Operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or large truck requires a lot of skill, experience, attention and good judgment. Large trucks are much more complex to operate than cars. They also weigh up to 80,000 lbs. when fully loaded, in comparison to a car that weighs around 4,000 lbs.
About 5,000 people lose their lives each year in the U.S. due to crashes involving large trucks. Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of serious and fatal truck accidents in New Mexico and across the United States.
There is no safe way for truck drivers to operate a CMV while impaired. Consumption of alcohol and controlled substances causes impaired judgment, delayed reaction time, and decline in physical, cognitive, and motor functioning. Even small amounts of alcohol, marijuana, sedatives or over-the-counter drugs can induce drowsiness (which is another leading cause of truck accidents).
Truck drivers must comply with strict federal rules regarding the use of alcohol and controlled substances. For example, federal law prohibits truckers from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or greater. For car drivers, the BAC limit is 0.08 percent. In addition, truck drivers must undergo strict and random testing procedures in order to obtain and maintain employment.
Rules on alcohol consumption for truck drivers
These are the rules regarding alcohol use outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
- Alcohol concentration (§382.201) — It's illegal for truck drivers to report for duty or remain on duty with a BAC of 0.04 percent or greater. It is also illegal for a trucking company to knowingly allow truck drivers to operate CMVs with a BAC of 0.04 percent or greater.
- On-duty use (§382.205) — Truck drivers are prohibited from consuming alcohol while on-duty. This rule also prohibits trucking companies from knowingly allowing drivers to remain on-duty while consuming alcohol.
- Pre-duty use (§382.207) — Truck drivers are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive job functions within four hours after consuming alcohol. This rule also prohibits trucking companies from knowingly allowing drivers to perform safety-sensitive job functions within four hours of consuming alcohol.
- Use following an accident (§382.211) — Truck drivers who were involved in a crash and must take a post-accident alcohol test are prohibited from consuming alcohol for 8 hours after the crash, or until the alcohol test is performed (whichever happens first).
The trucking company may also be held accountable for a crash caused by an impaired truck driver, under the FMCSA rule of "actual knowledge" (382.107.) This rule states that any information pertaining to a violation of subpart B of part 382 provides a "sufficient basis for that employer's actual knowledge." This may include:
- Information provided by the driver's previous employer(s)
- Citations issued or arrests made while operating a CMV while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances
Rules on controlled substances and testing
Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to comply with these rules on controlled substances and testing outlined by the FMCSA:
- Pre-employment testing (§382.301) — Truck drivers are required to undergo pre-employment testing for controlled substances. This rule prohibits trucking companies from allowing drivers to perform safety-sensitive job functions unless proper testing has been administered and drivers and negative test results have been verified. The only exception to this rule is if a driver took an approved controlled substance testing within 30 days prior to being hired.
- Post-accident testing (§382.303) — Trucking companies must administer testing for alcohol or controlled substances to drivers after a crash occurs. If tests are not administered within 8 hours for alcohol or 32 hours for controlled substances, then trucking companies must cease all attempts to test drivers and document the reasons why tests weren't administered (this must then be filed).
- Random testing (§382.305) — Drivers are required to undergo random testing for alcohol and/or controlled substances.
- Reasonable suspicion testing (§382.307) — Trucking companies are required to administer testing for alcohol and/or controlled substances if there is reasonable suspicion that a driver consumed either before or while on duty.
Most common controlled substances found in drug tests
The FMCSA conducted a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which compiled 19,849 positive drug test results from September 2019 to May 2020. The three most common substances found in the tests included:
- Marijuana — 10,388 positive tests
- Cocaine — 3,192 positive tests
- Methamphetamines — 2,184 positive tests
Consult with an experienced New Mexico attorney if you were injured by an impaired truck driver
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by an impaired truck driver, you need a strong legal advocate on your side who can conduct an in-depth investigation. Trucking companies and the insurance companies that represent them have a lot to lose from a crash. Trucking companies will often launch their own biased investigations. They may even destroy, falsify or hide records proving that they acted negligently.
You may be recovering from serious injuries and stuck with costly medical bills. Those who survive truck accidents often sustain:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal injuries
- Crushed limbs
- Internal organ damage
- Severe lacerations and abrasions
- Facial injuries
At the same time, you may not be able to work and make ends meet. Perhaps you're mourning the loss of a loved one. The last thing you need to deal with is the frustration of navigating a complex truck accident claim. Let an experienced New Mexico attorney at Szantho Law Firm sort things out for you. We'll gather the facts to support your claim and fight for a fair and complete financial settlement. Our law offices are based in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Contact us online to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.