Government seeks reduction in impaired truck accidents

Commercial drivers’ drug and alcohol violations will now be monitored via a new system being set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to improve safety on the roads.

Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that in West Virginia, traffic fatalities from accidents involving large trucks accounted for over 13 percent of all vehicular deaths in 2012. In Kanawha County, a total of 16 percent of all vehicular fatalities resulted from large truck accidents. The lives lost in truck collisions in Kanawha County represented nearly nine percent of the state's total.

Alcohol was also a factor in a great many deaths that year. In both Kanawha County and West Virginia as a whole, 28 percent of the traffic deaths were attributed to accidents involving alcohol.

Understanding that accidents involving large commercial vehicles or alcohol alone can frequently result in serious personal injuries or death, the federal government is taking steps to reduce the number of accidents involving both together. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is developing a process for tracking drug and alcohol violations of any commercial driver as well as a records review process to be used before making new hires and annually thereafter.

How will it work?

The FMCSA has termed the process and system officially as the Commercial Driver's License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. One component of the clearinghouse will be a comprehensive database to house records for all commercially licensed drivers.

Some specific elements include:

  • Any failure of a drug or alcohol test must be reported.
  • Any refusal to participate in a drug or alcohol test must be reported.
  • Any drug or alcohol violation, such as a drunk driving conviction, must be reported.
  • Prior to hiring new drivers, employers must perform complete record reviews.
  • Yearly reviews of drivers' records are required.

Drivers must consent to all testing or records reviews in writing. A process to clear inaccurate information will be developed. There will also be a designated return-to-duty procedure for drivers with past violations.

The new clearinghouse has garnered support from most industry associations, especially when stipulations for consent and the ability to clear records when appropriate were added. The system is projected to be in use no later than in early 2016.

When prevention does not help

The FMCSA's efforts in developing this new clearinghouse is a great step forward in helping to keep people safer on the roads. Certainly it is the hope that a reduction in impaired truck accidents will be realized.

However, this database alone is not likely to eliminate all large truck crashes and associated results. It remains important for people to know that they should seek legal assistance if involved in any such accident.

Keywords: truck, accident, injury