Opioid Use Among Truck Drivers Causing Rising Accident Risks in El Paso

According to Trucks.com, several major common carriers are requesting that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) modify rules related to drug testing of drivers. Currently, commercial drivers will generally take a urine test in order to determine if they have drugs in their system. The carriers asking FMCSA for a change believe a hair test would be more accurate. 

There are opponents of the proposal who warn that a hair test could result in more false positives. The opponents also argue that it can be difficult to get a clean sample of hair for accurate testing.

However, those in favor of making the change believe it will better allow trucking companies to weed out drivers who could potentially be a serious threat to safety. Trucks.com reported on impaired truckers who have already caused devastating accidents. Better drug testing could hopefully help to prevent these types of tragedies from happening.

Concerns about impairment among commercial drivers are not new. Back in 2013, Reuters published a troubling report about the global problem of truck driver impairment. Truckers within the United States were especially likely to be impaired by alcohol, with one study revealing 12.5 percent tested positive for alcohol. However, there were also many instances of drug use among U.S. truckers. Around 20 percent of drivers, for example, admitted to marijuana use. The number of admitted cocaine users was smaller, at three percent, but still not insignificant.

Although this past data also always provided a reason to worry about impaired-driving incidents, concerns over a growing opioid epidemic in the United States are prompting new scrutiny into the use of controlled substances among truck drivers.

Opioid use is clearly an epidemic with devastating side effects, and those side effects can expand beyond just the user and his family, like when someone on opioids is driving a truck and causes a crasht.

Health and Human Services provided troubling warnings about the extent of the opioid epidemic. The number of fatalities caused by opioids has quadrupled since 1999, and a total of 165,000 deaths due to prescription opioids have occurred since that time.

In 2014, there were a record number of fatalities from overdoses, more than 60 percent of wish were opioid related, including deaths due to abuse of both heroin and prescription pain relievers.  HHS indicates that newer data has not become available yet, but it's likely that 2015 and 2016 saw a worsening of the opioid epidemic.

This, of course, means that more commercial truckers are likely to be using these narcotics, especially with past data including the studies published in Reuters showing that many commercial drivers are prone to drug use to try to make their jobs easier.

If a truck driver is using opioids, the risks of a truck accident go up significantly. When a collision does occur, the trucker and potentially the trucking company that employed the driver can be held accountable for the harm that occurred.