In terms of safely training new commercial truck drivers, the fox may soon be guarding the henhouse.
The commercial trucking industry is facing a driver shortage. Reportedly the industry is down some 80,000 truckers compared to a year ago. One reason is drug use by commercial truck drivers.
Drug Use by Commercial Truck Drivers
The federal Commercial Driver’s License Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse debuted January 2020. It is the first nationwide effort to keep truck drivers abusing alcohol or illegal drugs off the road.
Trucking companies now must access a database of truckers with positive tests for drugs or alcohol, or both. These drivers may be experienced truckers or have their commercial driver’s license for the first time.
Prior to the clearinghouse, experienced truckers with a past history of drugs could be fired by one company and hired by another – never having to inform the new employer of the failed test.
From January to September 2020, that database showed 40,000 truckers with drug or alcohol abuse violations, and they were no longer immediately employable. That left a big hole in the truck driving workforce, raising industry concerns.
Based on this truck industry need, the federal government instituted a new rule designed to speed up the process of training and hiring commercial truck drivers.
Does New Rule Cut Corners in Truck Driver Training?
In December 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal agency that oversees commercial trucking, changed existing regulations to allow third-party companies that train new truck drivers to also give them their commercial driving license test.
In others words, the people who are paid by trucking companies to train new drivers to meet skill requirements can now also administer the federal test of those skills. This is an obvious conflict of interest; one that unscrupulous or negligent trucking companies can exploit to hire more – and perhaps inadequately trained – truckers and improve their bottom line.
This new rule can go into effect as early as this month. When publishing the new rule the FCMSA admitted one goal is to speed up new truck driver testing.
This is not the first time that trucking industry concerns have watered down new truck driver testing requirements.
New standards for training inexperienced truckers were supposed to be implemented this month. However, they were delayed another two years and will now take effect February 2022.
But this new rule – the federal Entry-Level Driver Training Rule – incorporates less stringent requirements than safety advocates sought. The new rules apply to commercial drivers of:
· Tractor-trailers weighing 26,000 pounds or more
· Buses and other vehicles that transport 16 or more people
· Hazardous materials
Initially, the rules required new truck drivers to have 30 hours of driving time, with 10 hours on the road, as one condition before applying for a commercial driver’s license. But that valuable driving time provision was scrapped after the trucking industry objected.
Truckers using illegal drugs and insufficiently trained new truck drivers can cause serious, even fatal truck crashes. Trucking companies have the responsibility to address these dangerous factors to prevent innocent victims from suffering catastrophic consequences.
If you had a family member die or you were seriously injured in a crash with a large commercial truck, turn to an experienced truck accident attorney to identify everyone responsible and hold them accountable.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog February 16, 2021