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Regulators Increase Random Drug Testing for Truck Drivers
Regulators Increase Random Drug Testing for Truck Drivers

By: Allan M. Siegel

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is constantly working to keep the public safe from dangers posed by commercial trucks and tractor-trailers. Among their efforts to enforce various existing trucking regulations, federal regulators at the agency also devote considerable time to backing new laws, fighting regulatory rollbacks, and revising standards to protect public safety.

Their latest change: increasing how often random drug tests are administered to truck drivers.

FMCSA Increases Trucker Drug Test Rate

According to a notice published in the Federal Register (Vol. 84, No. 248), the FMCSA announced it would increase the minimum annual rate of random drug testing from 25% of the average number of driver positions to 50%.

The new rate, which took effect on January 1, 2020, applies to an estimated 3.2 million CDL (commercial driver’s license) holders engaged in interstate commerce, and roughly 1 million CDL holders who drive intrastate. In numbers, that means the 1.05 million random drug tests administered in 2019 would increase to roughly 2.1 million tests in 2020.

The reason behind the increase stems from the “Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing” Final Rule (2001), which established policies that require the FMCSA to increase rates of randomized controlled substances testing when the reported rate of “positive” test results is 1.0% or more for any calendar year (which is was in 2018).

According to submitted results collected by the agency, positive drug test results rose to a little more than the 1% threshold in 2018 following a 0.8% rate in 2017, and a 0.7% rate in 2016. One factor behind the increase could come from the Department of Transportation adding various synthetic opioids to the list of screened drugs. That addition, which began in 2018, added oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone to the list. Still, the rise is a major concern for anyone who drives on public highways – commercial driver substance abuse substantially increases risks of serious wrecks.

In short, the FMCSA increased the random drug testing rate because the number of truck drivers testing positive for controlled substances has been on the rise – at least in recent years. The FMCSA previously reduced random drug testing levels to 25% in 2016, after it had been at the 50% rate for a number of years. Random alcohol testing rates will remain at 10%.

Trucking Industry Continues to Face Hurdles in 2020

Though the FMCSA notes increased testing will cost the already-strained trucking industry between $50 and $70 million, it is a move which protects public safety, and – in our firm’s opinion, clearly warranted.

Still, trucking operators have been outspoken in how the rate change will impact their businesses, citing not only added expenses for testing more of their drivers and short notice of the rate change, but also challenges in meeting the 50% mark when many U.S. operators are battling high turnover rates created by the continued truck driver shortage. Others express frustration at the federal government’s unwillingness to accept hair samples for testing.

Another problem came earlier this month, when the FMCSA’s long-awaited Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was launched. The Clearinghouse – a database for CDL holders’ drug and alcohol violations – must be used by employers for pre-employment screening and annual compliance checks. Unfortunately, it experienced significant connectivity issues, error messages, and long loading times when it launched on January 6th. In response, the agency placed a notice on the Clearinghouse website to guide employers facing technical difficulties on permitted hiring practices under specific rules (49 CFR 391.23(e)), allowing them to hire drivers with the requirement that they complete pre-employment screening once the Clearinghouse functions as intended.

Aside from the difficulties of day-to-day compliance, U.S. trucking operators have other problems on their hands. As discussed in some of our blogs, that includes a major shortage of truck drivers, increasing use of enforcement technology like ELDs, truck accident cases being resolved through increasingly larger and larger “mega verdicts,” and the possible end of an administration that shared the industry’s penchant for regulatory rollbacks.

CSCS: Accident Attorneys Serving the DMV

While there is a fine balance between what’s best for public safety and the regulation of business practices, there’s no denying the immense risks commercial trucks and tractor-trailers pose on our roads. As a firm that handles injury and wrongful death claims, our firm has seen the devastating consequences of truck accidents first-hand – and we know decisive regulatory action is needed to change the tone of today’s trucking industry, and stem the tide of preventable tragedies.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. handles accident cases involving passenger and commercial vehicles throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a free evaluation of your case.

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  • Regulators Increase Random Drug Testing for Truck Drivers

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is constantly working to keep the public safe from dangers posed by commercial trucks and tractor-trailers. Among their efforts to enforce various existing trucking regulations, federal regulators at the agency also devote considerable time to backing new laws, fighting regulatory rollbacks, and revising standards to protect public safety.

