Opioids and Truck Drivers: Exceptions May Permit Truck Drivers to Take Opioids

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict laws and medical requirements in place for truck drivers. For instance, drivers must pass hearing and vision tests to ensure that they are safe behind the wheel. In addition, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, certain diseases and conditions could disqualify drivers from getting behind the wheel. Generally, regulations govern drivers who have conditions that could impair them while they are driving. Drivers must undergo medical examinations before they can receive a license. However, drivers can develop new conditions that they may not report, putting others at risk on the road. Companies have a responsibility to vet drivers and ensure that drivers have undergone proper medical examinations. When companies or drivers fail to follow the law or report illnesses, tragic accidents can occur.

Being on certain types of medications can also put drivers at risk of accidents. For instance, the general population may not always know potential side effects of the medications they take. When truck drivers aren’t aware of side effects or possible medical interactions, they could get behind the wheel and potentially cause a crash. Certain medications can result in more serious side effects if they are not taken in accordance with instructions or with food. Unfortunately, drivers can’t always be counted on to know all the side effects. This is why companies should put in place policies to keep drivers safe. When trucking companies know what medications their drivers are taking, they are in a better position to flag certain medications that could pose a risk.

Opioid drug abuse has received heightened media attention in recent years. Some reports suggest that opioid drug use has reached “epidemic” proportions. According to CNN, every day 91 people die from overdose. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, these numbers may actually underestimate the number of people who overdose on these drugs.

Opioids can seriously impact a truck driver’s ability to operate a semi-truck. The drugs can have a sedative effect and can impact breathing. If a driver overdoses, he or she could pass out behind the wheel, or even die, putting other drivers in serious danger.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the use of narcotics or other habit-forming drugs, even with a prescription, can disqualify a driver. However, if the prescribing doctor declares that the driver is safe to operate a commercial vehicle, he or she may be able to use these potentially dangerous drugs and drive a truck.

This exception is dangerous. Not only does it incentivize the prescription of these dangerous drugs, but it also permits drivers to use these drugs while they are behind the wheel. In many cases opioid addiction begins with a legitimate prescription. In time, people become addicted to the drugs. They may share drugs, overdose, or abuse these drugs over time. Because these drugs are highly addictive, it can be difficult to stop without help. Unfortunately, seeking help can lead to the loss of a job. The presence of these drugs in the industry is a risk—period. It creates a culture where secrecy and drug use may be encouraged and where drivers may fear the repercussions of getting help for their addictions.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a semi-truck accident, contact the Birmingham, Alabama tractor trailer accident lawyers at Gorham & Associates, L.L.C. Our personal injury lawyers can investigate your case to determine whether drug use may have been involved. You may be entitled to seek a recovery under the law. Visit http://gorhamandassociates.com/ to learn more.


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