NTSB combats synthetic drug use among truck, bus drivers
Epidemic of truckers using illegal and synthetic drugs draws (finally) more attention
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently sent a pair of recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) addressing the use of synthetic cannabinoids and other similar substances among truck drivers and bus drivers.
These recommendations come in the wake of a very tragic semi-truck on passenger bus crash in Oklahoma. This horrible wreck left four young women dead, and five others seriously injured. At the time of this terrible crash, investigators were not sure what caused the semi-truck driver to lose control of his big-rig and drive it straight into a bus of college students. The trucker did not even attempt to brake or perform evasive maneuvers before smashing into the bus.
Upon further investigation, it is now believed that the semi-truck driver was likely under the use of synthetic marijuana, according to a NTSB news release.
This has prompted the NTSB to call for the FMCSA to determine how prevalent the use of impairing substances, especially synthetic marijuana, is among truck driver and bus drivers. The NTSB is asking the federal regulating body to draft a proposed plan to address the use of synthetic drugs among truckers.
Currently, it is very clear that a trucker can never (legally) operate a semi-truck while under the influence of any substance at all that will impair that driver. That’s what the law says. The problem is, the current federal regulations require testing for only a few impairing substances. And most attorneys who are handling these cases are not pursuing this inquiry into other possible drug use during legal discovery. That means in most instances, the driver who is using synthetic drugs is getting away with it, even when he or she causes a terrible truck accident.
“Motor carriers need to know about this emerging class of drugs, and they need better tools to detect driver impairment,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart in a published release. The FMCSA is currently not properly equipped to identify and detect synthetic drugs in certain circumstances.
But the NTSB didn’t stop there. The agency also called for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), among others, to take action. They issued a call to these pro-trucking bodies to educate their members about the dangers associated with truckers’ use of synthetic drugs, and to come up with way to prevent their use while behind the wheel.
Our Roundtable attorneys have litigated dozens of cases where a semi-truck driver was under the influence of a prohibited substance. These crashes are so dangerous because a truckers’ judgement and reaction time are impaired. That means an otherwise preventable crash becomes one that leaves innocent people dead or critically injured.
The Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable applauds the NTSB for its call to action. And we send or condolences to the families affected by the Oklahoma bus accident. It’s so tragic that four innocent women had to die to spark the discussion on stopping synthetic drug use among truck drivers.