    Their latest change: increasing how often random drug tests are administered to truck drivers.

    FMCSA Increases Trucker Drug Test Rate

    According to a notice published in the Federal Register (Vol. 84, No. 248), the FMCSA announced it would increase the minimum annual rate of random drug testing from 25% of the average number of driver positions to 50%.

    The new rate, which took effect on January 1, 2020, applies to an estimated 3.2 million CDL (commercial driver’s license) holders engaged in interstate commerce, and roughly 1 million CDL holders who drive intrastate. In numbers, that means the 1.05 million random drug tests administered in 2019 would increase to roughly 2.1 million tests in 2020.

    The reason behind the increase stems from the “Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing” Final Rule (2001), which established policies that require the FMCSA to increase rates of randomized controlled substances testing when the reported rate of “positive” test results is 1.0% or more for any calendar year (which is was in 2018).

    According to submitted results collected by the agency, positive drug test results rose to a little more than the 1% threshold in 2018 following a 0.8% rate in 2017, and a 0.7% rate in 2016. One factor behind the increase could come from the Department of Transportation adding various synthetic opioids to the list of screened drugs. That addition, which began in 2018, added oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone to the list. Still, the rise is a major concern for anyone who drives on public highways – commercial driver substance abuse substantially increases risks of serious wrecks.

    In short, the FMCSA increased the random drug testing rate because the number of truck drivers testing positive for controlled substances has been on the rise – at least in recent years. The FMCSA previously reduced random drug testing levels to 25% in 2016, after it had been at the 50% rate for a number of years. Random alcohol testing rates will remain at 10%.

    Trucking Industry Continues to Face Hurdles in 2020

    Though the FMCSA notes increased testing will cost the already-strained trucking industry between $50 and $70 million, it is a move which protects public safety, and – in our firm’s opinion, clearly warranted.

    Still, trucking operators have been outspoken in how the rate change will impact their businesses, citing not only added expenses for testing more of their drivers and short notice of the rate change, but also challenges in meeting the 50% mark when many U.S. operators are battling high turnover rates created by the continued truck driver shortage. Others express frustration at the federal government’s unwillingness to accept hair samples for testing.

    Another problem came earlier this month, when the FMCSA’s long-awaited Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was launched. The Clearinghouse – a database for CDL holders’ drug and alcohol violations – must be used by employers for pre-employment screening and annual compliance checks. Unfortunately, it experienced significant connectivity issues, error messages, and long loading times when it launched on January 6th. In response, the agency placed a notice on the Clearinghouse website to guide employers facing technical difficulties on permitted hiring practices under specific rules (49 CFR 391.23(e)), allowing them to hire drivers with the requirement that they complete pre-employment screening once the Clearinghouse functions as intended.

    Aside from the difficulties of day-to-day compliance, U.S. trucking operators have other problems on their hands. As discussed in some of our blogs, that includes a major shortage of truck drivers, increasing use of enforcement technology like ELDs, truck accident cases being resolved through increasingly larger and larger “mega verdicts,” and the possible end of an administration that shared the industry’s penchant for regulatory rollbacks.

    CSCS: Accident Attorneys Serving the DMV

    While there is a fine balance between what’s best for public safety and the regulation of business practices, there’s no denying the immense risks commercial trucks and tractor-trailers pose on our roads. As a firm that handles injury and wrongful death claims, our firm has seen the devastating consequences of truck accidents first-hand – and we know decisive regulatory action is needed to change the tone of today’s trucking industry, and stem the tide of preventable tragedies.

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. handles accident cases involving passenger and commercial vehicles throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a free evaluation of your case.

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  • Common Injuries During the Winter

    The wintertime is host to a wide variety of injuries. Snowy and icy conditions make virtually every aspect of traveling outdoors more dangerous. Read up on the most common injuries that happen during the winter and how you can keep yourself safe.

