Will proposed drug, alcohol clearinghouse for truckers make our roads safer?

trucks in opposite directions on freewayA recent report from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicated that in 2013, 10 percent of all fatal crashes involved tractor trailers. While the factors playing a role in these crashes vary, many Chicago truck accident lawyers see accidents where commercial drivers were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Federal rule

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a new rule that may help make roads in Illinois and elsewhere safer. This rule would establish what is called a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all commercial driver’s license holders in the United States. This clearinghouse would be a repository where transportation companies could review possible drug or alcohol records of prospective truckers.

At present, such a verification system does not exist for employers. The motive of the proposed rule is to discourage the employment of those who have records of drug or alcohol abuse in safety-sensitive positions.

Fatal truck accidents rising

Prompting the need to pursue this aim, as Chicago truck accident lawyers are aware, fatal accidents involving trucks have increased nationally in recent years. Data from the FMCSA shows that more than 4,000 people are killed every year in truck accidents. Since 2009, fatal accidents involving trucks have increased.

One of the suggested explanations for the recent rise in trucking accidents is the recovery in economic conditions since the recession in 2009. As the economy expands, the demand for shipped goods increases, which requires more trucks on the road. More trucks imply more drivers, some of which may not be qualified. According to the American Trucking Association, there are over 30,000 unfilled truck driver jobs in the United States.

Argument in favor

The statistics reveal that truck accidents are an expanding problem, and the federal government is proposing a solution. The question is whether the proposed rule will make American roads safer. In support of the proposal for the clearinghouse, its existence should make it easier than ever for employers to identify potentially dangerous drivers. The requirements for companies, medical and substance abuse professionals to record information should foster a robust database. The requirement that companies review the database during pre-employment screens should ensure that the information is applied.

Argument in opposition

In opposition to the proposal making American roads safer, three considerations suggest that it may not do the job. First, as a system for deterring drug or alcohol abusers from trucking jobs, it may not be foolproof. Those individuals will need to have already been caught in the act beforehand. Second, impaired driving is only a fraction of the problem. Distracted and drowsy driving are major sources of accidents that the proposed rule does not address. Third, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that imprudent driving of passenger vehicles near trucks is a major contributor to truck accidents.