Federal government targets drunk truckers with new program

Drunk driving poses great risks to not just motorists but all citizens. Around the nation, including in Ohio, states have been seen strengthening laws and penalties surrounding impaired driving over the past several decades. Now the federal government is taking a new step forward to help reduce the instances of drunk or drugged driving among commercially licensed drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a new set of rules to establish a system in which all drivers with commercial licenses will be subject to drug and alcohol testing before being hired for new positions, as well as at regular intervals thereafter.

How widespread is the danger in Ohio?

Accidents involving drunk drivers accounted for more than 34 percent of the state's motor vehicle fatalities in 2012 according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths from large truck accidents accounted for 13.6 percent of the state's total automotive fatalities for the same year.

Additional statistics include:

  • In Cuyahoga County, nearly 37 percent of all vehicular fatalities resulted from accidents involving alcohol.
  • Together, drunk driving accidents and large truck accidents caused nearly 45 percent of the county's automotive deaths.
  • Statewide, Cuyahoga County ranked third for the most number of alcohol-related deaths in motor vehicle accidents.
  • Only six other counties lost more lives in truck accidents than Cuyahoga County.

These numbers show clearly that more help is needed to improve safety against drunk drivers and accidents involving large commercial vehicles.

How will the clearinghouse work?

The proposed rules, which would establish the Commercial Driver's License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, requires that all drivers participate in substance testing before being hired for new driving jobs. The results of these tests-whether the driver passes or fails-will be entered into the national database. Drivers can opt out of the testing and may still be hired by companies but not for positions involving the operation of vehicles.

Employers must also request a full record review for potential employees prior to completing new hires. These records will report any prior drug or alcohol related automotive violations, such as DUI convictions. Subsequent record reviews will be required every year.

Drivers who have been found guilty of impaired driving offenses will have a clearly outlined return-to-duty process that must be followed before they can be allowed to drive commercial vehicles again. The rules have not been finalized, but the clearinghouse rules are expected to go into effect in 2015 or early 2016, according to the Commercial Carrier Journal.

Keeping people safe-and compensated

Accident prevention is always the preferred action and the government's new program is a step in that direction. However, accidents will still happen. People who have been involved in truck accidents, or who have lost loved ones in such accidents, should always contact an attorney as soon as possible. Getting the right legal help from the beginning can facilitate the compensation process.