    Top Winter Injuries

    When people think of winter injuries, many think of slip and fall injuries. Slip and fall injuries are quite common during the winter, and often lead to a whole host of other serious injuries, including the following:

    • Traumatic brain injuries
    • Spinal cord injuries
    • Broken bones
    • Sprained ankles or elbows

    Additionally, the cold weather can contribute to a wide variety of health problems and subsequent injuries, including the following:

    • Joint pain and stiffness
    • Neck pain and stiffness
    • Bruising, cuts, and lacerations

    Preventing Winter Injuries

    The cold weather, snowy conditions, and icy hazards pose significant risks to motorists and pedestrians throughout the entire season. Taking the following measures can help reduce your chances of an accident and injury:

    • Clear snow from walkways and stairwells.
    • Step carefully on icy pavement.
    • Always use handrails.
    • Make sure your car’s tires are in good condition for snowy pavement.

    Injured in an Accident? Contact Us Today

    If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident this winter due to another’s negligence, our team is here to help. Our Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys have helped countless injured victims recover the compensation they deserve from responsible parties. We are here to help you, too.

    Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. at (202) 644-8303 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

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  • How Bad Weather Increases the Chances of a Car Accident

    Weather conditions play a significant role in the number of car accidents that happen in the United States. Snow, sleet, hail, and rain all reduce visibility and traction on the roads, causing dangerous hazards for motorists.

    Learn more about how bad weather can increase the chances of a car accident and how to protect yourself on the road this winter.

    Weather’s Impact on the Roads

    According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), weather events—including precipitation, high winds, and temperature extremes—affect drivers’ capabilities to operate their vehicles safely. These events also affect vehicles’ performance, including traction, stability, and maneuverability.

    The following weather events affect roadways and traffic differently:

    • Wind speed: Wind speed may affect visibility distance due to blowing snow or dust. It may also cause lane obstruction when large debris are blown into the roadway.
    • Rain: Rain may affect visibility distance and pavement friction. If your tires cannot properly displace the water with which they come into contact, your vehicle may lose traction and hydroplane.
    • Fog: Fog often has a heavy impact on visibility distance, and can make it difficult for motorists to see vehicles in front of or around them.
    • Snow and ice: Snow and ice have perhaps the most dangerous impact on the roads. Snowy or icy roads can make it difficult for cars to travel at all, since icy roads have very little friction onto which tires can latch. Additionally, heavy snowstorms or blizzards make road visibility extremely poor.

    Stay safe this winter with these helpful tips for winter driving.

    Injured in a Car Accident? We’re Here to Help

    While you should always drive carefully in poor weather conditions, sometimes it is not enough to prevent an accident—particularly if another motorist was reckless.

    If you have been harmed in an accident caused by another’s negligence, our Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys are here to help.

    Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. at (202) 644-8303 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

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  • Massive Multi-Truck, Ohio Coach Bus Crash On Pennsylvania Turnpike Kills 5

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    A massive multi-vehicle crash involving three commercial tractor-trailers, tour bus, and passenger vehicle resulted in at least 5 deaths and the closure of a nearly 100-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between New Stanton and Breezewood early Sunday morning.

    Authorities report at least 60 victims were also transported to local hospitals.

    Tragic Turnpike Pile-Up: What We Know

    Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) – an agency which investigates large-scale car accidents and commercial vehicle / airline crashes – have been investigating the wreck and have released several details.

    Here’s what we know so far:

    • The deadly pile-up occurred early Sunday morning at approximately 3:30 a.m. on the westbound side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
    • Three commercial vehicles (including two tractor-trailers and a FedEx delivery truck) an Ohio Coach bus (which runs service from Ohio to New York), and a passenger vehicle were involved in the crash.
    • Officials state the wreck occurred when the tour bus was unable to negotiate a corner while traveling on a downhill grade, struck an embankment, rolled over, and was subsequently struck by two tractor-trailers. Another commercial truck and a passenger vehicle then struck the crashed vehicles.
    • At least 60 victims were treated at area hospitals; a number of victims were involved in the wreck were minors under 18.
    • Among the 5 reported deaths were the driver of the Coach bus, two UPS drivers, and two bus passengers, one of whom was a 9-year old girl from Brooklyn, New York.

    The Coach bus, owned by Z&D Tour, Inc. had been traveling to Cincinnati from a curbside terminal in New York’s Chinatown. Many of the victims were international visitors.

    Commercial Vehicle Accidents: Major Risks, Devastating Consequences

    Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is deeply troubled by Sunday’s tragic accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – it is an all too familiar reminder of a similar large-scale accident which occurred on an icy, foggy section of the Virginia bridge two weeks ago. That wreck involved a series of chain-reaction crashes, injured over 50 victims, and resulted in a closure of the I-64 in both directions.

