Thursday, December 21, 2017

Truck Drivers and Drug Use Lead to Injuries

Truck driving is a challenging and stressful job. Unfortunately, the stressful conditions of this industry lead many truck drivers to abuse alcohol, drugs, and other substances. Reuters reports that one study found U.S. truck drivers to have the highest rate of positive alcohol tests worldwide. Studies also suggested that, while estimates vary widely, overall the use of mind-altering substances is high among truck drivers, and linked to poor working conditions.

If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of a truck driver, you have important legal rights which must be protected. Truck drivers who abuse drugs must be held accountable for their dangerous behaviors. Trucking companies, too, must be held accountable for putting drivers on the road in dangerous conditions. The experienced truck accident attorneys at the Dolman Law Group protect injury victims’ legal rights. For decades, south Florida injury victims have trusted the Dolman Law Group to both secure fair legal compensation and hold negligent parties responsible for any dangerous conduct.

An Ongoing Public Safety Hazard

The problem of substance abuse among truck drivers is not a new one. Back in 1990, the National Transportation Safety Board released a study which found that one in three truckers killed in highway accidents had recently used drugs or alcohol. At the time, the New York Times reported that random drug screening of truck drivers was highly controversial, and many opponents were vigorously fighting to stop federal regulations which would require it. Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires random drug testing of commercial truck drivers. Drug testing is also required:

  • Before employment
  • After certain serious accidents
  • When there is reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired
  • Upon returning to duty after a failed drug test, or refusal to take a drug test
  • As part of the follow-up process of returning to duty after a failed or refused drug test. 

Why Truck Driving is Such a Stressful Occupation

Truck driving is both stressful and inherently dangerous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 25% of all workplace fatalities in America in 2015 occurred in the trucking industry. There are many factors which work together to make the profession so dangerous. Long hours, low pay and tough working conditions have caused turnover among truck drivers to remain near one hundred percent. This means that truck drivers on the roadway are rarely experienced, which, in turn, increases the risk of having an accident.

Another safety hazard is truck drivers’ pay structure. Because truck drivers are often paid by the mile, not by the hour, they are forced to choose between productivity and safety. Cargo, too, can pose a danger to truck drivers. Flammable cargo or hazardous material carries obvious risks to truck drivers and others on the road. But cargo can also affect the physics of momentum in other ways. Liquid cargo, for example, can create a “sloshing” effect which propels the truck forward – even from a complete stop. Trailers which are not properly secured can sway across lanes and cause the truck driver to lose control of the load.

The Regulation That Will Not Change

For more than thirty years, federal regulations have set minimum liability insurance coverage for commercial trucks at $750,000. This figure has not changed since 1983. It has not even been adjusted for inflation. Fair Warning estimates that that same amount of coverage, adjusted for inflation, would equate to $2.2 million in 2017. But the minimum continues to defy inflation - let alone the exponential costs of American health care.

Oddly, even the trucking industry seems to recognize that $750,000 is not a sufficient amount of coverage to pay for the severe injuries caused by trucks and big rigs. Fair Warning reports that the Trucking Alliance encourages its members to maintain “significantly higher” coverage than the federal minimum. (Trucking companies are subject to judgments against them for any legal judgments not covered by liability insurance, but such judgments are very rarely paid.) The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently declined yet another proposal to raise the minimum coverage standard. For now, it would appear that safety has - once again - been sacrificed to the needs of politicians.

Insufficient insurance coverage is a very real and devastating problem for the families who are most harmed by truck accidents. Consider the value ($9.6 million) that the Department of Transportation places on human life when calculating the costs and benefits of safety regulations. $750,000 is a mere fraction of this cost. Yet families who lose a loved one to trucking accidents are bound by the $750,000 minimum policy limits that many trucking companies carry.

The real-life tragedy of Ed Slattery is a stark reminder of the actual costs of truck accidents. Bloomberg reports that, in 2010, Slattery’s wife and two young sons were driving home from a family reunion when they were rear-ended by a big rig. The collision forced their vehicle into another big rig ahead of them. Their Ford Focus burst into flames. Slattery’s wife was killed and his two young sons were flown to trauma centers in critical condition. The younger son suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is confined to a wheelchair and speaks only with difficulty. The actual costs of this accident are astronomical. $750,000 would not cover the boys’ initial hospital stay—let alone their mother’s funeral expenses, their ongoing medical care, and their father’s lost wages for months of round-the-clock treatment. The family’s unimaginable pain and suffering becomes a mathematical afterthought.

Aggressive Pursuit of Your Truck Accident Personal Injury Claim

The Dolman Law Group protects residents and visitors of St. Petersburg to ensure that truck accident victims are fairly compensated for their injuries and losses. Our experienced

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL33712
(727) 222-6922

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