In Cincinnati, Ohio, the driver of a tractor trailer lost consciousness while using heroin crashed his truck into a guardrail on Interstate 74 in the westbound lanes. Law enforcement reported that the driver blacked out after taking heroin and his truck rolled backward and struck a guardrail. A police officer was able to revive the driver with an opioid antidote and he was charged with impaired driving and other violations. (USNews)
The driver of a fuel tanker truck in Cleves, Ohio, overdosed at a gas station as his truck engine was running. The driver was found slumped on the floorboards of his truck, bleeding from the nose with heroin pills in the truck according to law enforcement. The driver was questioned by police and taken to Hamilton County Justice Center. (WREG.com)
Opioid use is fast becoming a serious safety risk for truck accidents in Ohio and throughout the United States. Where there was once a focus on the dangers of drunk driving, drug use among truck drivers is seen as an increasing cause of truck crashes in this country. The two incidents regarding overdosed truck drivers both concerned heroin use, which is not a prescription opioid, but heroin abuse often begins when an individual became addicted to prescription opioid pain killers.
Driving a truck is grueling work with demanding deadlines and schedules. If a truck driver is in pain from an injury or a health condition or just from the consequences of aging and doing sedentary work, they may turn to pain killers to enable them to keep their tough schedules. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations prohibit truck drivers to use opioid pain killers while they are driving, they can do so if they get a letter from their doctor saying that they can do so. There is nothing keeping a driver from using opioids and other drugs without disclosing them because federal regulations do not currently include opioid pain killers in truck driver drug tests.
In February, the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a new rule which would add four opioids to the panel of drugs that truck drivers are tested for: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. These drugs can seriously impair a driver’s ability to operate a large truck safely, and they are notorious for causing those who take them to become addicted.
What are commercial truck fleet operators doing to combat drug use in truck drivers?
Currently, pre-employment, post incident, and random drug testing are done through urine testing, however, there is a movement afoot in favor of hair follicle drug testing because it is far more accurate that urine testing. Hair follicle testing can detect evidence of narcotic drug use as far back as 90-day, while a urine test can show evidence of about 60 days back. Additionally, it is impossible to cheat a hair follicle test, as the samples are collected by the technician conducting the test. Hair follicle testing costs as much as twice the price of a urine test, but its accuracy makes it worth the expense.
The comprehensive highway legislation, the FAST Act, which became law in 2015 under former President Obama, directs the FMCSA to accept hair follicle testing to satisfy the federal drug testing mandate for truck operators, but the law does not require them to do so until the department of Health and Human Services publishes guidelines for testing. These guidelines were due to Congress by December 2016; however, they are not expected to be completed until early 2018.
A coalition of 13 large commercial truck fleet operators has been pressing the FMCSA to allow them to use hair follicle testing alone rather than conducting both hair and urine testing because of the high cost of conducting both tests. Seven members of Congress sent a letter to the FMCSA in support of the trucking companies’ request. (CCJ)
Anyone who has suffered an injury in a truck accident caused by a truck driver who was impaired by drugs, you may be able to take legal action against the driver and the trucking company to recover compensation for your injuries and other losses.
The Ohio truck accident attorneys of Crandall & Pera Law are here to fight for fair compensation for you after a serious crash. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Ohio truck accident lawyers, you are welcome to call 877-686-7764 or fill out our contact form.