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Who’s to blame when a truck driver under the influence crashes?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 15th, 2015

When a trucker is on drugs or drinking and causes a truck accident, an attorney should also hold the trucking company responsible

truck accidents caused by drugs

A fully loaded semi-truck can (legally) weigh up to 80,000 pounds.  The sheer size and weight of these trucks make the potential for causing harm and injuring the public far greater than an ordinary passenger car.

And that’s a big reason many safety requirements for truck drivers are greater than they are for ordinary drivers of much smaller and lighter cars. It is why the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) imposes additional duties on trucking companies to ensure the truckers it hires and entrusts to drive commercial vehicles are fit to drive and properly trained.

According to the FMCSRs, a trucking company must also educate truck drivers about the danger and effects of drugs and alcohol, and the risk of driving under the influence.

The FMCSA has taken the position that educating drivers and training supervisors are essential to combating the rampant use of drugs and alcohol in the trucking industry.  To be effective, trucking companies are required  to develop a written policy on controlled substances use and alcohol misuse in the workplace and that the policy be provided to every driver.  49 C.F.R. §382.601. § 382 also identifies the required content of the materials to be made available to each trucker, and also mandates that the employer maintain a statement signed by each employee certifying receipt of the written policy and the associated materials.

I mention these requirements because in almost all of the trucking injury cases that are referred to me by other attorneys, this basic legal discovery has not been done. And not doing it makes a successful negligent entrustment or negligent supervision claim against the motor carrier much harder.

So, next time there’s a serious truck crash where alcohol or drug use is suspected or proven to be a factor, such as the recent fatal crash in Oklahoma that left four college students dead, do not forget the trucking company might be just as responsible as the truck driver who got behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound semi-truck under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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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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