    Though crashes of this magnitude are not “the norm,” they have become increasingly more common, and are today a greater cause for concern.

    Tragedies like these, NTSB officials and safety advocates remind us, stem not only from the congestion and composition of modern-day vehicle transit – where busy highways see heavy traffic and larger commercial vehicles sharing the road with passenger cars – but also from systemic safety failures in the U.S. commercial trucking and vehicle industry. This includes poor oversight, vehicle maintenance deficiencies, and other trucking violations. Adverse weather and poor driving conditions during winter months only exacerbate these risks.

    As reported by the NTSB, a team of 20 investigators will be collecting evidence from the crash for roughly a week, focusing on potential causes and contributing factors such as driver performance, motor carrier compliance, vehicle maintenance and mechanical function, and roadway design.

    As officials continue their investigation, our legal team expresses our condolences for all affected. As a firm experienced in matters involving truck accidents, bus accidents, and serious auto accidents, we are available to help anyone with questions about their rights and the pursuit of justice.

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  • Amazon’s Push to Expand Is Killing Us—Literally

    Unsafe Working Conditions Have Resulted in Catastrophic and Sometimes Deadly Accidents

    Online shopping has become an essential part of the holiday season, with consumers relying on the variety offered by internet retailers and fast, often free, shipping to find the perfect gift. New reporting by ProPublica and Buzzfeed digs into the other side of the story. While Amazon, the biggest online retailer in the U.S., promises free two-day (and in some territories, one-day) shipping, they do so by pushing drivers and the contractors who employ them to their limits.

    The Rise of a Distributed Empire

    Amazon used to send their packages through USPS and FedEx, but late deliveries, and perhaps higher prices, compelled them to put together their own network for distribution. Rather than working with high-profile national shipping companies, they found a collection of small, local businesses to cover their “last mile” shipping needs.

    They pitched entrepreneurs with the opportunity to make money by moving into logistics, promising contracts to anyone who could deliver Amazon packages faster, for lower prices. Small businesses popped up in many locations, eager for their slice of the pie. Now those companies are facing large expenses: Amazon’s fast-paced delivery standards have been behind many car accidents, some fatal. Buzzfeed found documents detailing more than 60 serious crashes, and at least 13 deaths, caused by Amazon delivery drivers. Even worse, Amazon itself refuses to pay damages to any of the victims or their survivors.

    Savings Always Come at a Cost

    Accidents resulting in catastrophic or even fatal injuries haven’t gone unnoticed by Amazon. The company has sought to improve safety more than once. Teams have been hired and expert recommendations requested and delivered. However, these attempts have ended in changes to the safety team rather than to company practices.

    In 2013, amidst Amazon’s first foray into the delivery world, a white paper suggested security measures including:

    • Driver pay based on package deliveries, not delivery route
    • Caps on the number of packages per route

    The paper suggested these changes would only cost around 4 cents per package. The logistics and operations chief at the time (now a senior VP) turned the proposal down.

    Three years later, Amazon brought in a former FedEx employee to look at their safety practices and propose changes to protect drivers and pedestrians. According to reports, she spent more time being interrupted than being listened to. Her suggestions seemed prudent; they included:

    • Random drug tests
    • Drive shifts that leave room for travel time
    • Enforcement of Amazon’s mandate that contractors provide workers’ compensation insurance, paid rest breaks, and legally mandated overtime

    However, coming into the holiday season, Amazon couldn’t afford to make changes that would result in fewer drivers and slower routes. The employee who suggested the adjustments quit, and the head of her team was pushed out of the company.

    Contractors also had another problem in implementing training and safety practices: Amazon constantly slashed their rates, causing cutbacks that affected everything from driver monitoring systems to workers’ compensation insurance. These choices have endangered both the drivers and anyone along their path as they drop packages on doorsteps. The driver is the only safety control—and torn between the likelihood of losing their job if they don’t meet Amazon’s delivery standards or the possibility of an accident, most opt for the latter.

    The Liability Problem

    Among Amazon’s money-saving methods was the idea to outsource not only delivery but also liability. Any operation that includes drivers has a high likelihood of facing expensive insurance claims. To ensure the contractors would bear these costs, Amazon included in their agreement a clause that indemnified them from all claims filed against delivery drivers. In fact, were Amazon taken to court, the contract specified they could recover all legal costs from the company under whom the accident occurred. Victims have found this limitation a frustration while trying to receive compensation for their injuries and losses.

