After a truck accident, one of the first questions that should be on a crash investigator’s mind is whether or not the truck driver was legally intoxicated behind the wheel. Unlike most other types of motorists, commercial truck drivers are held to a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.04, rather than the usual 0.08. Due to this lower level, it makes it all the more likely that a truck driver who drinks alcohol on or before the job will be legally intoxicated, which can dramatically increase their liability in any resulting personal injury claim.
FMCSA Sets the Federal Rule
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). It is in charge of setting safety rules and regulations for commercial truck drivers and drivers of other commercial vehicles. In acknowledgment of how difficult it is to safely drive a big rig or tractor trailer, the FMCSA decided the BAC standard for truck drivers should be reduced in half, down to 0.04.
Is the 0.04 Limit Low Enough?
While the 0.04 BAC limit certainly discourages truck drivers from drinking on the job more than it would if it was set at 0.08, does it discourage drunk driving enough? There are some that believe any BAC level recorded above 0.00 should be illegal for a commercial motorist in any setting or occupation. This belief is reflected in the employment policies of some carrier companies who will terminate a truck driver who is arrested for drunk driving.
Police Reports to Support Injury Claims
As previously mentioned, the sobriety of a truck driver is usually at the top of peoples’ minds when investigating a truck accident. It is a good and common practice among law enforcement agents to speak with a truck driver while at the scene of the crash to look for signs of intoxication. If they suspect the trucker has had an alcoholic beverage, then they may request a roadside breathalyzer test or even place the truck driver under arrest.
The resulting police reports are usually cornerstones of a successful personal injury claim later. Being able to solidly prove that a truck driver was legally intoxicated – which just means they had a BAC level above the legal limit – will bolster a plaintiff’s claims that they were not at-fault for the accident. In some cases, evidence of intoxication is assumed to be an automatic application of liability or guilt not only because intoxication destroys motor control but also because it clouds a person’s memory.
How can intoxication affect a truck driver?
- Dramatically increases the required braking distance due to slower reaction time. Braking distances for heavy, large trucks are already exaggerated, compounding the problem.
- Causes swerving, erratic driving, and other vehicle control issues. Swerving in a tractor trailer loaded with freight may cause the trailer to tip over, putting adjacent lanes in danger.
- Puts the trucker into a sleepy, unfocused state. A truck driver may already struggle to stay awake due to being scheduled for 14 or more hours a day.
Get an Injury Attorney’s Help
Putting the pieces together to form a comprehensive and effective truck accident claim after being hit by an intoxicated truck driver will be difficult. Finding the right police reports and using the information recorded within is a challenge on its own. Not to mention that insurance companies that represent trucking companies usually have a full catalog of methods to try to defeat or discredit plaintiff claims.
It is highly recommended that anyone who has been in a truck accident caused by a trucker who was over the limit of 0.04 BAC speak with a truck accident lawyer. With the guidance and representation of an experienced attorney, anyone can confidently file a claim in pursuit of maximized compensation.