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Can FMCSA’s New Rule Save Us from Impaired Commercial Drivers?

Posted On December 30, 2016 In Truck Accidents

Can the FMCSA's database prevent crashes?Impaired commercial drivers cause bus and truck crashes every year. A new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule will establish a database to identify commercial drivers with a history of drug or alcohol violations. If the rule and database are successful, it will close a loophole used by commercial drivers for many years. In the past, commercial drivers with drug or alcohol violations would switch companies or move to other states to avoid detection. This is a process known as “job-hopping” in the commercial motor carrier industry.

Drivers job-hop because drug and alcohol violations make them ineligible to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). When applying for a CDL in another state, these violations do not show up on their records. The FMCSA’s aims close this loophole by establishing a centralized database. This new rule also sets guidelines for how commercial carriers must use the database and report drug and alcohol test violations.

On December 5th, the FMCSA published a final version of its new rule on the Office of the Federal Register’s website. The rule requires motor carriers to run prospective drivers through the database to look for previous violations at other companies. Motor carriers will also be required to input existing employees into the database once per year to look for violations. Once the FMCSA’s database is established, it may become impossible for drivers to conceal prior drug and alcohol violations from their employers. However, drivers must grant their consent for records to be released to current or prospective employers.

Reporting requirements for the database are strict. Under FMCSA’s rule, employers and medical review officers, the people who conduct drug screenings, must report drug and alcohol use or testing violations. Reported violations would end up in the database.

Unmasking Poor Driving Records May Prevent Bus and Truck Crashes

Commercial drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol are a major threat to public safety. Regulators take this threat seriously, and have guidelines for drug and alcohol testing. FMCSA regulations state commercial drivers cannot use illicit drugs or have blood alcohol content levels of more than .04 percent. Drivers can also receive violations for refusing drug or alcohol tests.

Truck accident attorneys, federal lawmakers and the commercial motor carrier industry have known for years that job-hopping endangers the public. Four years ago, Congress requested a national database for drug and alcohol violations to prevent job-hopping by unqualified CDL holders. A Government Accountability Office report from 2008 discovered 100 percent of drivers guilty of drug or alcohol violations withheld this information from their employers.

Commercial carriers may be held liable for accidents when they hire drivers with unsatisfactory driving records or a history of unsafe driving. Unfortunately, this is a common practice that costs hundreds of lives every year. In many cases, there are warning signs that drivers are putting others in danger. For example, the school bus crash in Chattanooga, where parents and school officials complained multiple times beforehand that the driver was speeding. An experienced personal injury attorney can help accident survivors or their families uncover records that show commercial carriers acted negligently.

The Texas truck accident lawyers at Mike Love & Associates, LLC are dedicated to holding negligent commercial carriers responsible for causing crashes.

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