Truck Driver Alcohol Abuse – A Guide to Truck Accidents

You would think that professional truck drivers wouldn’t put the public at risk by getting behind the wheel when they’re under the influence of alcohol. However, it has become a growing problem not only in the United States but around the world as well.

In 2017, there were 4,600 fatal truck accidents, with 2.5% of truck drivers having a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) above the legal limit. While this number might be small in comparison to the accidents among private passenger vehicles, it’s still significant. This proves that truck driver alcohol abuse is still an issue, even if it accounts for a small amount of the fatalities seen among truck accidents.

The bottom line is that while the number of truck accidents caused by DUI may be lower, any form of drinking and operating an 18-wheeler has the chance to yield the most devastation. The reason for this is that a truck and trailer can damage more vehicles at once, cause more damage to others upon impact, and lead to the most serious injuries seen among any vehicle accident.

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Understanding the Legalities of Truck Driver Alcohol Abuse

When it comes to drunk driving laws, they become even more strict when one holds a CDL and is in the operation of an 18-wheeler. The reason for this is that they are tasked with the responsibility to not put the public at risk, and there is no room for error.

In Texas, a truck driver can’t operate a commercial motor vehicle if their blood alcohol content is above 0.4% which is a stricter requirement than those who are operating ordinary vehicles. This goes deeper, as a truck driver is not allowed to consume alcohol for 4 hours before they get behind the wheel. With these regulations in place, it should also be known that there is zero-tolerance when it comes to truck driver alcohol abuse to ensure the safety of the public isn’t put at risk.

Aside from the strict regulations for what can and can’t be tolerated when it comes to blood alcohol content, all truck drivers are required to undergo initial alcohol screening prior to being hired as well as random alcohol tests. If a truck driver is under the suspicion of drinking and driving, they must also submit an alcohol test immediately upon request. This is also the case if they’re involved in a truck accident, whether there’s reason to believe they were under the influence of alcohol or not. It gets even more serious, as truck drivers can’t transport alcohol unless the alcohol is part of their shipment or it belongs to a passenger on a bus.

Uncovering the True Impact of a Major Problem in the Trucking Industry

To understand the risk of having drunk truck drivers on the road, it’s best to dig a little bit deeper into the subject at hand. A story published by Reuters revealed that half of the truck drivers around the world admitted to drinking and driving at some point during their careers.

Not only have truck accidents seen their fair share of being caused by truck drivers under the influence of alcohol, but the problem can also be traced down to a single cause. Truck drivers find themselves in remote locations often, and they must be the ones to determine whether they want to consume alcohol while on the road or not. Even though government agencies do everything that they can to prevent this from happening, it remains a risk in the trucking industry as we know it.

One wrong reaction can cause a serious incident, and when one gets behind the wheel of a semi while drinking, the chance that this will happen becomes high. From affecting one’s mental clarity to obstructing one’s vision, it’s definitely a risk that needs to be closely monitored.

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Trucking Companies Are Required to Aid in Preventing Truck Driver Alcohol Abuse

It’s not just truckers that are held responsible when it comes to reducing DUIs when behind the wheel of a truck, but trucking companies have obligations to prevent truck driver alcohol abuse as well. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set forth regulations for trucking companies to follow alcohol tests upon hiring drivers as well as administer a test if there’s reason to believe that one of their drivers if under the influence of alcohol.

Not only are there strict testing requirements, but any time that a driver refuses to take an alcohol/drug test, they’re required to be treated the same way that they would be treated if they failed the test. This means that they must follow a “return to duty” process before they can operate a commercial motor vehicle again.

The “return to duty” process starts with the driver paying a visit to an SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) that has been certified by DOT (Department of Transportation). Upon completing their initial evaluation, any recommendations for substance abuse education or treatment must be fulfilled.

After completing all the recommendations set forth by the SAP, truck drivers must submit an alcohol/drug test. They are also subject to random testing for the next 12 months (but this can also be extended to 60 months depending on the situation at hand). This testing is not optional, and a driver’s refusal could lead to having to restart the “return to duty” process or even cause their driving privileges to be revoked.

The process can be very complicated and a trucking accident lawyer will get the information to make sure truckers and drivers followed all the procedures and were in compliance.

How the National Transportation Safety Board is Attempting to Reduce DUIs

The NTSB is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing all alcohol and drug-related issues across all modes of transportation (not just commercial motor vehicles). With this huge responsibility also comes the ability to uncover information that can help reduce DUIs, which they have published here.

Here is a quick rundown of what they recommend when it comes to being able to reduce the amount of DUIs that we see today.

· Bringing the BAC limit down to 0.05 across the board.

· Educate drivers better on the effects of drinking and driving.

· Implement interlock laws for those with alcohol-related offenses.

