Because semitrucks are more dangerous than passenger vehicles, it is crucial that truck drivers are rested, alert and capable whenever they take the wheel of a big rig. Any kind of impairment, particularly being impaired by alcohol or drugs, can lead to a truck accident that causes injury or death.
Thanks to strict regulations and testing, drunk driving is among the least likely causes of large truck accidents. Truck drivers stand to lose their commercial driver’s license if found to be driving while intoxicated. Even so, fatal truck accidents involving legally drunk truck drivers happen hundreds of times a year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Trucking companies and truckers are required to carry higher amounts of liability insurance because of the harm a large truck can cause in a crash.
If a trucker at the wheel in an accident is suspected of drinking, he or she should be administered a field sobriety test at the scene and formally tested soon afterward. Anyone injured in a crash caused by a drunk or drinking semitruck driver stands a good chance of recovering compensation for their injuries and other losses if they act promptly to seek experienced legal help.
The Texas truck accident law firm of Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C., with offices in Corpus Christi, Brownsville, McAllen and San Antonio, thoroughly investigates truck accidents in order to pursue maximum compensation for our clients. We have the resources, including a dedicated accident investigation team, to see truck crash cases through to their resolution.
Contact us today at (361) 882-4357 for a free discussion about how we can help you, just as we have helped families from across the Rio Grande Valley recover financially from serious losses caused by negligent drivers.
DUI Regulations for Commercial Truck Drivers
Truck drivers, bus drivers and others who must maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to pilot their vehicles are held to a stricter standard than non-commercial drivers when it comes to driving while impaired.
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for presumption of drunk driving for commercially licensed drivers in .04% – half of the .08% BAC drivers are familiar with as the DUI law in Texas and all other states.
Local law enforcement agencies in Texas and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) help to enforce regulations established by the FMCSA. Commercially licensed drivers and trucking companies (motor carriers) are bound to them as well.
Truck drivers are forbidden to consume alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial motor vehicle. They are prohibited from being under the influence of alcohol or having any measured alcohol concentration while on duty, or operating or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
Any driver found in violation of FMCSA’s alcohol misuse regulations is supposed to immediately be placed out-of-service and not allowed to drive for 24 hours. A trucker who is found guilty of driving a truck with a .04% BAC or greater or convicted of DUI under Texas law – or who refused a breath test – would lose his or her CDL for one year on a first conviction.
Truck drivers are regularly subjected to drug and alcohol testing. A truck driver is tested:
- When applying for a driving job.
- After an accident causing a death, injury or vehicle disablement and resulting in a ticket. The alcohol test must occur within 8 hours, and the drug test must occur within 32 hours.
- Commercial drivers are subject to unannounced random testing. Once notified, the driver must report immediately to the testing location. A delayed arrival may be considered a refusal, which is equivalent to testing positive.
- Under reasonable suspicion. Trained supervisors can direct a driver to be drug or alcohol tested whenever he or she exhibits signs of drug or alcohol abuse. The decision must be based on observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech, or body odors of the driver.
- Upon return to duty. Tests are required after a trucker has completed the “return-to-duty” process required following a suspension and before returning to driving a truck.
- As a follow-up. Follow-up drug and alcohol tests are required as prescribed by the substance abuse professional who signs the driver’s return-to-duty report. They consist of at least six unannounced directly observed tests conducted during the first 12 months following the return-to-duty test.
Drug tests consist of a 5-panel test for:
- Opiates — opium and codeine derivatives
- Amphetamines and methamphetamines
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
A positive drug test result, a BAC of .04% or more or refusing to be tested requires the driver to be prohibited from operating any CMV on public roadways. The driver must then complete the return-to-duty process, which includes a substance abuse assessment and/or counseling. The driver will then undergo additional testing upon return to duty. In many cases, the trucker may find himself out of work.
Drunk Driving Statistics in The United States
Given the restrictions, testing, and consequences of drunk driving as a commercial truck driver, it’s surprising it happens at all. Yet, it does.
In its report about large truck crashes published in May 2019, the FMCSA says there were 4,600 truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017. Among them, 3.6% (165) tested at a BAC of .01% or higher and 2.5% (115) tested at .08% or higher.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its alcohol-impaired driving data from 2018 show that the percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes was the lowest for drivers of large trucks (3%). Of 3,182 truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018, 54 (2%) had a BAC of .08% or higher, the NHTSA says.
This compares favorably to 25% of motorcyclists in fatal crashes being alcohol-impaired, 21% among passenger car drivers, and 19% in the light-truck category (21% for pickup trucks, 19% for SUVs and 12% for vans).
How Can I Recover Damages From A Drunk Truck Driving Accident?
If you have been involved in an accident caused by a truck driver who had been drinking, our experienced drunk driving semi-truck accident lawyers are committed to helping you pursue full compensation for your injuries and other losses. We help people who have been injured by drunk drivers to obtain full and fair compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
We’ll investigate the accident and obtain documentation, including police reports and any tickets issued, as well as results from drug and alcohol tests administered to the truck driver. Additional evidence may include security, surveillance or someone’s cell phone footage of the crash, as well as “black box” data downloaded from the truck’s Event Date Recorder (EDR). We’ll also obtain your statement and statements from witnesses and keep a full accounting of your medical bills and other costs and losses due to the accident.
One of the issues we investigate in an accident involving a drinking truck driver is the trucker’s driving history. If a trucking company put a driver on the road who it knew or should have known had a history of drunk driving, the company may be held liable for its negligence.
To obtain a settlement or jury award, our attorneys will seek to show:
- The truck driver and/or trucking company is responsible for the accident
- The accident led to your injuries
- Your injuries caused you damages that can be made right through monetary compensation
- How much you should be compensated.
The truck driver does not have to be charged or convicted of DUI for you to prevail in a personal injury claim, though a DUI conviction would certainly be evidence in your favor. Typically, we would also show evidence that, while under the influence of alcohol, the truck driver caused the accident by failing to brake, crossing the centerline, failing to yield the right of way, or driving too fast for conditions.
In addition to our accident investigation team, we work with specialists in accident reconstruction when needed to determine and explain how and why an accident happened. We also work with actuaries and life care planners as necessary to determine the full amount of compensation due to a badly injured client who will need medical care and/or personal assistance in the years ahead.
We will work to build a strong, fact-based case that we can confidently take to trial, if necessary. Fortunately, our experienced attorneys are successful in settling most personal injury cases out of court. Insurance companies want to avoid taking cases involving intoxicated truck drivers to trial. We negotiate aggressively with insurers as we pursue drunk driving accident claims.
Contact a Texas Semi Truck Accident Lawyer for Help
Contact the dedicated truck accident attorneys of Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. for help if you have been injured in a crash caused by an intoxicated truck driver in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Brownsville or elsewhere in South Texas. Having the experience of our commercial truck accident lawyers on your side will help to ensure you recover the compensation you deserve to have.
The quicker we start working on your truck accident claim, the better able we will be to protect your rights to recover full compensation. Contact us online or at (361) 882-4357 for a free initial consultation.