Commercial truck drivers undergo regular drug tests. Results from last year show a sharp increase in positive marijuana tests, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they were impaired while driving. Given how stressful the job is, the high turnover rate, and low job satisfaction, drug use among commercial drivers shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Why is it a Big Deal Truck Drivers Smoke Marijuana?
Marijuana use can have a significant, negative impact on driving ability. Studies have shown that marijuana use impairs several cognitive and motor skills necessary for safe driving, including:
- Reaction time
- Attention span
Marijuana use can make a truck driver particularly dangerous by limiting their ability to:
- Track moving objects
- Make quick decisions
- Understand how impaired they are, leading to risky driving behaviors at a time the driver thinks they’re unaffected
Marijuana’s effects on driving vary on the:
- Method of ingestion
- Use of other drugs and or alcohol at the same time
Generally, the impairment may last for several hours, perhaps even a day, after marijuana use.
What Do Truck Driver Drug Tests Show?
Transport Topics reports that, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse:
- Last year nearly 41,000 truck drivers tested positive for marijuana
- That’s 32% more drivers than in 2021
- More than 100,000 tested positive for marijuana since the agency opened its Clearinghouse in 2020
- Cocaine, methamphetamines, and amphetamines were the most popular illegal drugs among truck drivers
- These top four drugs were 90% of the 177,376 total positive test results in the past three years
Drivers testing positive for these drugs cannot drive commercial trucks again until they pass a “return-to-work” process and a drug retest. As of the start of the year, of the more than 166,000 drivers failing at least one past drug test, only about 46,000 have finished the process and can legally drive again.
As pot legalization slowly spreads, the stakes for the trucking industry are high:
- A driver found to have used marijuana risks losing their job
- Any evidence of use is a regulatory violation that may cause significant legal liability for a trucking company
- The fact only about a quarter of drivers found with illegal drugs in their systems have made their way back to truck driving makes a critical driver shortage worse
Although it’s a good thing these pot users aren’t driving 80,000-pound vehicles at highway speeds, the fact that these 120,000 drivers are missing from the workforce puts additional stress and strain on those behind the wheel.
Current Tests Have Limitations
Law enforcement and traffic safety proponents want a practical field-sobriety marijuana test similar to those used to determine someone’s blood alcohol content level. There’s currently no “breathalyzer” to show marijuana impairment.
Current tests show a person was exposed to the drug in the past, but a positive result doesn’t mean impairment at the time of the test. Law enforcement officers are trained to recognize impairment, but there’s no scientific way to prove marijuana’s the cause.
How Would the Fact a Stoned Driver Caused an Accident Impact a Case?
If you’re injured in a truck accident caused by a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, it gives your insurance claim or lawsuit a greater chance of success. You need to show that driver’s at fault. Although the fact they’re breaking the law doesn’t automatically mean you’ll win your case, it generally makes the case easier to prove, and you become more sympathetic to a jury.
If a trucking company’s the defendant, they may urge their insurance company to settle. The less attention your case gets, the better it is for them because they want to protect their reputation. They’d rather not be known as the company putting someone stoned in control of a vehicle big enough to flatten a car, especially if their driver caused particularly severe injuries.
What’s the Next Step?
If you or a loved one are injured in a vehicle accident in Kentucky and are looking for an experienced lawyer, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. Our team is dedicated and compassionate when fighting for our clients.
We can discuss your accident, injuries, the law, and how it may apply in your case. You will be fully informed about your situation and the possible hurdles you may face so you can make an educated decision when choosing what to do next. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.