It is easy to feel a little paranoid when you encounter a tractor-trailer on a New Mexico highway. You may find yourself asking many questions. When was the last time someone inspected the brakes on that rig? Has the driver slept recently? Does the driver see you driving alongside in your little car? These and other questions are not unreasonable given the massive devastation that often occurs when a large commercial truck is involved in a traffic accident.
You may know that much stricter standards for impairment apply to truck drivers than to the average non-commercial driver. The blood alcohol limit for a truck driver is much lower than yours is when you drive your personal car. Additionally, every driver applying for a trucking job must undergo a urine test to screen for drug use. However, your concern when passing a truck may increase when you learn how unreliable those tests really are.
Shocking results of a study
The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, or the Trucking Alliance, surveyed over 150,000 applicants for commercial trucking jobs and requested that they take a hair analysis test in addition to the urine test. The hair test is far more accurate in detecting drugs in the body, but the urine test is the only measure the federal government requires for pre-employment screening of truckers. When comparing the test samples, the Trucking Alliance discovered the following:
- The hair analysis for almost 9,000 of the applicants came back positive for illicit drugs.
- Among those drugs were cocaine, opioids and marijuana.
- About 90% of those who failed or refused the hair test had passed the urine test.
- Although the employer disqualified those who failed the hair test, it is likely they obtained a trucking job elsewhere in a company that requires only the urine test.
- Projecting the results of this statistically valid sample onto the general population of truck drivers means that about 300,000 drivers may be under the influence of drugs while operating big rigs.
Currently, Congress is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines for the use of hair analysis drug testing in the trucking industry. Until then, drivers like you may be sharing the road with hundreds of thousands of truckers who are in no condition to be operating an 80,000-pound vehicle at highway speeds.
If you suffer injuries in an accident with such a vehicle, you can be sure they will be catastrophic and life changing. You will want to reach out to a skilled attorney who is experienced in seeking compensation from every possible source related to a truck driving accident.