What Happens After an Indiana Trucker Has Been Cited for Impaired Driving?

Police Car With Lights on Pulling Over a Semi Truck in IndianaIn 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) debuted its Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse to begin tracking DUI violations among licensed truck drivers. This year, FMCSA announced that the program has reached full deployment, meaning nearly all working truck drivers are registered in the system, and all trucking company employers are using it to report and search for violations. While this means there is finally a central database for ensuring that drivers with recent DUIs are not on the roads, it does not eliminate the possibility that you will encounter an impaired truck driver while driving Indiana’s roads.

How the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse Works

Prior to 2020, there was no central system for FMCSA, employers, and state licensing agencies to get information about drug and alcohol violations among commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. In order to determine if a driver had a violation, these entities would have to rely on self-reporting or conduct individual background checks in various jurisdictions. Since the database launched in 2021, FMSCA reports that more than 4.5 million CDL holders have been queried within the system, and over 172,000 drivers have been cited for violations.

The Clearinghouse has records of positive drug or alcohol tests, test refusals, and DUI citations. If drivers violate drug and alcohol use rules, they are placed on return-to-duty status in the Clearinghouse and are not permitted to drive commercially again until they have cleared the status. According to FMSCA, 89,000 drivers have failed to complete the process, meaning they have given up on driving commercially or are driving illegally.

In order to clear return-to-work status, drivers must do all of the following:

  • Be evaluated by a substance abuse professional
  • Complete the prescribed treatment program
  • Pass a drug or alcohol return-to-duty test
  • Have a follow-up test scheduled

Failure of any of these steps must be reported to the Clearinghouse. The hope is that this centralized system will allow more accurate tracking of drivers who violate drug and alcohol policies in order to keep more of them off the road. The long-term goal of the Clearinghouse is greater commercial trucking safety.

Dangers of Impaired Commercial Truck Drivers

We all know that anyone who drives a vehicle while they are impaired by drugs or alcohol puts everyone else on the road in danger, but semi-truck drivers pose an even greater risk due to the following:

  • Size and weight. The sheer size and weight of commercial vehicles increase the potential for severe accidents and catastrophic damage.
  • Reduced reaction time. Reduced reaction time and impaired judgment caused by alcohol, drugs, or fatigue can lead to difficulty in maneuvering large trucks, increasing the risk of collisions, jackknifing, or rollovers.
  • Impaired lane deviations. Impaired truck drivers may struggle with maintaining proper lane position, resulting in dangerous lane deviations and increased chances of sideswiping other vehicles or running off the road.
  • Impaired decision-making. Impaired drivers are likelier to miss traffic signals, ignore speed limits, or fail to yield, increasing the likelihood of intersection accidents and collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.
  • Fatigue-induced impairment. Fatigue-induced impairment can lead to microsleep episodes, where drivers momentarily fall asleep at the wheel, creating a grave risk for high-speed collisions and catastrophic highway accidents.
  • Impaired vision and reaction times. Impaired truck drivers may experience blurred vision, reduced peripheral awareness, or slower reaction times, diminishing their ability to detect and respond to sudden changes in traffic conditions or hazards.
  • Heavy Cargo Loads. The combination of impaired driving and heavy cargo loads can lead to compromised braking capabilities, making it difficult for truck drivers to stop quickly and causing rear-end collisions or highway pile-ups.

If a truck driver causes a crash that leaves you injured or kills a loved one, and it is determined that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or driving while on a suspended CDL, an experienced Indianapolis truck accident lawyer can help you hold them and their employer accountable for your losses. There is no excuse for a truck driver with a history of drug or alcohol use continuing to work.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller