Truckers Often Keep Driving After Drug Arrests


Truckers Often Keep Driving After Drug Arrests

Given how many trucks are on our highways and the devastation they can cause when they crash, you might assume that preventing drug use among truck drivers is a priority for government agencies. You’d probably also hope that a trucking company gets an immediate alert when one of its drivers is arrested for drug abuse or drugged driving.

Unfortunately, because of loose regulations and communications breakdowns between law enforcement agencies and trucking companies, it’s surprisingly easy for a truck driver to hide a drug-related arrest from their employer. Read on to learn about why this can happen and what you can do if you’ve been affected.

Kentucky Trucker Gets License Renewed After Drug Arrest in Ohio

In one 2017 case profiled by the news station WCPO in Cincinnati, police officers found a trucker passed out in his truck and arrested him after he admitted to using heroin. However, the driver’s employer never learned of the arrest, and 10 days later, the State of Kentucky renewed his commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Two weeks after that, the driver jackknifed his truck on a freeway in Ohio after he passed out from a heroin overdose.

“I could’ve died from an overdose, and I’ve never done drugs in my life,” said one witness whose car was nearly crushed by the truck as it slid to a stop.

Lack of Communication Leads to Dangerous Drivers on the Roads

So how do cases like this happen?

The problem stems from poor communication. Unfortunately, there’s no requirement for states to tell each other or notify trucking companies when a driver gets arrested for intoxication or drug use. State agencies do try to notify each other about incidents, but sometimes cases fall through the cracks. And either way, employers rarely get notifications about driver behavior from state agencies.

Instead, drivers are expected to tell their employers about any arrests or other violations that could jeopardize their CDL status. As you can imagine, however, self-reporting isn’t a reliable method for catching drivers who abuse drugs.

”We all know that [driver self-reporting] doesn’t happen in most instances,” Kentucky State Police Sgt. Jason Morris told WCPO after the crash in Ohio. Morris also said he’s seen too many cases where truckers who cause crashes turn out to have previous drug arrests that their employer should have known about but didn’t.

“If the states do not communicate with each other, then you have that instance where the driver may never have anything come back on his driver’s license with a moving violation, much less operating under the influence,” he said.

How Widespread Is the Problem?

In 2017, the Governors Highway Safety Association analyzed the most recent available traffic crash data and found that drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers who suffered fatal injuries in crashes and who received testing that could identify potential drug abuse.

Although similar data that focuses exclusively on trucking accidents isn’t available, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) listed drug abuse, including abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as one of the top 10 causes of trucking accidents in its landmark 2007 Large Truck Crash Causation Study.

Drug Testing Requirements Often Fail to Weed Out Problem Drivers

Right now, federal law mandates that trucking companies drug test drivers in the following circumstances:

  • After a driver receives their CDL and before they operate a truck on the road
  • After any crash that results in an injury or fatality
  • Whenever the company suspects drug or alcohol use
  • When a driver returns to work after an extended break
  • At random times, with no announcement

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: How Safety Regulations Will Affect Your Truck Accident Case

While random drug testing might sound like an effective means of keeping drivers honest and sorting out truckers who abuse drugs, it’s just a roll of the dice. Trucking companies are only required to drug test 25 percent of their drivers each year, and individual drivers can go for years without having to take a drug test.

What if Drug Use Played a Role in the Truck Wreck that Injured Me?

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck crash and you suspect the truck driver was on drugs or otherwise intoxicated, you should contact a lawyer right away. An experienced truck accident lawyer should be able to use their resources and expertise to investigate the crash and get to the bottom of what caused it, but some of the most important evidence might only be available immediately after the wreck, so it’s important to get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: The Clock Is Ticking for Your Trucking Accident Case

If it turns out that drug abuse or other negligent behavior played a role in the crash, you may be able to file claims against the trucking company. These claims could provide compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you’ve suffered because of the wreck. However, statutes of limitations apply to truck accident cases, so you need to move quickly.

Contact Truck Seattle Truck Law Today If You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a crash involving a large truck or bus, please contact Morgan Adams and the Seattle Truck Law team today. We’ll listen to your story and advise you about your legal options during a free consultation, and when you choose us to represent you, we’ll investigate all the causes of the crash that injured you and pursue every available option to get you the compensation you deserve.

To schedule your free initial consultation today, call us at (866) 580-HURT or fill out our quick and easy online contact form. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can move to preserve evidence and make sure your rights are protected – so call us now.


Hedlund, J. (2017). Drug-impaired driving: A guide for what states can do. Washington, D.C.: Governors Highway Safety Association. Retrieved from

Lake, H., & Rosemeyer, J. (2017, October 26). Trucking companies don’t always know if a driver is arrested for drugs, and they keep driving. WCPO.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.