Baltimore Trucking Accident Lawyers: New Drug Screening Method

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This fall, Congress will hear arguments regarding a new bill that will change the way many trucking companies screen drivers for drug use. The bill, named the Drug Free Commercial Driver Act, would direct the Department of Transportation, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, to issue regulations that would allow motor carriers to use hair follicle testing as an alternative to urinalysis to screen drivers for substance abuse. The tests would be used in pre-employment screening and random testing programs.

The Act has the support of American Trucking Association (ATA) officials, who contend that hair testing is both more accurate and harder to beat than urinalysis. Additionally, hair follicle tests are able to detect drug use over a 90-day period, compared to only several days with a urine test.   

Many of the largest trucking companies already use hair follicle drug testing to screen job applicants. However, because the method is currently not recognized by the Department of Transportation, positive test results are not reported to other potential employers or included in a database of drivers who have tested positive for drug or alcohol abuse. In a letter addressed to senators, ATA President Bill Graves admitted that the organization is aware of thousands of truck drivers who have tested positive for illegal drug use on hair tests at one company, then gone on to take a driving position with another carrier because they were able to pass the DOT-required urine test. Several of these truck drivers have subsequently been involved in a drug-related trucking accident, and without a change in the system, future crashes are likely.

The bill is not without opposition, however. Several labor groups have argued that hair-testing method can lead to false positive results, claiming that a specimen can test positive for a drug that its donor was merely exposed to, but not ingested. Others have expressed concerns over racial bias, referring to studies that show darker and more porous hair retains drugs at a greater rate than lighter hair.

Drugs Play Major Role in Truck Accidents

Drug use by truck drivers is a major factor in both fatal and non-fatal truck accidents. The overwhelming majority of truck accident injuries involve passenger vehicle occupants. However, when drugs are involved, there is also a very high percentage of truck driver fatalities as well. Studies conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board reveal that up to 35% of all truck drivers killed in truck accidents test positive for some type of illegal drug. In accidents caused by truck driver fatigue, 33% also test positive for drug use. The drugs most commonly used by truck drivers include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines and other stimulants.

Current federal regulations require trucking companies to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on drivers. Federal and state safety inspectors also have authority to conduct random roadside inspections of commercial vehicles and their drivers. In 2013, 2,095 drivers were found to be in violation of federal rules governing alcohol consumption during a random roadside inspection and placed immediately out-of-service. That same year, 1,240 drivers were also taken off duty for violating regulations governing controlled substances. The hope is that with the adoption of the new testing method, fewer drug using-truck drivers will be allowed on the road and less innocent lives will be lost in truck crashes.

Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Justice and Compensation for Victims of Truck Accidents

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a truck accident caused by a driver who was impaired by drugs or alcohol, Maryland trucking accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. Call 800-547-4LAW (4529) today to discuss your possible claim with one of our highly skilled Maryland truck accident lawyers, or submit an online contact form.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Towson, allowing us to represent truck accident victims and their families throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.