    The expenses that result from car accidents can climb into the hundreds of thousands when victims need expensive surgeries and/or ongoing care. A corporation like Amazon would be able to write a check for that amount without even seeing a dip in its bank accounts. However, for the local companies and insurers forced to answer these claims on their own, these expenses may be insurmountable. Small businesses can be bankrupted by one accident, leaving the victim with a settlement much smaller than they deserve.

    Protecting Yourself Against Dangerous Amazon Delivery Drivers

    Our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Seigel, P.C. is here to protect you to the full extent of the law after a car accident. Amazon’s continued disregard for safety is affecting employees and other civilians alike. Anyone injured in a delivery van accident deserves the chance to recover full compensation.

    If you or a loved one have been in a car accident, especially one that caused severe or permanent injuries, don’t let Amazon’s legal posturing scare you out of bringing a lawsuit. We know how difficult and pointless the settlement process can seem. Our lawyers are here to help you negotiate for the settlement you deserve. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is proud to work accident victims to give them a voice against multinational corporations. We will fight for you every step of the way.

    Were you involved in a crash with an Amazon delivery van or another commercial vehicle? Contact us online or call (202) 644-8303 to see if you’re eligible to file a lawsuit.

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  • Uber Releases Safety Report Revealing Frighening Number of Sexual Assault Incidents

    People across the country use the ridesharing app Uber to get from one place to another. According to the company, between 2017 and 2018, there were over 3 million trips a day in the U.S. alone. That's about 2.3 billion trips per year. Although this number is impressive and speaks to the growing popularity and use of the services, Uber recognized that it also needed to focus on another set of statistics: those involving the safety of drivers and riders.

    In December of 2019, Uber released a report that revealed the extent of safety incidents involving the ridesharing platform. The company stated that, although these are hard issues to talk about, they needed to be examined and provided to the public to increase the safety of the people using the app, as well as members of the public. Uber stated that “keeping this information in the dark doesn’t make anyone safer.”

    Reports of Sexual Assault Incidents

    To gather and analyze data regarding sexual assault cases, Uber partnered with the National Sexual Violence Center and the Urban Institute. According to the safety report, between 2017 and 2018, there were 5,981 incidents of sexual abuse reported.

    The 2-year analysis revealed the following:

    • Unwanted kissing of a non-sexual body part: 1,164 cases
    • Attempted rape: 587 cases
    • Groping: 3,000 cases
    • Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part: 766 cases
    • Rape: 464 cases

    Uber’s analysis showed that both riders and drivers were reported to have been the victim of sexual assault during their rideshare experience. The numbers revealed that 45% of riders were accused to have committed an offense, and 54% were drivers. The remaining 1% were unknown or third-parties.

    The sexual abuse data included in the report included incidents that happened:

    • During the trip: When the driver has accepted a ride request and is on their way to pick up the rider. Or when the passenger has been picked up and is being driven to their destination.
    • After the trip: This included incidents that happened within 48 hours after the trip had been completed.

    Uber acknowledged that law enforcement was involved in only 37% of the sexual abuse cases. The company’s Chief Legal Officer, Tony West, told NBC News that this offense often goes underreported for a number of reasons, and it’s the victim’s choice to tell their story to the police. If Uber receives a report of sexual assault occurring during or after a ride, it will only inform law enforcement of the incident if the victim gives permission.

    Other Safety Incidents Analyzed

    In addition to looking at reports of sexual assault, Uber also examined car accident fatalities and physical assault fatalities. Between 2017 and 2018, 107 people were killed in collisions involving Uber vehicles. During that same period, 19 people died in Uber-related physical assault incidents.

    Schedule a Free Consultation with Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.

    If you or a loved one was a victim of sexual assault in an Uber or any other Uber related safety incident in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia, our Personal Injury Lawyer are ready to provide the compassionate yet aggressive legal advocacy you need to seek justice. We know the impacts of damages suffered in personal injury and sexual assault cases, and we will work toward recovering just compensation on your behalf.

    To discuss your case today, call us at (202) 644-8303 or contact us online.

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