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Impaired Truck Driver Declared “Imminent Hazard” For Fatal Crash

Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury AttorneysI recently wrote a post asking the question, Is Drug Use Among Truck Drivers Increasing? I discussed several issues in my article. To be fair, during the recent covid pandemic, law enforcement agencies across northern Alabama reported increased DUI arrests for all drivers. Non-commercial drivers. So, it’s likely that impaired driving increased during the pandemic among all drivers.

As I discussed in my prior post, the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now has a clearinghouse database for information related to commercial drivers with alcohol or drug issues. That’s great. We need a safety database where potential drivers who fail pre-employment drug screens or who test positive for impaired driving after an accident, can be listed. We definitely do not need a patchwork system where a bad driver can simply go elsewhere to be rehired.

The clearinghouse has only recently become fully mandatory for reporting. That’s why I concluded in my prior post that the data is too limited to determine whether impaired driving is really increasing.

After writing my article on the drug and alcohol driver clearinghouse, I read about a tragic crash in Tennessee. What happened? A truck driver from Texas crashed into stopped vehicles at a roadblock, killing a local police officer. Afterwards, the driver admitted to marijuana use that morning and marijuana was also found in his truck. Tennessee authorities charged the truck driver with vehicular homicide and a local judge set his bond for $1 million.

But, the case involves much more than the driver’s impairment that day. Post-accident investigations by the FMCSA discovered the truck driver had previously tested positive for drugs during a pre-employment drug test on March 31, 2020. As a result of that test, he was designated as “prohibited” in the FMCSA clearinghouse. He should NOT have been driving a commercial truck. It appears the driver may have also not had a current medical certificate as required by the regulations. Because of these findings, the FMCSA declared the driver an “Imminent Hazard” to public safety.

I hate to write about any tragedy. But, this case is important to the new clearinghouse. In my prior blog article, I made the point that with commercial drivers, licensing and employment in other states also impacts us. Commercial drivers licensed in one state frequently travel long distances across the United States. This driver who was licensed in Texas but killed someone in Tennessee, is a perfect example. In Alabama, we have major Interstate Highways, including I65, I20/59 and I10 which cross the state. Our Interstates carry a huge number of long haul trucks.

Through the new clearinghouse, we can hopefully begin to have full information accessible to companies in different states. Although it did not happen here — This should prevent a bad driver from simply going to another state for hiring. And, the clearinghouse will allow us to hold companies responsible when they put bad drivers on the highway.

In the coming months, we will also learn much more about the Texas company that employed this driver. I’m sure they are the subject of an ongoing investigation asking some serious questions. Did the company check the database before employing the driver? Why did the company put this driver in one of its trucks when he was not legally allowed to drive? Through the clearinghouse, a company can no longer claim ignorance of a bad driver’s past drug problems. I will likely write again on this topic as this investigation progresses.

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From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm handles serious car and truck crash cases across Alabama. Our consultations are always confidential and free. We are happy to answer your personal injury questions.

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