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Drunk Driving AccidentsTruck Accidents

Truck Driver DUI: The True Scope of the Problem

Drunk driving remains a significant issue among drivers of all ages and vehicle types, but it poses a particular danger when involving commercial trucks. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2022, Texas saw over 38,621 accidents involving big trucks like 18-wheelers and semi-trucks on its roads. These accidents led to 612 fatal crashes, causing 716 deaths. 

This blog discusses the grave impact of DUI among truck drivers in Texas and how individuals affected by such incidents can seek justice. With the experience of Austin-based attorney Stephen Stewart and the support of The Stewart Law Firm, victims and their families have a reliable legal resource for navigating the aftermath of these devastating events. 

Learn how you can protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve with reliable, professional legal guidance.

Definition of Commercial Vehicles in Austin, Texas

Under Section 621.001 of the Texas Transportation Code, commercial vehicles are any vehicle, except motorcycles, used or designed for transporting property or delivery purposes.

Section 548.001 adds that it includes any self-propelled or towed vehicle, excluding farm vehicles, with a gross weight rating, registered weight, or actual gross weight of less than 48,000 pounds.

The other possible requirements could include:

  • Possesses a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 10,000 pounds;
  • Features a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds;
  • Is engineered to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
  • Is engaged in transporting hazardous materials requiring a placard per the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Most large vehicles used for transportation and delivery, such as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, big rigs, tractor-trailers, dump trucks, bucket trucks, and freight trucks, are considered commercial motor vehicles. This category can also include smaller delivery trucks and large vans.

Texas Has Strict Commercial Driver’s License Rules

In Texas, commercial drivers, including truck drivers, face strict rules from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Being convicted of driving under the influence, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or higher, can result in losing your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This applies to any driving offense involving intoxication, even if it occurred before obtaining a CDL.

Under Texas law and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, commercial drivers caught with a BAC of 0.04% or more are considered legally impaired. A first offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) can prevent you from getting a CDL or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for 1 to 3 years, while repeated offenses may lead to a permanent CDL ban, according to Texas Transportation Code §522.081 and Penal Code § 49.

Why is Texas a Hotspot for Truck Accidents?

The abundance of large trucks on Texas roads is a contributing factor to the high number of truck accidents. However, the behavior of truck drivers while driving plays a crucial role in the frequency of these incidents. Some common causes of accidents involving reckless or negligent truck drivers include:

  • Speeding drivers who don’t adapt their speed to road conditions, leading to unavoidable accidents.
  • Aggressive drivers who follow too closely, heightening the likelihood of severe rear-end collisions.
  • Drivers suffering from fatigue due to insufficient rest, potentially losing vehicle control and causing multi-vehicle collisions or head-on crashes.
  • Distracted drivers, such as those texting while driving, in defiance of national safety regulations.
  • Novice drivers lacking in road risk assessment skills, which can lead to rollovers, jackknifing, and other serious accidents.
  • Trucks that are not well-maintained, especially with regards to brakes and tires, often skipping necessary inspections. This negligence can result in tire blowouts and brake failures, which are significant contributors to accidents.

The Responsibility of the Trucking Company in Texas

Carriers are required to test their drivers for substances or alcohol before hiring them, before their return to duty after an accident, and randomly if there are any suspicions regarding their sobriety. They must also maintain specific levels of financial responsibility to operate their commercial motor vehicles. The minimum requirement is $750,000 for vehicles over 10,000 pounds and $5,000,000 if hazardous materials are being transported.

If a carrier’s truck driver causes harm while intoxicated, the trucking company can be held liable for damages, depending on the circumstances of the case.

How Big of a Problem is Drunk Driving Among Truck Drivers?

While 1% might not seem significant, it actually represents approximately 100,000 truck drivers nationwide operating large commercial trucks under the influence of alcohol. This figure was obtained from roadside inspections, and many within the industry believe this could be at least double the discovered number, suggesting there could be 200,000 intoxicated truck drivers on the road at any given time. Considering many of these incidents result in life-altering injuries or fatalities, the situation is alarmingly serious and entirely unacceptable.

Unfortunately, many instances of substance abuse remain undetected due to deliberate ignorance, inadequate testing, or even widespread cheating on drug and alcohol tests within the industry. Magazine publications aimed at truckers have been known to advertise products designed to facilitate drug and alcohol abuse by concealing it or manipulating test results.

How an Austin Truck Accident Attorney Can Help Your Case

At The Stewart Law Firm, we are committed to providing dedicated legal support in Texas truck accidents lawsuits, especually to individuals injured in semi-truck and commercial vehicle accidents. Drivers share the road with a variety of commercial trucks, many of which are tasked with transporting goods throughout the region under tight schedules.

To meet these challenging demands, truck drivers may resort to extreme measures, often compromising their own safety and the safety of others. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk truck driver, do not hesitate to call our firm.

The Stewart Law Firm handles a range of truck accident cases, including the following: 

We are here to answer your queries and help you hold all responsible negligent parties accountable. We’ve successfully handled cases like yours before, and we will support you in pursuing full compensation to help get your life back on track after this traumatic experience.

Contact Us at The Stewart Law Firm Today!

You should not have to suffer in silence when others are at fault for your pain and suffering, more especially when accidents result to wrongful death. Our firm operates on a contingency fee basis, allowing you to concentrate on rebuilding your life while we manage your case. If we’re unable to secure compensation for you, you won’t owe us any legal fees.

For a free consultation with one of our experienced truck accident attorneys, contact The Stewart Law Firm today at (512) 326-3200. You deserve a fierce legal advocate who will fight for you and ensure justice is served.

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