Driving under the influence of alcohol is deadly. It impairs your vision, your judgment, and your reflexes, making accidents much more likely to occur. These factors are even more applicable to someone operating a multi-ton commercial truck, tractor trailer, or 18 wheeler. Commercial trucking is already a dangerous profession due to the sheer weight and size of these vehicles, but when you add the influence of alcohol it can become downright deadly.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently declared Tennessee-licensed commercial trucker Eric Scott to be an “imminent hazard to public safety” after his recent alcohol-related incidents behind the wheel. Consequently, the FMCSA has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
This order stems from two separate events involving Scott being under the influence of alcohol in his commercial truck. First, in December 2016, Vermont police found Scott asleep in the cab of his truck in the parking lot of a hotel. A breathalyzer test confirmed that Scott was under the influence of alcohol. Two days later, Scott was released from police custody. The following evening, Vermont police responded to a multi-vehicle crash on the interstate involving a tractor-trailer. Sure enough, the culprit was Scott, who was once again under the influence of alcohol. The accident occurred after Scott’s vehicle jackknifed off the road and into a sign, forcing three other vehicles off the road. At the time of this accident, Scott was on the job and headed to his final destination of Memphis, Tennessee.
In banning this truck driver from commercial trucking, the FMCSA reasoned that Scott’s continued operation of commercial vehicles “substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to [Scott] and/or the motoring public if not discontinued immediately.” Failure to follow these orders can result in civil penalties and/or criminal charges. It’s also worth noting that Scott received his commercial trucking license in October 2016, just two months before his repeat alcohol-related incidents.
The harsh reaction from the FMCSA reflects the gravity of alcohol abuse among commercial truckers and how drug use contributes to trucking accidents. A study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that in cases of fatal trucking accidents, one or more drugs (including alcohol) were found in 67% of truck drivers. Further, in 50 out of 56 cases where psychoactive drugs or alcohol were found, impairment due to substance use contributed to the fatal accident.
Drug usage, including alcohol, is one of the biggest contributing factors for truck accidents. The FMCSA recognizes the danger of substance abuse with commercial truckers and is taking steps to reduce this in the industry. The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse) is a program meant to help reduce the number of substance abusers working as truck drivers. The Clearinghouse is essentially a database that will contain information pertaining to violations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) controlled substance and alcohol testing program for holders of commercial driver’s licenses.
The Clearinghouse requires all FMCSA regulated employers and medical professionals to provide the Clearinghouse with information regarding violations of drug or alcohol policies of current and potential truck drivers. Ideally, the Clearinghouse will provide the FMCSA with the necessary tools to identify potential hazards and address them before they become a problem. While the FMCSA is taking strides towards eliminating alcohol abuse in commercial trucking, there is always the risk of an accident. If you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident in Tennessee or elsewhere, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today.