, the federal government has identified another area of concern – drug-impaired truck drivers.

A recent article in a major newspaper discussed the dire truck-driver shortage that is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy. There doesn’t appear to be a positive outlook. There were new and tough Federal drug testing requirements imposed nationwide last year, resulting in more than 72,000 truck drivers taken off the road since January of 2020. A new registry established to increase highway safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse (the “Clearinghouse”), was enacted to address drug-impaired driving.     

Impact of the Clearinghouse on the Trucking Industry

The introduction of the Clearinghouse did not change the federal drug and alcohol testing regulations or the required percentage of drivers that were tested. According to the FMCSA before the establishment of the Clearinghouse, the identical number of drivers would still have been prohibited from operating. 

What the Clearinghouse was designed to address is the degree of difficulty for prohibited drivers to circumvent the system. Before the Clearinghouse, there were situations when truck drivers were testing positive and then were job-hopping. Drivers wouldn’t report their previous employer, so another carrier wouldn’t pick up on the positive test. The Clearinghouse has stopped that from happening. 

While the Clearinghouse is working toward making highways and roadways safer, there are some unintended consequences. According to some sources, high drug use among truckers throughout the U.S. reportedly resulted in a record number of truck drivers taken off the road. It has been reported that the trucking industry needs 80,000 new drivers to address the shortage and, therefore, the industry is trying many ways to attract truckers, in some cases hiring truckers as young as 18.

Thus, in one way, the concerns of drug-impaired truck drivers are being addressed, but, on the other end, this may result in less experienced, less skilled truck drivers on the roads. One way or the other, tractor trailers pose a significant danger to the many drivers and passengers sharing the roads.

The Dangers of the Present Trucking Industry Issues

In the end, it is the American people that experience the negative effects of these issues currently facing the trucking industry. There’s greater pressure on drivers to maintain schedules and fewer drivers result in longer hours behind the wheel. These pressures and long hours can result in truck driver fatigue, which may cause some drivers to use illegal substances to fight fatigue and fulfill their requirement. This reminds me of a t-shirt I've seen before that said "I'm a Trucker, I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done." That's the type of mentality that present serioius dangers on the roads. 

Results of recent testing from truckers nationwide were incredulous. Detected among truck drivers were amphetamines, cocaine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamine, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, just to name a few. It’s staggering to think that there are that many truck drivers operating large and potentially dangerous equipment on the nation’s highways under the influence of drugs.

Operating large commercial trucks at high speeds on the highway takes a lot of skill, experience, coordination, and perception. As with alcohol, narcotics -illegal or legal – have a significant impact on a truck driver’s capabilities and motor skills. Some of the drugs listed above are proven to affect drivers’ reaction times and decision-making skills, which are all necessary to safely operate a large truck. When a truck driver’s operation skills are impaired, the probability of a trucking crash is significantly increased.

Proving Liability in a Trucking Accident Case is Not Always Easy

The trucking industry is big business and big business means a lot of money. When a large commercial truck is involved in a serious crash and severely injures someone, the trucking company and their commercial insurer immediately go to work. They will work tirelessly to protect their driver and their business.

Trucking accident cases customarily very complex. But, when the trucking company and their insurers begin to take aggressive defensive tactics after a crash, a trucking injury case can take on a whole new level of complication. That’s why anyone seriously injured in a trucking related crash should seriously consider hiring an experienced trucking accident lawyer.

Our Framingham truck accident lawyers are experienced in truck accident investigation, well-informed of federal and state trucking regulations, and that are experienced litigators. Many trucking accident cases end up in personal injury lawsuits in pursuit of fair and just compensation for accident victims. Having experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyers working for you and your family to prove the trucking company and their driver were responsible is crucial in trucking accident cases. Remember, you can only obtain the money you deserve, if you can first prove the truck driver and/or trucking company were negligent and the cause of your injuries and damages.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.
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