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FMCSA decides to keep random drug testing at current levels

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 9th, 2015

Despite increase in positive test rates, random testing efforts will not increase

FMSCA-drug-clearinghouse-300x196 There are certain recurring themes we see in many our most serious truck accident cases.  Fatigue and driving over hours are common. Poor maintenance and no safety supervision and enforcement is another theme, as is unfit truck drivers and chameleon carrier trucking companies.

Another is rampant drug use by truck drivers. And even though positive drug test rates among truckers have been climbing  in recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has decided not to increase the  frequency of random testing it requires trucking companies to administer to prevent truck drivers from using illegal drugs. It’s a serious issue, and one I was interviewed on by Fox News in Chicago.

The FMCSA has recently announced that the amount of random testing for controlled substances it requires trucking companies to administer on their truck driver employees will remain at a minimum rate of 50% in 2015 – and will not be changed as previously contemplated.

The agency conducted testing to decide whether or not it should require more drug tests. The testing was based on data from the motor carrier industry lab, the 2012 drug and alcohol testing survey and additional inquiries.

The data revealed positive test rates following an initial positive result increased by 4.1% from 2011 to 2012. Interestingly, reasonable suspicion positive test rates increased 500% from 2010 to 2012.  That’s a five time increase.

Sadly, there was also an increase in the total positive drug test results reported to the Department of Transportation from certified testing facilities. The number of positive tests increased from 95,427 in 2011 to 97,332 positives in 2012.

The news does not stop there.

There were also more recent compliance investigations which found serious controlled substance and alcohol testing violations in 24% of its results. A two-week special task force in 2014 resulted in 205 truck driver enforcement cases and 138 enforcement cases against truck and bus companies for substance violations.

However, astonishingly, the FMCSA actually reported that positive drug tests as a result of random testing actually decreased. The sample size for that testing was approximately 2,000 truck and bus companies.

I know personally as an attorney that law enforcement often does not test truck drivers for drugs and alcohol when there’s a serious injury (usually testing is only administered after fatalities), and I also know that some of the most horrific truck accidents occur because of drugs (both illicit and prescribed) and alcohol.  When a truck driver gets behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound semi-truck while under the influence, it’s a recipe for disaster. You may recall a recent horrible Oklahoma truck accident that left four college women dead.

After this crash occurred,  law enforcement found drug paraphernalia in the driver’s cab.

This is exactly why  the number of random drug tests must be increased.

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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