Federal drug testing rules and commercial driver's licensing standards that were enacted in the 1990s have reduced the number of truck crashes involving drugs. However, several fatal accidents, the increasing legalization of marijuana use and the increased awareness of the abuse of anti-anxiety medications have all raised concerns over the role of drugs in truck accidents. Advocates claim that federal drug-testing programs miss many drivers who use drugs.
The positive rates for random testing are below one percent, according to a 2017 survey released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Quest diagnostics, a major testing provider, reviewed random and non-random test results and found that the transportation and warehouse sector experienced the largest increase of any sector mostly because of increases in positive results for cocaine and marijuana.
But, these statistics do not involve four prescription opioids added to the Department of Transportation's drug-testing panel in 2018. Critics also claim that urine testing under federal rules catches only a small number of truck drivers who use drugs. Advocates seek the use of hair analysis that helps prevent cheating and covers drug use over a longer period of time.
Even with the legalization of marijuana in many states, federal law prohibits its use by drivers with commercial licenses. Driving under the influence of marijuana is also illegal in all states. But, Quest Diagnostics reported that positive drug tests reached a 14 year high in this country last year and marijuana was at the top of this list.
Opioids are becoming involved in more deadly accidents. The rise of prescription opioids doubles the risk of a fatal two-vehicle crash. Sedatives used to treat anxiety and sleeplessness are being used more and are especially dangerous when combined with opioids. Many trucking companies test for these medications even though they are not included in the DOT's federal drug testing panel.
Urine testing may also miss stimulants that are used to combat fatigue or highway hypnosis. These include illegal drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy and prescription medications like Adderall and Dexedrine. Stimulants can change perceptions and reaction time and may cause hallucinations.
Any failure to detect substance abuse can lead to a serious and deadly trucking accident, serious injuries and medical expenses. An attorney can assist victims of these accidents and their families seek compensation.