· Increase police presence and screenings for alcohol during police contact.

· The implementation of stronger DUI laws needs to be embraced to deter DUIs.

While it may seem that not all states have stepped forward in this effort to reduce DUIs, it’s easy to see that the trucking industry is starting to see tighter regulations. This is why it’s important to ensure that those who are doing wrong be held accountable, especially if you find yourself in a truck accident.

What to Do If You Are in a Truck Accident Caused by Drunk Driving

This can be a stressful situation for anyone but approaching it with care can ensure that you uphold your obligations as a licensed driver and protecting yourself should there be further legal processes that arise from the accident. First things first, evaluate the situation (by making sure everyone is ok and making yourself aware of any dangers that might exist) and call 911 to report the truck accident.

Once you have a call into 911, stay at the scene, and speak with the officers that arise at the scene so that your truck accident can be reported immediately. Failure to do so may hinder your ability to seek compensation if the truck driver was at fault. Not to mention, the police need to be on the scene especially if the truck driver is intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Finally, keep in mind that no apology or admission of guilt should be made at any time. Keep the information you share to what you’re required to provide to law enforcement. When it comes to discussing liability, this is something that you should have your personal injury attorney do since they’re experienced in dealing with situations like this.

The Truth About Liability in Crashes Caused by Truck Driver Alcohol Abuse

Trucking companies understand that any type of accident with their vehicles could put their reputation at risk and open them up to legal implications. A lot of the time, the trucking company will do everything they can to make themselves exit the situation without being held responsible.

As far as insurance companies are concerned, it’s not uncommon for them to refuse to come to a settlement due to the driver being intoxicated. This means that your claim for compensation could be denied since being under the influence is known to cause damage and/or injuries. While it might not seem fair, this is one of the biggest reasons to enlist the help of a Houston truck accident attorney.

Don’t ignore the help that an experienced truck accident lawyer can provide.

Especially in Houston, Texas, semis are constantly on the road trying to deliver their load to their destinations which means that there is always a risk of being in a truck accident. An experienced truck accident injury attorney who is experienced in truck accidents will know what to expect when it comes to demanding compensation and ensuring that the wrongdoer is held liable for their actions.

After the accident, you should reach out to an attorney to ensure that the needed steps are embraced and that the investigation process to determine liability can start. If you’re in the Houston area, you can reach out to Bayou City Law since we do have experience representing clients who were in truck accidents. Whether the injuries are minor, or things are extremely serious, we can ensure that you will get the legal representation you need in order to seek fair compensation immediately.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Driver Alcohol Abuse

Are truck drivers allowed to drink off duty?

Yes, but alcohol can’t be consumed for 4 hours prior to operating a commercial motor vehicle. If a truck driver is found to have consumed alcohol any time sooner than 4 hours prior to being on duty, they could be required to be out of service for 24 hours if they are not found to be subject to DUI charges being filed (which is determined by their BAC).

How can you prove that a truck driver is drunk?

The best way to prove that a truck driver is drunk is to be observant. Any signs that the truck driver is impaired should be reported to law enforcement immediately so that the needed testing can be administered. Also, witnesses that saw the drunk truck driver could be valuable in proving that they were intoxicated at the time of the truck accident.

How do trucking companies prevent drunk driving?

While there is no sure-fire way to fully eliminated drunk truck driving, trucking companies have made a commitment to do everything that they can to prevent it. Sure, interlock devices being installed would help even more than stricter laws, but this isn’t something that we’re finding to be embraced much.

However, there are many trucking companies that will refuse to hire truck drivers that have had a DUI or DWI previously. For the companies that will hire truck drivers with a DUI or DWI in their driving history, there is an extensive wait period that they have set forth to ensure that any drivers they hire don’t bring their company a heightened risk of employing someone who will drink and drive.

Many trucking companies have also implemented extensive driver’s education that covers drinking and driving to help educate truckers on the risks that this poses to the public. Aside from that, trucking companies are required to administer alcohol and drug test at any time that they suspect a driver might be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

What is the alcohol limit for CDL drivers?

While many jurisdictions have a BAC limit of 0.08 for regular drivers, the standards for drivers of commercial motor vehicles are stricter. The BAC can not exceed 0.04 at any time that a driver is operating a semi-truck or any other form of a commercial motor vehicle. The limit used to be higher but has recently been reduced in an effort to help reduce the amount of DUIs seen among truck drivers.


The personal injury law firm of Jerome O. Fjeld, PLLC has served injury victims in Texas for nearly two decades. Our firm’s primary office is in Houston, TX with offices in Austin and another office in Victoria. Our firm’s focus is personal injury and we help victims when someone is injured by the negligence or carelessness of another in the following types of cases:

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